November 7, 2010

Mixed and Mashed

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For my 16th birthday, I went to a Coldplay concert. Other than the fact that I was not one of the girls who got close enough to Chris Martin to touch him when he came into the audience, the only other disappointment of the night was the opening performer, the lead singer of The Verve, Richard Ashcroft. Unfortunately, I was less than impressed with “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” and it was not because there was anything wrong with Ashcroft’s performance. It was simply that I was used to “Bitter Sweet Symphony” interspersed with Jay-Z.

The blend of “Bitter Sweet Symphony” and Jay-Z’s “Dirt off your Shoulder” was one of my first forays into the world of “mash-ups,” a world that can be rewarding yet overwhelming. Ever since this experience, one in which I was incapable of appreciating music in its pure form on account of a mash-up, I have wondered if the mash-up, a blend of at least two songs, means the end of the music world as we know it. After originally fighting against the new trend, I have since become a dedicated devotee of the art form.

Although I have found that mash-ups do sometimes leave me wanting more than one song all of the time, I have come to realize that the general public has accepted the mash-up, and there is nothing anyone can really do to fight against a choice that has already been made. Furthermore, my appreciation for more types of music has expanded as I have listened to old favorites combined with music that is more foreign to me, sufficient compensation for the previously described negative consequence of listening to mash-ups.

I have only recently begun to appreciate the mainstream mash-up artists like Girl Talk and Super Mash Brothers. When I first heard their work, it was not that I did not enjoy it; it was more that I was overwhelmed. Listening to albums such as Girl Talk’s Feed the Animals presents an overload of stimuli to which my ears are still getting accustomed. If you are like me and you are having similar trouble, here are my favorite, easy-on-the-ears variations of some old favorites.

My very first mash-up experience consisted of Weezer’s “Island in the Sun” and Usher’s “Yeah.” Tucked within a mixed CD my friend gave me during a time when my iTunes collection consisted of mostly Coldplay and albums from my parent’s collection, it hooked me. We sometimes forget how great Weezer’s music is, considering their last big hit was the fairly irritating “Beverly Hills.” But “Island in the Sun” is a catchy and timeless favorite, and mixed with “Yeah, (which is otherwise up there with “Beverly Hills” in the irritation factor), both songs are presented in a completely refreshing way.

Next on my list is Jay-Z’s “Encore” mixed with Linkin Park’s “Numb.” This mash-up has gained considerable popularity relative to the slight obscurity of the others on this list. Jay-Z’s rapping provides a fresh replacement in most of the song to the sometimes whiny voice of Linkin Park’s lead singer Chester Bennington. Ultimately, what we are left with is rap, a great beat, and what in my opinion is the best part of “Numb” — the instrumentals.

The mash-up of Sting’s “Every Breath you Take” and Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” (sometimes referred to as “Every Car You Chase”) is so pleasing on the ears, it is easy to forget that it consists of two separate songs. Whereas the mix between “Bitter Sweet Symphony” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” led to my aversion to the “regular” “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” this mash-up does not cause you to dislike either song (any more than you did already) — you may simply find it difficult to keep them apart after listening.

Does this factor make a successful mash-up or a failed one? I’m not sure, but either way, it is interesting to hear how well the two songs fit together.

The following suggestion may not fit the most popular conception of a mash-up, but I love it too much not to include it. It is Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” combined with “It’s a Wonderful World.

Kamakawiwo’ole is obviously not the original artist of either song, but a mash-up is a bewildering conception of art in the first place, and this combination is so beautifully poignant, that I am going to say it counts.

If you have not yet become acclimated to the world of mash-ups, I hope these suggestions can help. Whether you consider Girl Talk a true artist or not, the concept of the mash-up seems to be the way of the future for the music industry. I have no doubt that soon, we will see even more evidence of the ways in which our technologically-loving world is significantly changing music and other art industries forever.

Original Author: Suzanne Baumgarten