Mash It Up

Now a completely accepted part of the musical landscape, the mash-up has a long and somewhat chequered history, but has only really exploded into the public psyche since the dawn of mass file-sharing. The concept is simple; take 2 or more songs, “mash” them together, and see what comes out the other side.

The concept has been around in one shape or another since the middle of the 20th Century, but started to take the form we now recognise during the 1990s. One of the earliest examples was the seminal “You Got The Love”, taking a Candi Staton acapella, and lobbing it on top of the Frankie Knuckles/Jamie Principle classic “Your Love”.

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This early example was not really indicative of the way mashups went for most of the 90s and early 00s, which found them generally working as DJ tools, being pressed on to bootleg vinyl releases and rarely making their way into the charts. This had the benefit of acting as a quality filter, meaning some actually quite brilliant records came out, such as the sublime Girls on Top track, I Wanna Dance With Numbers, with its equally awesome artwork.

Girls On Top – I Wanna Dance With Numbers

In recent years their has been a mushrooming explosion in the level of mashuppery, not necessarilly leading to an equivalent increase in quality. With the move away from being DJ tools, there has grown a tendency for them to exist either to make you laugh with their absurdity (eg You\’re The One I Want In The Next Episode), or to impress you with the sheer number of tracks mashed together – a case in point being DJ Earworm taking what seems to be the 25 worst songs of 2009 and somehow making them even less good.

However, the genre’s surging popularity has had some interesting side-effects – the best mashups have now started to be adopted by the artists involved. Some bright spark called Erol put Kylie and New Order together, and before you knew it this had happened, creating something of a trend for Brit award mashup performances.

The genre probably reached its high-watermark around the time of Danger Mouse’s incredibly popular release, The Grey Album. Taking a deceptively simple idea to its (il)logical conclusion, he used the acapellas from Jay-Z’s Black album, chopped the hell out of The Beatles’ White album, and the rest is history. Danger Mouse went on to be half of Gnarls Barkley, produce Gorillaz’ 2nd (and best) album, work with MF Doom on DangerDoom, and much, much more. The Grey Album massively blurred the lines between mashup and production, and despite not really being as good as its fame suggests, it is an incredibly impressive piece of work from a technical standpoint.

Dirt Off Your Shoulder

Because pretty much anyone can make a mash-up now, with file-sharing allowing anyone to get the requisite instrumentals and acaellas for free, and software to do the job being so cheap, there is an abundance of mashups, good and bad, all over the net, with bucketloads of sites and forums dedicated to them. I’m going to ignore them, because for the most part they are awful, and house hundreds of out-of-key monstrosities made  by tone-deaf enthusiasts egging each other on. But enough of my snobbery, here are a few of my favourites from over the years.

Santero

Amerie vs Massive Attack – Unfinished Thing

Young Folks Pussy

Chris Isaak vs Billy Idol – Wicked Wedding

Justin Timberlake – My Love (XXXChange Remix)

Beastie Boys – Ch-Check It Out (Gringo Starr Remix)

Rihanna vs Ce Ce Peniston – Disturbia/Finally (Emynd blend)

Tears for Fears vs Digitalism – Zdar Shout

DJ Twister – I Want Your Message

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