I am going to have to say something about this, so I might as well do it now:
Girl Talk made the Times, so I have to expect you will understand the “issues” this “album” “raises” viz copyright, ownership, art, creativity, innovation and the etcetera. I would recommend that you go “pay” for the album, and listen to it for yourself. If you like, there is a rather long, yet not exhaustive, list of the samples, by song, on the wikipedia page.
What I want to say should build on the rather quick, and therefore neglectful, mention of the listening experience in the Times…
At times the album sounds like a cleverly programmed K-tel compilation that presents catchy riffs instead of full songs, and part of the fun is recognizing familiar sounds in a new context.
“I want to take these things you know and flip them, which is something I’ve always enjoyed in hip-hop,” Mr. Gillis said. “This project has always been about embracing pop.”
Gillis isn’t the innovator of the mash up, so what will make or break this album is whether fans enjoy it, not the artistic politics of the thing. The last is demonstrated in the article’s frame–Girl Talk is like Radiohead’s sales approach + 2 Many DJ’s mash up style + K-tel’s musical sensibility + pop + hip-hop + club DJ +rock star haircut ++++.
So GO LISTEN. It is 53.3 minutes long. You won’t be able to do anything else while this is happening to you–no teaching your kid the Spanish alphabet, or editing that ASQ article.
What do I think? I’ve only listened to it about 5 times, and I’m having trouble staying in the car long enough to really get a sense of it. (Someday, I’ll tell you my theory about music reviewers and driving.) But I think some of the transitions are really awkward and sloppy. That is, I thought they were until I was in the gym today, and now I think it is just a weaker part of his technique, but the album experience is generally good. Also, I think the reason that good mashups have always made me antsy in a dried salt water on your skin way is because it is the precise moment when my biographical associations with a particular songs are borne into my conscious brain by the music, that the music changes. That is, as soon as I’ve heard enough of the song to recognize it, and then care about it, it is replaced. That may be some kind of stinky artistic metaphor for modern life, and I’m willing to think about it in that annoying psuedo-academic, someday I’ll be a screen writer like Cameron Crowe way…but I’m usually happier when I’m listening-not listening. That is, when music can be thoughtless. I like music for its moods, not words, and not really its ideas. (And that’s a personal preference that I leave to the side when I teach or research, by the way. That I draw this distinction may be the reason I still love music.) This is a music that tempts you with mood, but resolves in ideas. Like…a fake out. And that doesn’t seem hip-hop at all, to me. I don’t want to get into a debate with anyone about their intentions–Gillis says his intention is to engage hip-hop and pop, & I’ll take his word for it–but my experience of this album is anti-pop, anti-hip-hop. Or, because I can think of pop and hip-hop that are similarly “intellectual” (and I don’t mean “smart”), I’ll qualify that last statement: This is unlike the pop and hip-hop that I like because it is poppy or hip-hoppy. Writing “poppy or hip-hoppy” is a sign that I’ve said enough about this for now. Go listen. Tell me what you think.