How crazy is it that this goofball amateur phenomenon of combining the vocals of one song with the instrumentation from another continues to produce interesting, amusing, and hypnotic tracks, despite being declared dead, useless, and stupid? While Girl Talk's more or less enjoyable album (consisting mostly of fast-paced combos featuring rap over hipster rock) is landing in many year-end Top 10s, I've always preferred the well-constructed mashup song to the hyper laptop DJ set, a focused short story to the mixtape's sprawling novel. Here are a couple of the best recent tracks (and, well, one concept album).
First up, this combo from LA-based BRAT, which has already gotten props from Rolling Stone and Wired. It places the vocals from The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" over The Commodores' "Easy"; the latter has always been a secret favorite of mine ever since Faith No More's deadpan cover on Angel Dust. The combination is, honestly, breathtaking: "Easy" has a gentle swing, and seems to uncover the same in Robert Smith's vocals; the Cure original's uptempo pace suddenly seems frenetic and ridiculous in comparison.
MP3: BRAT - "Easy Heaven"
Next, it's Parisian DJ Zebra, whose weekly radio show and sold-out live gigs make him probably the most successful purveyor of the mashup in the world. He's focused in recent years on French vocals, but when he turns to stuff we know, he still knocks it out of the park. This track combines The Bee Gees' driving "You Should Be Dancing" with The Police's anguished "Roxanne," and it's an exhilarating listen. It's a surefire dancefloor smash with the same "whoa" moment when the vocal comes in as Go Home Productions' now-classic "Rapture Riders."
MP3: DJ Zebra - "Roxanne Should Be Dancing" (scroll down under "productions" to find the link).
San Francisco producer DJ Earworm got a huge amount of attention with his recent Radiohead/Kanye combo, but I have to say I like his new one even better. It manages to take Beyonce's annoying "If I Were a Boy" and make it both more listenable and conceptually more intriguing by layering it over Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'." Appropriate lyrical snippets from Petty's classic ballad drift in and out between Beyonce's laments that take on new levels of meaning: "She's a good girl."
MP3: Earworm - "If I Were a Free Fallin' Boy"
And there's a video:
Of course, there's the inevitable holiday-themed mashup album, just in time to stuff someone's stocking. Compiled by Boston's DJ BC, Santastic Four offers up "spine-tingling, pulse-pounding holiday bootlegs," including "High Tides and Blocked Peace Pipes," Go Home Production's combination of a variety of vocals over Blondie's "The Tide is High," as well as Austrian DJ Schmolli's "Pumping Up Christmas" that uses MARRS' classic "Pump up the Volume" as a basis.
Various Artists - Santastic Four