In music, a mashup is when two different songs are made to work together. Sometimes it’s when a DJ plays different records at the same time (instead of simply beatmatching them to transition from one to the other), such as the amazing work by DJ Z-Trip. Sometimes the mashup is a studio production, involving segments of two (and sometimes many more) tracks aligned and messed with using production software such as Ableton Live.
By way of demonstration, this is about the best example of a piece that stands on its own, is funny, and demands a complete reconsideration of both tracks, that I’ve heard:
I was doing mashups before I even heard the term. One of my first compositions was a mashup of a live version of Bowie playing “Heroes” with the big guitar lead melody from Eno’s “Here Come the Warm Jets.” (Another one was “New York, New York” to the staccato orchestration of the Wicked Witch’s Guards’ “Oh Wee Oh” march from the Wizard of Oz — a good idea, but nothing like Ableton existed at the time to let me line up the beats. Hmm….)
But the main thing I used to do was sing one song while another was playing on the radio. I would find common elements — timing and melody being the biggies, of course — and go at it. You can interpret the point of this a couple of ways. On the one hand, I was pointing out how amazingly malleable music is. On the other hand, I was pointing out how interchangeable pop music can be. Mostly, though, it was just a lot of fun and a little challenging.
Which brings me to the point of today’s post: Why have I not heard of anyone doing Mashup Karaoke? The form would seem to almost demand it: Instrumental versions of well-known songs could not be better suited to singing some other song over them. Rap’s a natural, of course (to me, mashups with rap vocals are a no-brainer; I put acapellas over other tracks in live situations all the time). But the opportunity to recontextualize, re-present, reconsider well-known music seems irresistible to me.
I wish I could say I invented it, but it’s too natural and inevitable an idea. Someone’s gotta host a mashup karaoke night somewhere!
Will It Blend?
By now there’ve been mashup videos, movies, novels, posters, technologies, commercials, comedy acts – digital media let everything go in the blender. Mashups, sampling, and remixing are an incredible launching point to discuss copyright law and intellectual property, creativity and (or vs.) originality, and a host of creative and technological abilities and legal & ethical issues that face us nowadays. Here’s where we get into the overlap and influence DJing has had on me as a writer. I hope talk about these things a bunch.
Aaaannd no sooner do I post about hit than I find karaokemashup.com — “Singing simultaneously since 2007.” Feh. Neophytes. Gotta give em credit for that “Take the Money and Run” vs “Sweet Home Alabama,” though. I’ve never been able to listen to the Steve Miller without hearing the Lynyrd Skynyrd.
I also see that DNA Lounge in San Francisco held what purported to be the “world’s first mashup karaoke” in 2009. I’m crying here. Still, I’m claiming zeitgeist, y’all.