Thirty Songs Crammed into Five: the Top 5 Mash-ups of All Time

Drawing upon others for inspiration is any good artists’ trick. These musicians, however, draw almost entirely on others’ work in an unparalleled way. The art of a mash-up is interesting to say the least. Whether breaking copyright laws or not, the idea of smushing together a bunch of songs from sometimes very disparate genres to create something exceptional and new is definitely a 21st century invention. These five artists do the best job at creating something that doesn’t just sound like indistinguishable noise, but instead craft a true auditory experience full of nostalgia and subtle beauty.

5 Pretty Lights vs Radiohead vs Nirvana vs NIN – Pretty Lights

Self-explanatory in the title, Pretty Lights take their samples for this mash-up from Radiohead, Nirvana, and Nine Inch Nails. Cobain’s opening drawl layered over Pretty Light’s esoteric beats is instantly haunting. As the beats shift, the samples change, making a mix of original and sampling that sounds, for lack of a better word, really creepy – but in a good way. There is a heaviness to it that Nirvana and NIN sure as hell would appreciate, while catapulting the songs into 2011 through dubstep like bass and sci-fi sounding electronic effects. All in all it feels more like an auditory experience than a song. Definitely an experience that is worth having live (the lights are brilliant, though may cause seizures if you’re not careful), half the beauty of their music is visual. Being able to throw your body around to the beats while listening to Cobain and Yorke croon esoterically in the background is an unparalleled experience.

4 Have You Come To Realize – The Kleptones

Taking it across the pond, The Kleptones are an English mash-up group, fronted by DJ Eric Kleptone, famous for their experimental live performances. A “kelpto-of-tones” (ha!), The Kleptones are well aware, in a very meta-theatrical sense, that they are stealing others work to make their own. In Have You Come To Realize they express this brilliantly by sampling lyrics from The Streets, where The Streets claim “We Are The Streets.” Instead of worrying about sewing things seamlessly together, The Kleptones instead reframe different artist’s work in new light – The Streets uber-British hip-hop lyricism highlighted by The Flaming Lips’ Do You Realize instrumental. Not to mention the disjointed seeming Ferris Bueller’s Day Off quotes sporadically thrown in for good measure are actually quite poignant to the theme of the song (“but basically stems from music and I’m just hoping that people understand that money is one thing, but soul is another”). A more thoughtful mash-up, Have You Come To Realize is quite beautiful when you stop and think about it.

3 Sprawl of Glass – The Hood Internet

Featuring only two songs, Sprawl of Glass is a mash-up of Blondie’s Heart of Glass with Arcade Fire’s Sprawl II (check out the basis of “The Sprawl” in my songs based on books list!). Again, as mash ups tend to be, The Hood Internet takes two distinctly different songs from two distinct eras and combines them in a way that feels completely organic. It helps that the two songs sound as if the same artist made them already – there is an upbeat, ethereal electronic sound to both songs, despite being crafted thirty years apart. Régine Chassagne’s voice is reminiscent of Blondie’s, a fact apparent in The Hood Internet’s Sprawl of Glass. While it seems as if the mash-up didn’t take much effort, the very fact that The Hood Internet thought to do it shows an artistry and depth of thought that a lot of mash-up artists lack. Sometimes, less is more. In the case of Sprawl of Glass, that knowledge is used to a smashing end.

2 I F*cking Bleed Purple and Gold – Super Mash Bros

With perhaps less specifically and purposefully put together mash-ups than some of their contemporaries Super Mash Bro’s I F*cking Bleed Purple and Gold is instantly catchy for the first thirty seconds. Mashing together MGMT’s Kids with Eminem’s Without Me is just brilliant. The first time I heard it I burst into excited laughter for the simple fact that Eminem’s lyricism brought me. Not to mention the instantly recognizable pop electric MGMT melody. Talk about genre bending – mixing early 2000s white-rap-superstar with hipster electronica, and making it flow smoothly into Daft Punk (a great base for any mash-up due to their insane popularity and amazing music) with Missy Elliot’s distinct lyricism is a feat to be admired.

1 In Step – Girl Talk

I mean, how freaking cool is it to mix Salt-N-Peppa, Deeee-Lite, and Nirvana?! Seriously. Anyway, In Step by Girl Talk is one of the quintessential mash-up songs. Girl Talk took the world by storm for his mixing abilities and his disregard for copyrights (which was pretty awesome when the world was awash in law suits over illegal music downloading). In Step features a collection of fantastic songs, seamlessly woven together to create something new and exciting. Songs that you wouldn’t think about getting up and dancing too (like Lithium) are mixed with classics (like Earth, Wind and Fire’s September). The song speeds by in a flurry of sounds you know you recognize and instantly start singing along to. Spanning generations, genres, and various levels of fame, Girl Talk manages to bring all sorts of music together in a whole new way that makes you want to listen over and over again, and maybe dig out that old Michael Jackson (or The Beach Boys… or Roy Orbison! The list goes on and on) cassette tape you’ve got hiding under your bed…

Closing Words
In a list of only five I have managed to, directly and indirectly, comment on thirty songs. Regardless of whether you like the idea of electronic music, you have to step back and understand that some of these artists are exposing the younger dubstep-addled generation to musicians they might not have heard of otherwise – like Earth, Wind and Fire. Simply reframing some amazing songs has allowed them to live on into the modern age, where longevity is scarce. The mash-up artists recognize the importance of bands from many different genres and eras, and do their best to make sure we, the people, are aware of it, too.

Gabriella Geisinger is a 23-year-old human, born & raised in NYC. Most think she’s always been human, but the truth is she started out as a lion cub & recently completed her transformation into female form, after working one full year at SPIN.

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