Why do people like mashups?

Adam Bradley, a friend and author of The Anthology of Rap, Common’s biography and other cool books, answers the question, “Why do people like mashups?”

But first, according to Urban Dictionary, the definition of a mashup (in the musical sense):

Musical genre. Involves cutting and pasting samples and loops from two or more popular tracks to form a new track, often forming a surprisingly catchy new tune.

I don’t do research in this area, so I asked someone with more expertise to comment. I sent Adam’s video to Spencer M. Ross (@srossmktg), an audiophile, coffee snob, and hockey enthusiast, who is finishing his PhD in marketing at the University of Massachusetts.

Spencer’s response:

“Seeking out and embracing patterns” in “the familiar and unfamiliar” may be one reason listeners enjoy mashups. But with any collage- or remix-based artform, its enjoyable qualities result from the artist’s own ability to synthesize sonic components in communicating how he understands other artists. The enjoyable mashup heavily relies on the artist’s intimate understanding of rhythm, dynamics, and other fundamentals of music theory much as it does the listener’s innate musical comprehension.

Prof. Bradley couldn’t demonstrate this more clearly than in his reverence for DJ Cappel & Smitty’s mashup of Biggie’s “Everyday Struggle” and Sinatra’s “A Day in the Life of a Fool” as “better than the either of the source songs… like it was meant to be”. Artists who’ve been most successful in creating enjoyable mashups (e.g., Beastie Boys’s Paul’s Boutique, DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing…, Girl Talk’s Night Ripper, Max Tannone’s Jaydiohead, etc.) have done so, not merely because their laptop can splice the structures of two pop music songs together (e.g. http://youtu.be/0P7gar7efHI) but because they’re also able to get us as listeners to delve back into the artistry of the original compositions.

Adam’s favorite mashup:

My favorite mashup:

Spencer’s favorite mashup:

2 responses to “Why do people like mashups?”

  1. Rich Maloy

    Nice shout out for the Biggie & Sinatra mashup. That album is phenomenal. Good insight about the combination of the familiar and unfamiliar.

  2. Ailsa Haxell (@ai1sa)

    Love the examples you provide. I like mashups because they bridge ideas, there’s the juxtaposition of expected and unexpected. And in the everyday struggle-day in the life of a fool there’s also the quality of timelessness. Love it. Great post.

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