Girl Talk: Not only mashing up pop music, but also pop culture.

30Jun08

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Girl Talk  – Feed The Animals (Illegal Art)

In Feed the Animals, Greg Gillis’, the man of Girl Talk, greatest strength is soaking the popular top 40 tracks of today with the riffs, choruses and sounds of yesteryear in nostalgia. And that’s what he did in his latest album, Feed The Animals. If he did not depend so heavily on the classic rock connections (including some oldies, but goodies from the 90s), it would not be getting the acclaim it would be getting (including a whopping 8.0 on Pitchfork).

Now let’s put this album in context with today, outside of it just being noise and beats. Feed The Animals is successful the same reason why iTunes is the largest retailers of music, and why singles and “ringles” are the “current future”. People buy for the familiar. They buy what they hear constantly on the radio (the Top 40 playlists), they buy classic re-mastered albums, and they buy compilations of all their favorite songs from the 70s, 80s, and 90s for their familiarity. Girl Talk gives that to them in a catchy way. He combined Busta Rhymes with the Police, two artists that haven’t been heard from recently but are known, at least by name. He brings 2 (or 3 or 4) samples of singles together from different times and puts it into an ultimate party mix, a mix where all the sounds we hear are familiar enough to sing-a-long to.

However, will you hear any of that at a party? No, probably not. Here’s why – people get excited when they hear a long forgotten favorite. (As an example, at the parties I go to, when Styx or Hall & Oates comes on, people hit the roof.) And as soon as a “hey, I love this song” level has been reached, that sample has been laced into another and is transitioning out into another old favorite. The listener reminiscences and the rest of the track and its carefully sculpted samples are left by the way-side.

But I’m not really reviewing. It’s an incredible album – anyone who is addicted to pop music or even pop culture should definitely, at the very least, appreciate the craftsmanship and expertise that Girl Talk puts into this very congruent album.

I listened to this album a minimum of three times before even picking up a pencil. It’s really incredible. There are a few breaks where the samples are too short, too choppy or just too many and fall into his biggest weakness from Secret Diaries. However, he carries one of his largest strengths from Night Ripper, his previous release. When Night Ripper was first released I heard it called “Jock Jams for kids in hoodies”. Jock Jams were compilations made from slightly dated electro-inspired hits and I had about 3 volumes. Girl Talk infused Jock Jams with every musical influence from television, the largest source of pop culture in America, including infomercials selling “Now” compilations and Greatest Hits, to the theme songs, like Dawson’s Creek or MacBook’s Air. But, oh my god, does it work! And it’s hella hot. In this energetic, high-octane music fest, Girl Talk produces an album ready for summer.

Another favorite thing about this album is how it was released. Playing off Radiohead’s 2007 release of In Rainbows, Girl Talk also let his consumers name their own price. Only, when you enter in your own price, you find out you don’t have to pay anything and can just download it for free. Why the unnecessary hoops? Irony? Maybe a little, but he, or they (from Illegal Art, the label), use this technique to survey why the price listed were listed as such. That is brilliant for this particularly “underground” artist. This type of release is something really of the future. As I mentioned in a previous post, this release supports the theory of having two emerging economies, one based on reputation, which Gillis is building, and one based on attention, which this album is deserving. The style of this release is almost as brilliant as the album it’s self.

The music snob and small connoisseur in me loves the album because it’s a pop music test. It’s like the speed round in name that tune. Let’s just say this, I’m good. (For a cheat sheet… check this out.)

Track list:

  1. Play Your Part (pt. 1)
  2. Shut The Club Down
  3. Still Here
  4. What It’s All About
  5. Set It Off
  6. No Pause
  7. Like This
  8. Give Me A Beat
  9. Hands In The Air
  10. In Step
  11. Let Me See You
  12. Here’s The Thing
  13. Don’t Stop
  14. Play Your Part (Pt.2)

Rating: A

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2 Responses to “Girl Talk: Not only mashing up pop music, but also pop culture.”

  1. 1 sigh

    google:

    ron g

    see: dangermouse – the grey album

    read about: afrika bambaataa (sp) and the records he mixed,
    um, i don’t know, 20+ years ago

    is this supposed to be something…”new?”

    listenable – yes
    innovative – nah

    • I’m not saying that it’s never been done before. I know about Dangermouse, I know about Afrika Bambaataa and his sampling of Kraftwerk (Zulu Nation!). I’m just saying, as far as I know they created music from sampling virtually unknown music at the time. Girl Talk takes pop music, known music, ironic and nostalgic music and makes it into something still recognizable but cohesive.


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