For all of the tech-geek hype and sellout crowds following former biomedical engineering student Gregg Gillis, there’s going to be at least one contrarian to find some reason to naysay it all. Here, then, are as negative thoughts as you’ll find on All Day, the fifth album from Gillis’ mashup-mad alter ego Girl Talk.
Your author has always sensed something fake and false in Girl Talk’s live sets—from the have-vs.-have-not separation between stage dancers and madding crowd, to the one-computer setup that looks lonely (and easy to reproduce elsewhere). And thanks to the magic of the Internet, we can not only disseminate and discuss Girl Talk’s work but dissect it as well. An intriguing little site called Mashup Breakdown gives a running analysis of when and where you hear every sample in Girl Talk’s All Day (as well as other mashup and sound-collage masterworks).
The power of a great mashup often lies in A+B simplicity, hearkening back to the days of paired DJ turntables, a trusty fader, a trained ear, and a feel for stage drama—how Grandmaster Flash spliced Blondie and Queen, for example. As technology advanced, producers wove two songs together in increasingly complex fashion (Freelance Hellraiser’s “A Stroke of Genie-us”), then progressed to adding bits of other songs as necessary (Party Ben’s “Boulevard of Broken Songs”).
There are points where Gillis layers pieces of up to seven songs on top of each other, which begs the question: Why? Is someone listening at home playing Spot the Sample really going to find a single two-second drum fill from Grand Funk Railroad in the middle of a 70-minute mix, or be excited when they do? Is someone going nuts to one of the legitimately inspired mashup moments in here—Ying Yang Twins vs. White Zombie, Wiz Khalifa vs. The Rolling Stones, Crooked I vs. Neil Diamond—going to notice a third, fourth, or fifth rhythm loop in the background?
Pulling back the curtain, we see Gillis’ laptop-DJ act and All Day are just like Thanksgiving dinner: a bewildering spread with so much to sample, and an easy opportunity to overindulge. It’s easy to understand his search for mass appeal and commercial success using nothing more than grand experiments in copyright flaunting and fair use. Still, one almost wishes Girl Talk would focus on mashup singles—Ludacris vs. Phoenix and Joe Jackson vs. Lil Wayne would burn up club nights, hip-hop and alt-rock alike, just by themselves.