It was a wise old superhuman called Grimes who once told Interview magazine, “genres are sort of disappearing, people just use bands as reference points”. So called ‘post-internet’ music, she says, is blurring the lines between pop, house, electronic, folk, you name it. But isn’t this what music is meant to be? I vividly remember first hearing a mashup between Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ and Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya!’ and wondering why all music wasn’t like this.
Upon finding hit after hit in the mashup genre (Shakira/Beyonce vs The Arctic Monkeys, Nirvana vs Wild Cherry, and so on) I wondered why more people weren’t making these incredible fusions. Arguably, mash-ups are at the forefront of experimental music, but without the self-indulgence. It forces the producer to be slick with their editing, to make sure certain melodies stand out, to align harmonies that work – are these not pop sensibilities?
At the same time, it forces them to find new ways around fusing two supposedly opposing songs – musical problem-solving! This is why mashups are incredible to me – when else can we get RnB drums mixed with lo-fi guitar and saccharine vocals? Retro pan-pipes with trappy snares and Inuit throat singing? Great music calls for a balance between boundary-pushing and self-discipline. The mash-up producer must adhere to certain rules of the songs, but can also tear them apart, put them back together, and create something different, and yet still recognisable. The craft behind producing these mash-ups is one that signals the lost art of self-restraint and innovation in music.
Mashups give us eccentric blends of wildly different musical categories, proving that we don’t have to conform to the tyrannical idea of ‘genre’, and can instead bask in the beauty of divergent sounds colliding.