A new source of musical happiness

After some recent purchases of some very hyped but ultimately disappointing music, I’ve found myself in love with music again, excited to be listening and it wasn’t even a purchase. I’m talking about Girl Talk’s All Day, which is a free download from Illegal Art.

The front cover for All Day

I’d listened to Girl Talk’s “Unstoppable” a few years ago after reading about him in Nylon? Paper? (one of those hip one-word magazines that is good for reading once or twice and then for the next ten years you will have a vague sense of recognition as people stagger out of the back rooms of NYC night clubs and into something resembling mainstream success) and it didn’t hook me. Then again, “Unstoppable” was obviously something best listened to while surrounded by thousands of ecstatic sweaty bodies all moving as one, instead of … in my kitchen doing dishes, where most of my music listening is done these days.

But All Day is pure pleasure, an endless mashup wave that puts you in an eternal present where you’re blissed out at what’s flowing over you but still thinking – after all you’ve got to name that tune before the next samples start. The mix of hook-y old favorites plus hip hop old and new is like a pop multivitamin – in one dose all your musical needs are covered.

For instance, I love rap but I find it hard to listen to for long. And I love 80s pop, but it’s bubble gum that quickly loses its flavor. As with any nostalgic genre, you want the hits, the highlights, but all pop hits and highlights are like too many empty calories. Thus the genius of Girl Talk, which darkens and weights the effervescence of familiar tunes by Cyndi Lauper and sweetens the relentlessness of Jay-Z and 50 Cent. Likewise, when encountered in a sea of samples, self-important music like U2’s can be appreciated for the very thing that makes it insufferable on its own – its almost embarrassing sense of conviction. And then there’s the free pass the mash up gives you to listen to stuff that’s exhilirating for a few seconds but would be despair-inducing for a whole song (e.g., Gucci Mane, whose “Making Love to the Money” gives you the general idea of his oeuvre).

Maybe it’s a symptom of my shortening attention span, but many of these songs – coming from all different corners of the pop universe – start to feel as if they’ve reached their ultimate destiny, an apotheosis of sorts, as a Girl Talk sample. Everything that rises must converge, I guess (to see the complexity involved, check out the real-time sample map at mashupbreakdown.com). At 70 minutes or so, All Day is just about too much, and I come off it feeling like I’ve listened to the musical equivalent of a tilt-a-whirl, everything blurring by in a bright happy smear. Nothing to do but stagger off and stand in line to get on again.