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Music Review: Girl Talk- Feed the Animals

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Just over a year ago today, Radiohead released a “pay-what-you-want” album that glimpsed into the future of the economics of music. This summer, mashup DJ Girl Talk did the same thing with his fourth album, Feed the Animals. The difference between the two albums? The latter contains about two hundred songs.

Girl Talk is the stage name of producer Greg Gillis, who has been releasing mashups of copyrighted songs since 2002’s Secret Diary, sampling more than two hundred popular songs in a single album.

Here’s a quick introduction to how a mashup song works: The DJ copies a section of one song, say, the organ intro from Procol Harum’s 1967 number-one UK hit, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” and reuses it as a new instrument or element of a new recording, which Gillis does on the album’s third track, “Still Here,” also composed of songs by Fergie, Michael Jackson, The Band, Salt-n-Pepa, 50 Cent, Cat Stevens, and eighteen more popular artists. Each song is a musical recycling plant, featuring melodies as rhythms, hooks as melodies, vocals as rhythms; the list goes on.

The other very interesting facet of this album’s release aside from the music itself, is the Radiohead-like feat Girl Talk pulled by instituting a “pay-what-you-want” basis through production company Illegal Art. By simply visiting the website, you are allowed to “name your price” for a high-quality 320kbps mp3 recording.

Respectfully, Feed the Animals pays tribute to Radiohead by featuring their song “15 Step” mixed in with “It’s Goin’ Down” by Yung Joc and a sped-up Mickey Mouse-sounding version of The Band’s “The Weight”.

The whole thing is quite brilliant, mostly for the juxtaposition of nearly every genre of popular music ever conceived. It’s literally all in here. Classic rock? Check. Techno? Got it. Speed metal? Duh. Rap and Hip-Hop? Tons, and it’s all tremendously dance party-worthy, at least to the point that Gillis can support himself exclusively by producing music and touring. In a previous life, he was a biomedical engineer.

After a couple of listens, it becomes evident that the most transcendent moments on the album are when really, really ironic things happen. Girly lyrics like Lil’ Mama’s “Lip Gloss” spill over the death march ending from Metallica’s “One,” Dr. Dre crams some explicitness in between the lines on the lead verse from Styx’s “Renegade,” and (my personal favorite), a 12-year-old Michael Jackson sings “ABC” over a sped-up ending from “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Another occasional delight pops up in those catchy, undiluted, singular moments in popular music surface alone to immediate recognition. On “Give Me a Beat,” Prince squeals one of his signature “Uhhhs!” from “Kiss,” and later on Jimi Hendrix cuts in with the words that made him famous, “Scuse me, while I kiss the sky,” unencumbered by the mass of sonic confusion.

All things considered, Girl Talk has produced an extremely ironic post-modern work. He stole his album from wealthy artists, and then released it via a model copied from some of the biggest in the business. And yet somehow the people he stole it from don’t mind, and it’s all wildly original. Go figure.

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