Girl Talk: The Culmination of 50 Years of Popular Music

The first time I heard Girl Talk (wikipedia), I wasn’t immediately enamored with his music. I first listened to his Night Ripper several years ago, and while I didn’t dislike it, I wrote it off as a novelty. I thought it was just a series of mashups somewhat inconsistently stitched together. More recently, however, I listened to his latest album, All Day (which incidentally is freely available for download here). Then I listened to the album again. And again. I was instantly drawn to its more refined character. While ostensibly it is a mashup album, its 71 minutes weave a seamless tapestry depicting Girl Talk’s vision of the last 50 years of popular music. An interesting problem would be to identify every sample on any given track.

The vocals on most tracks are taken from hip-hop songs, as rapping lends itself well to the mashup genre. The musical accompaniment runs the gamut of the last half century of popular music: Missy Elliot raps over the Ramones and Daft Punk, Jay-Z over Modern English and General Public, Lil Kim over The Jackson Five, Ol’ Dirty Bastard over Radiohead, The Beastie Boys over Iggy Pop, to name a few examples. On listening to All Day, it is interesting to me how Girl Talk’s clever juxtapositions completely change my impression of the lyrics. The re-contextualized vocal samples highlight the absurdity of some aspects of the rhetoric in hip-hop. Ultimately, though, the album is playful, light-hearted and often hilarious. Plus it is great to dance to.

Will Rosenbaum

Saarbrücken, Germany

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