Class Discussion: Mash-Ups

The end of Monday’s class was really interesting when Sara presented the YouTube video of the comedians, Axis of Awesome, performing a mash-up of popular songs. These songs varied in a range of music genres (from classic rock to pop) and decades, but all shared the same four chords. Watching the video, the class and I were amazed by how accurately the point was being made, to be able to recognize all of these songs. Some were quite obvious, but others were mind-blowing.

While I was driving to school today, I was listening to my iPod and a song from the movie Pitch Perfect played. The song was the one the Barden Bellas performed at the end of the movie, in the competition. This too was a mash-up; the songs were “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” “Party in the U.S.A.,” “Price Tag,” “Turn the Beat Around,” “Give Me Everything,” and “Just the Way You Are.” I remember watching this movie for the first time and being stunned at how well they were able to combine all of these songs into one and make it sound amazing enough for me to want to download it.

I have recently become a fan of the show, GLEE. It is currently in its fifth season, and it too has performances of mash-ups (usually of only two songs). Like in Pitch Perfect, the mash-ups are great; they tie in two songs that you wouldn’t consider putting together and they sound like new songs being heard for the first time.

But that is where things get tricky.

I remember a few weeks ago, we were discussing copyright in class and went on to the topic of music. A classmate made a point in saying that eventually all music will overlap because artists are limited in what they have to work with. These song mash-ups are a great example of proving that- they pull in together two (or more) songs that share a similar, or the same, beat. The question is, are these mash-ups truly new songs; can this be viewed as a new genre? I say yes, to an extent. While these songs are “new,” not much creativity or originality goes into making these mash-ups; they aren’t raw.

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