Girl Talk’s “Feed the Animals”

19 Sep

With the fear of global warming looming over our heads and the need to be environmentally friendly, recycling has become cool.  Now even recycling our music can be cool. Gregg Gillis (stage name Girl Talk) samples nearly every type of music from pop to metal to rap to classic rock and mashes them together in his latest album, “Feed the Animals,” to create dance-y masterpieces perfect for the hottest clubs or just jamming in your car.

© Copyright 2008 Illegal Art

A former biomedical engineer from Pittsburgh, Gillis gained renown after his third album, “Night Ripper” (2006).   His first two albums, “Secret Diary” (2002) and “Unstoppable” (2004) focus more on remixing individual pop and hip-hop hits.  The tracks are choppy and the editing is sloppy, so it sounds more like a scratched CD than a deejay mix.  However, “Night Ripper” has a more cohesive sound, mashing up songs that flow together beautifully and create interesting layers.

Continuing on the successful formula of “Night Ripper,” Gillis uses a wider variety of musical genres in “Feed the Animals.”  He puts them together so that they sound like actual hit songs themselves, not just some dude throwing a bunch of clips together with his music editing software.

As with many “mash-up” albums, much of the fun of “Feed the Animals” comes from trying to figure out what parts of what songs are sampled.  I was fortunate enough to attend a Girl Talk performance about a month before the digital copy was released on June 19.  Instead of playing his old songs, Gillis previewed the entire new album.  Amid the dance party, I could hear people yell out the titles of the sampled songs, trying to be the first of their friends to figure it out.

What makes Girl Talk so much more fun than other mash-up artists is that he creates layers in his music, which make it more difficult to play “Where’s Waldo?”  The vocals may come from one song, the guitar part from another, and the drums from yet another.  “Feed the Animals” is not only a dance party soundtrack but also a music trivia quiz like those that web surfers do for fun.

Another feature of Girl Talk’s music that distinguishes Gillis from other mash-up artists is his experiments with the juxtaposition of tempos with lyrics, lyrics with lyrics, and tempos with tempos.  In the beginning of “Here’s the Thing,” Gillis alternates between Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Wish.”  On paper alternating between the pop anthem and the face-melting metal seems ridiculous, but it works.  Both Clarkson and NIN are angry and Gillis makes the similar emotions play off each other and actually strengthen the songs.  The combination of two genres that seem so different shows just how universal the language of music is.

Gillis also plays with lyrics in “Feed the Animals,” making songs communicate with each other within his tracks.   The best is in “Hands in the Air” when Gillis combines Hot Chip’s “Ready for the Floor” with The Cardigan’s “Love Fool.”  The effect is that of a call and response song, creating a dialogue between the indie rock of The Cardigans and the electropop of Hot Chip and shows how the two songs can work together to produce a similar message.

However, there is one of these dialogues I find quite repulsive.  In “Here’s the Thing” the beloved Rick Springfield song “Jessie’s Girl” is matched with Three 6 Mafia’s “I’d Rather.” In the sickening conversation between songs the lyrics say, “I wish that I had Jessie’s girl, but I’d rather get some head.  I want Jessie’s girl, but I’d rather get some head.”  Although after a while I was able to ignore the Three 6 Mafia lyrics I still feel like this combo kills Springfield’s beautiful (and innocent) classic with Three 6 Mafia’s overly sexual lyrics.

Much as I dislike the sexually explicit rap lyrics littered throughout the album, I find myself addicted to “Feed the Animals.”  I have been listening to this album nearly every day for the last three months and I have yet to grow tired of it. With each listen I notice a new sound or realize what song a guitar part was sampled from, all the while shaking my hips to the beat (or suppressing the urge to do so if I’m on the street).

While tree-huggers are recycling whatever they can to stop global warming and save the polar bears, Girl Talk is recycling song clips to show the unity of music and create an awesome album perfect for your next hot party.   Gillis may not be reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but at least he’ll make us feel better when the next Ice Age comes.  And isn’t that cool?

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