December 2, 2008

Are Girl Talk's Sonic Mash-ups Illegal Music?

by Ali Golomb

One could ask, if the artist did not compose the lyrics or the beat, then how could it be considered their song? Girl Talk, the stage name for Gregg Gillis, makes this question a great deal more complicated to answer. Now on his third album, Night Ripper (originally released in 2006), Girl Talk compiles tracks on top of each other to create a new song. Pitchfork, an online music review site, talks about Girl Talk's way of trying to guess which song is next:
"Smash Your Head" glides into the siren keyboards of Lil Wayne's "Fireman" less than a minute in, then abruptly shifts into the crushingly dense riffs of Nirvana's "Scentless Apprentice" while Young Jeezy spits the familiar flames of "Soul Survivor," before it all tumbles into a Pharcyde-Elton John-Biggie somersault.

Many people think this is an illegal form of art, but I believe otherwise. Yes, Girl Talk is taking parts of songs from other artists, but he is engineering them in a specific way that is different from the artist's original intent. With the digital age, this is our generation's genre of music. It is still every bit as creative and innovative as the music of past generations, but its innovation lies with reconfiguring of past works rather than composing completely new lyrics or beats. While many artists' songs take inspiration from other artists; Girl Talk's inspiration is just more apparent.

(The photo of Gregg Gillis/Girl Talk is from the Wired Rave Awards in San Francisco in 2007; the photo is by matthew.hickey via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. To see a mash-up video inspired by Girl Talk's "Overtime," please check below.)

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