On New Year’s Day this year, I made this:
I wasn’t the first to come up with this idea – there are a couple of other videos on YouTube of similar mashups – but I came to it completely on my own. I occasionally fiddle around with random pop songs on the guitar and when Miley Cyrus’ unavoidable “Party in the U.S.A.” got stuck in my head, I decided to try and figure out the chords. I quickly realized that the song was not only in the same key as Modest Mouse’s “Float On” – it was practically identical. Determined to take this idea to its logical conclusion, I tracked down instrumental and vocal-only tracks for both songs, spent a few hours with Audacity editing them together and voila – instant mashup of two great pop songs from two VERY different worlds.
I expected this would be the sort of thing that would amuse me greatly for a few days and then I’d move onto something else. Instead, it’s provided me with a steady stream of ongoing joy thanks to the wonder of YouTube comments. YouTube is apparently perfectly suited to bring out the worst in Internet commenters: it’s anonymous, it’s quick and it’s ripe for polarizing responses.
In the three months since I published the video, I’m overcome with a childish grin every time I get an e-mail with the subject line “Comment posted on “Float on in the U.S.A.”Though I’ve been called many wonderful things on the Internet – the best/worst of which I collect on my “What the Critics Say” page – YouTube is a whole other world of knee-jerk reaction.
Check out these gems:
I wonder if the jury will accept this as legitimate murder reason..?
why would you do this to modest mouse i frown on you
You are a horrible excuse for a human being..
please leave modest mouse stuff alone freak
Find a fire. Die in it. Now.
Aside from the fact that these comments are AWESOME, I’m actually intrigued by how they play into an idea I’m wrestling with. The traditional alternative/mainstream divide has been at the centre of music’s relationship with genre and identity for ages – in its modern form, the break solidified by punk’s shattering from rock in the 1970s. But I can’t help but feel as if the 21st century has blurred that line. I see far more evidence of what was once “outsider” art sneaking into the mainstream, and mainstream artists being more blatent in their efforts to appeal to underground cultures. The mashup is but one of the major signifiers of this trend – the forceable slamming of different musical worlds against one another to see what happens.
But if the cultural elite – critics, writers, DJs – are paying less attention to questions of “mainstream” or “alternative,” are the fans? Clearly, there are some out there just waiting to yell at those that violate those boundaries – and apparently, they want to yell at me. Maybe I should give them more to yell about…