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Mashup (music)

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A mashup (also mesh, mash up, mash-up, blend, bastard pop[1] or bootleg[2]) is a creative work, usually a song, created by blending two or more pre-recorded songs, typically by superimposing the vocal track of one song seamlessly over the instrumental track of another and changing the tempo and key where necessary.[3] Such works are considered "transformative" of original content and in the United States they may find protection from copyright claims under the "fair use" doctrine of copyright law.[4]


The 1967 Harry Nilsson album Pandemonium Shadow Show features what is nominally a cover of the Beatles' "You Can't Do That" but actually introduced the "mashup" to studio-recording.[5] Nilsson's recording of "You Can't Do That" mashes his own vocal recreations of more than a dozen Beatles songs into this track. Nilsson conceived the combining of many overlaying songs into one track after he played a chord on his guitar and realized how many Beatles songs it could apply to.[6] This recording has led some to describe Harry Nilsson as the inventor of the mashup. Other recordings regarded as early examples of, or forerunners to, the mashup include Buchanan and Goodman's "The Flying Saucer" (1956),[7][8] Marshall McLuhan's The Medium Is the Massage (1967),[9] the John Benson Brooks Trio's Avant Slant (1968),[10] Grandmaster Flash's "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel" (1981),[11][12][13] Paul McCartney's "Tug of Peace" (1983),[14] the "Hip Hop Mix" of Climie Fisher's "Rise to the Occasion" (1987),[15] Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers' Jive Bunny: The Album (1989),.[16] and Coldcut's Journeys by DJ: 70 Minutes of Madness (1995).[17][18]

Although described as a medley in its title, "Do It Again Medley with Billie Jean" by Italian music project Club House could be described as one of the first ever commercially released mashups in 1983.[19] The song combines elements of "Do It Again", a 1973 top 10 hit in the US and Canada by Steely Dan, with Michael Jackson's number one hit from earlier in the year, "Billie Jean". It reached number 11 in the UK,[20] and the top 10 in Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Another early mashup appeared in 1985, when The Tubes released their studio album, Love Bomb. The second side of the album contained the track "Theme from a Wooly Place", which combined the tunes "Wooly Bully" in one channel and "Theme from A Summer Place" in the other.[21]

In 1990, Norman Cook reached number one in the UK Singles Chart with his act Beats International with "Dub Be Good to Me",[22] essentially a mashup of re-recorded vocals of the SOS Band's "Just Be Good to Me" with the Clash's "The Guns of Brixton", making it the first mashup to achieve significant mainstream success.[23]

The 1990 John Zorn album Naked City features a version of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" set over the bassline of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman".[24][importance of example(s)?]

In 1991, the Source featuring Candi Staton released "You Got the Love", based on a mashup created by DJ Eren Abdullah that had been an underground club hit since 1989, placing a Candi Staton a cappella over an instrumental version of Frankie Knuckles and Jamie Principle's house track, "Your Love".[23] It reached number four on the UK Singles Chart,[25] and had continued success over subsequent years with several remixes and a cover by Florence + the Machine.

In 1994, the experimental band Evolution Control Committee released the first modern mashup tracks on their hand-made cassette album, Gunderphonic. These "Whipped Cream Mixes" combined a pair of Public Enemy a cappellas with instrumentals by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. First released on home-made cassettes in early 1992, it was later pressed on 7" vinyl, and distributed by Eerie Materials in the mid-1990s. The tracks gained some degree of notoriety on college radio stations in the United States.[26][third-party source needed]

The name Pop Will Eat Itself was taken from an NME feature on the band Jamie Wednesday, written by David Quantick, which proposed the theory that because popular music simply recycles good ideas continuously, the perfect pop song could be written by combining the best of those ideas into one track. Hence, "pop will eat itself".[27][importance of example(s)?]

Pre-empting the rise of the mashup in the 2000s, German trance act Fragma reached number one in the UK and the top 10 in Australia and across Europe with "Toca's Miracle", a mashup of their previous single "Toca Me" and Coco Star's 1996 single "I Need a Miracle", initially created by British DJ Vimto in 1999.[28]

The mashup movement gained momentum again in 2001 with the release of the 2 Many DJs album As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt. 2 by Soulwax's Dewaele brothers, which combined 45 different tracks; the same year a remix of Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle" was also released by Freelance Hellraiser, which coupled Aguilera's vocals with the guitar track of "Hard to Explain" by New York's the Strokes, in a piece called "A Stroke of Genie-us".[29]

In 2001, English producer Richard X had created a bootleg mashup of Adina Howard's "Freak Like Me" and Tubeway Army's "Are "Friends" Electric?", titled "We Don't Give a Damn About Our Friends", which became a successful underground dance track under his alias Girls on Top. He could not get permission to use the original vocals to release the mashup commercially, so he enlisted the English girl group Sugababes to re-record the vocals. It was released in April 2002, giving the group their first UK number one single, and drawing further recognition, acclaim and mainstream success for the mashup genre. Richard X had continued success with two more mashups reaching the UK top 10: "Being Nobody" (number 3), with pop group Liberty X combining vocals of Chaka Khan and Rufus's "Ain't Nobody" with the Human League's "Being Boiled", and "Finest Dreams" (number 8), featuring American vocalist Kelis singing the vocals from the SOS Band's "The Finest" over an instrumental of the Human League's "The Things That Dreams Are Made Of".

At the 2002 Brit Awards held on 20 February 2002, Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue performed a mash-up version of her number one hit "Can't Get You Out of My Head", combined with New Order's song "Blue Monday". The live performance is cited as one of the first by a mainstream recording artist to utilise a mashup, and was ranked at number 40 on The Guardian's 2011 list of 50 Key Events in the History of Dance Music.[30] The mashup, titled "Can't Get Blue Monday Out of My Head", was later released as the B-side to "Love at First Sight" and was included on Minogue's 2008 remix album Boombox. In the years that followed, mash-ups became more widely used by major artists in their live performances, particularly to update previous material to meld with the themes and sounds of their more recent work. For example, on her 2006 Confessions Tour, Madonna incorporated elements of the Trammps's "Disco Inferno" in the performance of her 2000 hit "Music", to assist the song in blending in with the tour's disco theme. On her 2008 Sticky & Sweet Tour, she performed a mash-up of her 1990 hit "Vogue" with the instrumental of her recent single "4 Minutes", to update it with the more urban sound of her Hard Candy album.

In August 2003, Madonna's single "Hollywood" was remixed with "Into the Groove" and performed with Missy Elliott under the title "Into the Hollywood Groove" as part of a promotional campaign for clothing retailer GAP, prompting criticism for exploiting the underground culture of the mash-up for commercial gain.[31]

The mid-2000s saw a massive surge in popularity for the mashup, including single releases that climbed high into the dance charts and even the mainstream top-40 charts. Such hits include Linkin Park and Jay-Z's "Numb/Encore", Party Ben's "Boulevard of Broken Songs", Alex Gaudino's "Destination Calabria", Mousse T. vs the Dandy Warhols' "Horny as a Dandy" (originally mixed and produced by Loo & Placido) and Mylo vs Miami Sound Machine's "Doctor Pressure". In 2001, "Every Breath You Take" by the Police was mashed up with "Peter Gunn" by Henry Mancini, for the 27th episode of The Sopranos, "Mr. Ruggerio's Neighborhood". The Grey Album, which mashed up recordings by Jay-Z and the Beatles, also became notoriously popular.

With the release of Guitar Hero in 2005, Rock Band in 2007, and those games' sequels, numerous mashup artists discovered that every song in the games had multitracks with instrument stems and acapellas, meaning that these songs could easily be sampled and kept uncompressed and clear. Among others, American comedian Neil Cicierega used this method to produce his four mashup albums, Mouth Sounds, Mouth Silence, Mouth Moods and Mouth Dreams.

DJ Earworm's annual "United States of Pop" mashups became season events, with his 2009 edition alone garnering critical acclaim as well as racking up more than 53 million views on YouTube. Mashups also helped launch the careers of acts such as Girl Talk and Madeon, with the latter's "Pop Culture" accruing more than 55 million views. Acts such as DJs from Mars and Mashd N Kutcher would go on to make mashups a huge part of their creative output.

Launched in San Francisco in 2003, Bootie was the first recurring club night in the United States dedicated solely to the burgeoning art form of the bootleg mashup, and as of 2019 hosted monthly parties in cities around the globe, including Los Angeles, Paris, Boston, Munich, and New York City. The party's slogan, "Music for the A.D.D. Generation" also inspired the creation of "A.D.D", Israel's first mashup-dedicated party.[32] The Best of Bootie mashup compilation series is produced by Bootie creators A Plus D. Released every December since 2005, the compilations are annual Internet sensations, with each album requiring 5,000 GB+ of download bandwidth.[33]

Even though mashups mostly remained underground and barely got noticed aside from a few exceptions (notable examples include Bill McClintock[34]), people have never stopped remixing other artists' music without getting their prior agreement. It's been increasingly difficult to get noticed in the music industry due to a combination of relative obscurity and an increasing difficulty in keeping them available online due to automatic copyright detection (through Content ID) and cease and desist orders from the original artists.[35]

Video games[edit]

DJ Hero is a 2009 rhythm video game developed by Activision that includes over 90 pre-made mashups, where the player scores points by hitting notes on the turntable controller.[36]

Fuser is a 2020 video game developed by Harmonix that allows the player to create mashups of over 100 songs, using four instrument stems from the master recording.[37]

In December 2023, Fortnite introduced a new game mode titled Fortnite Festival. In the Jam Stage and Fortnite Battle Royale, players can make mashups of over 100 songs.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1) Sinnreich 2) Gluck, 1) Aram 2) Marissa (29 June 2005). "Music & Fashion: The Balancing Act Between Creativity and Control" (PDF). Norman Lear Center: 1–45. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 September 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2021.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Rojas, Pete (1 August 2002). "Bootleg culture". Salon.com. Archived from the original on 17 June 2006.
  3. ^ Geoghegan, Michael and Klass, Dan (2005). Podcast Solutions: The Complete Guide to Podcasting, p.45. ISBN 1-59059-554-8.
  4. ^ "Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video". Center for Social Media, American University. 22 February 2010. Archived from the original on 2 June 2010.
  5. ^ Fennessey, Sean (6 August 2013). "Deconstructing Harry". Grantland.com. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  6. ^ Myers, Mitch (6 March 2019). "How Harry Nilsson Made the Beatles' Catalog into His Own Russian Doll, Creating Rock's First Great Mashup". Variety.com. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  7. ^ Banks, Dave (29 August 2018). "'Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig' Adds More Game to Your Gaming". GeekDad. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  8. ^ "The Recombinant DNA of the Mash-Up". The New York Times. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2023.
  9. ^ Wang, Oliver (20 March 2012). "'The Medium Is the Massage':A Kitchen Sink of Sound". NPR. Retrieved 20 August 2023.
  10. ^ Matson, Joseph R. (December 2014). "Dig: Sound and Music in Hip Culture book review". Notes. 71 (2): 297–299. doi:10.1353/not.2014.0153.
  11. ^ Pollock, Bruce (2017). "1980-1984". America's Songs III: Rock!. Milton Park, Oxfordshire: Taylor & Francis. p. 195. ISBN 9781317269649. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  12. ^ Brown, Ralph (20 February 2014). "Readers recommend: stop-start songs – results". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  13. ^ Blyweiss, Adam (20 November 2014). "10 Essential Mashup Milestones". Treble. Retrieved 9 April 2023.
  14. ^ Hart, Ron (6 October 2015). "Paul McCartney: Tug of War / Pipes of Peace Album Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  15. ^ Masterton, James (16 July 2015). "Rookie's Revenge". Chart Watch UK. Retrieved 4 October 2023.
  16. ^ Willis, Daniel J. (17 November 2019). "REWIND: It's mashup week, featuring Girl Talk and Amerigo Gazaway". Riff Magazine. Retrieved 5 October 2023.
  17. ^ Clay, Joe (19 May 2015). "New Colour: Coldcut's Journeys By DJ - 70 Minutes of Madness". The Quietus. Retrieved 5 March 2024.
  18. ^ Brown, Nick Gordon (30 April 2019). "The Life and Times of the DJ Mix CD". Defected. Retrieved 6 March 2024.
  19. ^ "The Recombinant DNA of the Mash-Up". The New York Times. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  20. ^ "DO IT AGAIN-BILLIE JEAN (MEDLEY)". Officialcharts.com. 23 July 1983.
  21. ^ "Love Bomb (The Tubes album)". Acearchive.org. Retrieved 8 February 2024.
  22. ^ "Search | Official Charts". Officialcharts.com.
  23. ^ a b "The Pre-History Of Mashups, Medleys And Mixes". Radio Clash. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  24. ^ Santoro, Gene (1994). Dancing in Your Head. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195356427. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  25. ^ "YOU GOT THE LOVE". Officialcharts.com. 1 March 1997.
  26. ^ [1] [dead link]
  27. ^ "Who the hell is Clint Mansell?". Sickamongthepure.com. Archived from the original on 10 October 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  28. ^ "The Mashup that made Fragma Vs. Coco - Toca's Miracle (1999)". Steemit.com. 12 March 2018.
  29. ^ Vine, Richard (15 June 2011). "Kylie mashes up Can't Get You Out of My Head with Blue Monday at the Brits". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 15 December 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  30. ^ Margolis, Lynne (8 August 2003). "Sellout or smart marketing?". The Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
  31. ^ Jam, Billy (23 May 2007). "Music For Generation ADD: Mashups quietly mature into a thriving subculture". New York Press. Archived from the original on 25 July 2008.
  32. ^ "Mashup best-of 2006 album". Boing Boing. 11 January 2007. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  33. ^ "Bill McClintock YouTube Channel". Bill McClintock. 1 November 2023.
  34. ^ "Parody in the Age of Remix". MIT Press. 27 June 2023.
  35. ^ "DJ Hero Was the Closest We Ever Got to Mixing Music and Gaming". Vice.com. 13 September 2016.
  36. ^ "Harmonix's new game Fuser lets you mash together pop songs". Theverge.com. 26 February 2020.

Further reading[edit]