Mashups are all the rage online these days. It's to the point where artists can build huge careers out of nothing more than mixing and mashing other people's songs. Like Girl Talk, for example.
That "band" is actually just one dude named Greg Gillis, and he absolutely shreds on a laptop. So much so that he tours the world and releases entire albums and makes loads of money, all while skirting copyright law on the grounds that he produces transformative works that fall under the doctrine of fair use. He's obviously not the only person making mashups in the world, though. We talk about some of the more surprising song combos from recent memory on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comics Jeff May, Quincy Johnson, and Vanessa Gritton. That's also what I'm going to talk about in this column today. Imagine that! Here are five mashups that make terrible songs great.
#5. Justin Bieber vs. Slipknot -- "Psychosocial Baby"
Aside from the fact that they both make music I don't listen to, Justin Bieber and Slipknot don't have much in common. One of them is best known for putting on disgusting, vile live shows that test the limits of what an audience can comfortably stand to look at for an extended period of time. The other is a rock band that wears scary clown masks and shit. Clearly, they occupy opposite ends of the modern music landscape.
For the record, it's not that I dislike the music of Slipknot. I suppose they're fine, but I honestly just don't know if I've ever been angry enough about anything to really want to listen to a song like "Psychosocial."
I'm just not that fucking mad about things, you know?
As for Justin Bieber, I don't know what kind of mood you have to be in to willingly seek out his music as an adult, but it's one I've never been in. I mean, I saw the Biebs in concert once, but it was just for work. Beyond that, his songs have never interested me much. It's probably because I'm not a child.
So even in terms of why I don't count myself a fan, both acts are miles away from each other. Somehow, though, when they come together, they produce something beautiful.
That miracle of modern music machinery is called "Psychosocial Baby," and it is goddamn magic. It takes the overly aggressive lyrics of Slipknot and combines them with the bullshit pop music of Justin Bieber, and just like that, everything that's wrong is right. The inherent flaws of each act wash away in a sea of grown men screaming about their feelings while some faceless Swedish pop producers wail on a synthesizer version of every instrument. It's kind of like a McDonald's cheeseburger. The individual parts aren't that great, but when you get them all in one place, it's completely and totally good enough.
Jump in at around the 2:12 mark, when the guest verse from Ludacris starts, and you'll spend that entire section of the video wholly unaware that it's anything other than the Justin Bieber song he originally appeared on.
You know the one!
It's like one of those prank videos that come out every year around Halloween, where you get tricked into staring at it for a long time and then there's a high-pitched screaming noise ...
If he starts soloing, this is legitimately my nightmare.
... then that picture pops up and you get the shit scared out of you. That's how every Slipknot video should work.
#4. The DMX Remix of the "Reading Rainbow" Theme
Whether you want to admit it or not, sometimes a gritty reboot is a good thing. Case in point: Remember the Reading Rainbow theme song? For as long as you've been alive, it's sounded the exact same way. Sure, it will never stop being as catchy as all get out, but it definitely hasn't aged and matured the same way you have. It's from a show for kids, after all -- it's not a huge deal. Unless, of course, you want to indulge in the breezy melodies of that childhood classic without looking like a total weirdo to the people around you.
In moments like this, that aforementioned reboot is exactly what you need. Enter rap legend and all-around crazy person DMX.
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
With nothing more than a few well-placed grunts, growls, swear words, and requests for oral sex, DMX turns a childhood classic into something you'd be proud to listen to at your next adult gathering.
"Proud" might be a bit too strong of a word. "Comfortable" might even be pushing it, depending on a variety of factors. It's definitely a conversation starter, if nothing else.
Look, this is 56 seconds long. Every one of those seconds is a delight. Listen to it twice.
#3. Nine Inch Nails vs. Carly Rae Jepsen -- "Call Me a Hole"
The title of this column, at least as I'm writing it, mentions that there will be at least one terrible song in the mix at each stop along the way. If nothing else, there will be something you wouldn't listen to on its own. So with that in mind, I think it should be pretty obvious which of the two songs referenced here earns the honor of "worst of the bunch." That, of course ...
... is neither of them. Sorry, that's just how this entry has to work. That's also what's so wonderful about this mashup of seemingly disparate musical worlds. Instead of masking each other's faults, they just bring out the best in each other. Is that hard to read for Nine Inch Nails fans? I'd ask the same thing of Carly Rae Jepsen fans, but let's not shit ourselves, she doesn't have fans. That one song she did had fans. If you've already forgotten the name, just as a reminder, the song in question is "Call Me Maybe."
You could be forgiven for misplacing the name of the star behind this song, because the real star here is the music. It's the only star, actually. Carly Rae Jepsen sounds like any other software-corrected pop singer who came before her.
Actually, "Carly Rae Jepsen" is just their band name.
You could put just about any configuration of lyrics over music like that and it would sound right at home. The mashup at the heart of this entry demonstrates that perfectly.
It also highlights one of the things that was so great about Trent Reznor, back when him being great was a thing. He was a master at pairing pop melodies with gloomy industrial rock that turned into chart-topping hits, even when he still looked like this ...
Yeah, of course those are dreadlocks!
That's no minor feat, and it happened in large part because he knew how to craft a catchy melody, enough so that he sounds right at home alongside the song that so very recently wrecked your summer.
As with so many other Trent Reznor productions, skip directly to the chorus, which starts right around the 25-second mark. A grown man complaining loudly will never sound so joyous again.