Establishing an overwhelming popularity in CU, Gregg Gillis of Girl Talk returned Wednesday, Nov. 5 at Canopy for a night that promised to beat the rave and fever of September’s Dan Deacon and Hood Internet shows. With the night sold out months before the date, Gillis’ success and influence in the music world is obvious. But can you really consider Girl Talk’s music Gillis’ own? And if not, what has he really done for us and for the culture that his glitch pop thrives in? Let’s take a look at both sides of the argument:
Gillis is tearing apart and mashing up some of today’s most glossy, overplayed, overproduced hits, making fun of how much of a product these songs really are. Feed the Animals shows just how absurd it is that the hooks and choruses of Britney Spears or Beyonce can work against the beats of Radiohead or Jay-Z. The art of songwriting is bullshit and the homogenous nature of popular music is a joke.
Gillis may pretend to be an activist against the pretentiousness of the music industry, but really he’s just taking all of the most accessible and head-bobbing clips of Billboard’s Top 40 and stuffing them into a jam-packed, three minute hit collage. Not only is he just relying on the formula that all other radio-friendly music has followed, but he’s taking a shortcut by ripping off of everything that has already proven to bob the heads of the masses.
There’s much to be said for making art of what is debatably not, and Gillis is certainly the champion of that. Sampling hundreds of songs, the irony of his work is not lost on fans of Girl Talk who know that behind every terrible lyric is the beat that was meant to accompany something greater. Gillis’ mastery is in convincing the average music fan that their tastes really are more diverse then they every dreamed they could be.
Remember those terrible MTV Spring Break specials where a slew of half-naked college students would gather around a nameless DJ and mindlessly lose themselves in the latest radio hits? It’s kind of like that. Gillis’ mashes are often compiled of songs that your average hip college student wouldn’t dream of admitting to know or even enjoy, but every underground publication has built Girl Talk into the trend-hoppers dream.
Like Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Gillis released Feed the Animals online, letting us pick the price we pay for the album. Music isn’t a mass produced commodity and Gillis has enough faith in our culture’s appreciation of music to donate for more. Plus, we all know that record labels are blood suckers.
Of course you wouldn’t find Girl Talk in Best Buy. With countless unlicensed sources making up each track, the New York Times Magazine said it best when describing his music as “a lawsuit waiting to happen.” Illegal Art is too appropriate a name for Farnsworth’s sampling label, and the pay-what-you-want method for Feed the Animals may be the perfect way for Girl Talk to dodge a bullet.