Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mash Up My Heart

Who can resist the concept of the mash-up? Take two seemingly disparate things, gloop 'em together and make something genius. For example, Bert & Ernie and gangsta rap. That's a classic. Or pickles and ice cream: for those about to gestate, we salute you. There are some things that don't go together well at all, like children and PETA, but most of the time, the juxtaposition of two different things can allow one to give insight into the other. Or just reveal a delicious bassline in a C.Walk joint.

I first encountered mashups in my freshman year at U of T, when I lived with one of those boarding-school girls who had been dumped in a dorm when she was twelve. Lots of money + little supervision is one of the world's oldest mashups, so my new gal pal was well-versed in sneaking into clubs and whole genres worth of music that I was ignorant of. 2 Many DJs, authors of the Radio Soulwax phenomenon, were a well-established blend of pop-rock and electro elements when I finally found them. But to me, they were a game-changer. Music became something that was DIY, not officially sanctioned tunes from a band. Music, especially electronic music, was something that could be molded, something that didn't have to be played.

Mashups aren't anything new: for anyone who's interested in the history of awesome beat-driven music, may I recommend the impeccable tome, Last Night A DJ Saved My Life? It's got facts in it! On the other hand, if you're more televisually oriented, I'm going to have to steer you towards a recent episode of my new favourite shame, Glee. (Shut up. It's awesome. Seriously, crazily, shamefully awesome.) The book is full of words about music; the show is forty-three minutes of total insanity. There's singing! Dancing! Fake pregnancies! Cheerleading! The best put-downs this side of the Rio Grande! Strangely familiar-looking leading men! Hot Jews! God. I love it.

That recent epsiode of my new favourite shame Glee (I'm just going to start calling it MNFSG, which is less embarassing and sort of has a NASA-esque tang to it) featured some of my all-time favourite classic plot points on teen dramas: namely, hilarious hijinx with psuedoephedrine. Oh, and Journey. That's right, Journey. She took the midnight train going anywhere? Sing along; I know you know the words. Anyway, the whole show is sort of a mash-up: what happens when nerds and popular kids interact because they, like, want to? Chaos, apparently. Riveting TV.

Glee makes me wonder about American high schools, though. Aside from all the rah-rah-fame-is-everything message that's been old hat since Survivor started its hoary reign an unbelievable nineteen seasons ago, Glee, along with most American media, sends a message about class mobility that isn't really all that, um, truthful. Unfortunately, working hard and trying your best isn't going to net the average kids - and face it, we're all average kids - anything better than assistant regional manager down at the local IHOP. Breaking out of the little box we're in - and, like it or not, we're all in little boxes - and hitching our wagon to the stars is a long shot.

Glee sort of addresses this in its pilot episode, when the quarterback of the losing-est high school football team in Ohio history reminds his knucklehead teammates that they are all losers: that half of them won't go to college, and that maybe two of them will leave the state to do it. Why not try to have a little fun while we're busy being losers? Who gives a damn what's "cool" and what isn't, as long as your heart is pure and your soul is wild and...zzz....sorry.

Okay, yeah, it's still evening-soap melodramatic and therefore 85% unbelievable. But what's really got me hooked is its mash-up qualities: it combines demi-realistic staging and scripting (as much as you're going to get in any other non-reality TV show on the airwaves) with choreographed musical numbers. It splices totally absurd plotlines with with relatively understated acting. It plaits together the amazingly mean and crazy Jane Lynch with the exasperated and unexpected Iqbal Theba. Hello, it actually gets Broadway-style singing and dancing into a network television show. That's weird. And it works. It's a mash-up of the most epic proportions, and like the best mashups, what makes it different also makes it successful.


  1. Alright, I get the glee for Glee now. And that tiny box thing is strangly inspiring.
    HOWEVER, I am going to say a big ol' "NAY" to Peta kids.... you can make a Sea Kitten: ie a fish (apparantly sea kitten sounds friendlier)

    Also this is why I need your help with my blog. I can't spell worth shit. And Safari underlining all my mistakes is red without actually telling me how to correct them is ass.

  2. Bahahaha! I totally got you into that! (yes, that's what she said, I knoooow). This week's episode was mad depressing, and then next week is sectionals! AND THEN THERE'S NO MORE GLEE UNTIL APRIL.