Montages, Mashups and Morality in Music

March 20th, 2011   •   1 comment   

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In an attempt to understand what’s hot in today’s music scene (and chill out after a tough day’s work), I’ve been viewing music videos on Youtube, checked out Billboard’s Hot 100, and listened to the most popular hits on MySpace. What I discovered was pretty fascinating – and perhaps a little shocking – for a mountain tortoise cum geek like me.

Several trends seem to be prevalent in contemporary pop music culture (at least in the US):

1) Hip Hop is HUGE and almost overwhelming not only in America, but every continent around the world, including Asia. Almost every popular artiste would have done something with a rap or R&B rhythm infused into their song. Here’s American Asian group Far East Movement and their current hot favourite “Rocketeer”.

2) Partnerships between big name artistes are very common – something practically unheard of a couple of years ago. Some of the collaborations are rather unusual (eg Justin Bieber Feat Ludacris for “Baby”) while others appear more natural (eg B.O.B. Feat Bruno Mars for “Nothin’ On You”).

3) The fusion of musical styles appear to be pretty prevalent too, especially between vocals and rap, rock and rap, country pop, and other forms. All the above examples possess such combinations of music. While such mashups have always occurred over the decades, its probably never as prevalent as this day and age. Here’s another example of a collaboration between Taio Cruz and Travis McCoy for “Higher” with vocals and rap.

And mega successful artiste Rihanna with rap artiste Drake.

4) There is always a dirty version full of sex and expletives, not only amongst hip hop artists, but more mainstream acts like Enrique Iglesias and P!nk. Because this blog is rated “G”, I will not embed the video here, but you can check out these links here and here.

5) Cover versions and remixes by amateur musicians and singers are now fairly de rigueur in the world of Web 2.0 and mashups. Some of them are pretty good and in fact, I would dare say, even better than the original artistes. Don’t believe me? Just compare this version of “Just a Dream” by Kelly:

…with this remixed version by a couple of kids from school (namely Kurt Schneider, Sam Tsui and Christina Grimmie)…

(Of course everybody is entitled to his or her opinion, but those kids are good, no?)

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One comment

  1. walsh
    posted on Mar 20, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    perhaps another way to look at these trends you highlighted is to look at the combination of cultural and technological shifts. Hip Hop for instance is heavily rooted in NY, African American and street sub-culture; if you remember the popular series of compilation CDs “NOW!” you’ll recall hiphop was no way near the chart just 15 years ago.

    the criticism of hiphop being oversexualised/vulgar etc is to an extend inseparable from the same popular imagery African American or “downtown” “street” culture is tied to. Hence now it becomes a case for mainstream musicians to have to “gain street cred” by partnering hiphop musicians or using sexualised language. Of course there is a difference for some musicians (Latin America e.g. Iglesias) who celebrate sexuality and other cultural expression in their native culture, thus I’ll be careful to paint all musicians with a broad stroke.

    Technology shifts is the most obvious player here – with youtube and home desktop music editing technology allowing endless creative amateur to the complicated use of technology in electronic music – so imagine the combination of culture and technology here.

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