5) MP3 Mashups


This mash-up of MGMT’s 2007 song “Kids” with Passion Pit’s 2009 “Sleepyhead” is a popular form on remix on the internet, in which creators merge two already existing songs into one MP3, often by layering the vocal track from one song over the instrumental track of another.

This particular MP3 was shared on Tumblr by an anonymous user—the link to their blog appears to be broken, and it is not clear whether the original uploader was the creator of the track, already demonstrating the ways in which remixes can muddy the waters surrounding attribution and intellectual property. The rights to “Kids” and “Sleepyhead” are held by their respective record labels and the creator of this mash-up likely did not contact them for permission to modify these songs in this way—and the proliferation of websites from which to illegally download MP3s means there is no guarantee the creator even purchased the original works they used. Although the “reblog” function on Tumblr creates a chain of links that can be followed back to the source post, deactivated blogs within this chain often make getting to the source difficult and again, there is no way to know if the original creator is the one who uploaded the audio file to Tumblr.

Despite these sketchy attribution practices and what some might describe as clear copyright infringement, MP3 mashups of this kind are a popular genre on the platform of Tumblr; blending two (or sometimes three) songs into something new is a common enough occurrence that the best mashups are frequently compiled into “masterposts”–lists that compile and provide links to examples of particular types of content—or playlists on websites like 8tracks.

In this way, this remix and others like it allow those who create and share them to participate in a community, which Edwards describes as one of the ways in which remix can function. In fact, the people who engage with this comment may be members of a variety of communities, such as fellow remixers who appreciate the technique behind the audio mixing or fans of a particular band or genre of music. Mash-ups of hits by Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco are common due to the bands’ shared fan base. The Kids/Sleepyhead mix combines two electronic indie-pop songs released within a few years of each other, appealing to an audience that appreciates that kind of music and may have particular memories that create a nostalgia for that part of their recent past.

Other mash-ups are more humorous in their focus: one blends Vanessa Carlton’s piano-pop hit “A Thousand Miles” with DMX’s “X Gon Give It To Ya,” and Smash Mouth’s “All Star” is a recurring player in more absurdist remixes of songs. Still others may have potential to operate as commentary: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony combined with Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” is one such example that may raise questions about the ways in which our culture makes value judgments on classical and rap music. The variations within this form demonstrate the various ways in which remix can function—as art and entertainment, as cultural commentary, and as ways of creating community.

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