MR|Review – Girl Talk, “All Day”

You’ll find your own moment in All Day, when a favorite or long-forgotten pop hook comes at you sideways from the flurry of samples, and you smile like an idiot. That’s what Girl Talk is about, and it’s a beautiful trick.

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Mine came toward the end of “This Is The Remix,” when the chords hits from INXS’ “Need You Tonight” took over a beat that had been built out of “Cecilia” and Kid ‘n Play.  It was a little moment of pure joy.

The pickle is, now that I’ve had it, it’s had.  The juxtaposition won’t work for me again, since I can anticipate it; I’ve internalized whatever it has to offer in that mode, and can’t discover it again.  The power – a beautiful, fun power, for sure, and the product of amazing curatorial and technical craft – is gone.

(Bit of background – Greg Gillis is a DJ who goes by Girl Talk, and makes sample-crazy remix/mash-up music, mostly rap vocals over non-rap beats, switching songs in and out of the mix every 10-20 seconds.)

Since the effectiveness of All Day diminishes quickly with repeat listens, it may be best to think of it as an ad for Girl Talk’s live show.  Having heard the record, I’d happily make the trip to recordBar to hear Greg throw down for a couple hours.  But even more than that, All Day is an argument for a hypothetical Girl Talk app.  Isn’t that the end game of this aesthetic?

Imagine; a database of drum beats, bass lines/chords, rap verses, vocal and instrumental hooks, breaks, etc., and an algorithm that shuffles them all together into and endlessly mutating stream of pop music, creating new opportunities for juxtaposition and joyful surprise every time we listen.

Then, make it tweakable; set your own preferences for beats per minute, “ADD” level (how long samples play on average before being switched out), even allow users to upload and tag their own samples, effectively crowdsourcing Girl Talk.  How fun would that be?!

Even if All Day has have a larger point about our cut & paste culture, or perhaps even can be interpreted to comment on spiritual ideas like Buddhist impermanence, wouldn’t the hypothetical app just reinforce that as well?

In rating All Day, I fell back on my own criteria; if you’re interested in music in 2010, you should check out Girl Talk and enjoy what Greg is doing, or better yet, go see him DJ live.  But along with that, this album has zero stars in my iTunes.  My preference is for work that has the potential to sustain repeated, in-depth attention with new insight and meaning.  While you could spend hours studying the taxonomy of All Day‘s samples (or just go to the wikipedia page), I don’t find much here after the bursts of pleasure at hearing things like 2Pac over Sabbath, or Katy Perry and Snoop over “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” have passed.

MR|Review directs readers’ limited attention among works via ratings, and within works via prose, focusing on works where our opinion diverges from critical or popular consensus, or we have significant insight that compliments or challenges readers’ aesthetic experience.