SUGARHILL Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” is one of the most popular remixed songs in recent pop music history. The 1979 hit is a combination of the instrumental version of Chic’s “Good Times” and rap overlay resulting to something new. Vanilla Ice in 1990 became popular with “Ice Ice Baby” with his hip-hop rap using the bassline of “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen. (Songwriting credits and royalties were shared as settlements after some legal battles on copyright issues.)


MADEON in 2015 (image from Flickr by Guillaume Highwire, uploaded by Highwire75)

Finding protection from copyright claims under the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law emboldened many music producers all over the world to come up with mashups that now flood the Internet.

French DJ, record producer, songwriter and musician Hugo Pierre Leclercq (born May 30, 1994) who is better known as Madeon become popular initially on a YouTube video called “Pop Culture” where he performed a mashup of 39 popular songs in real-time using a Novation Launchpad. Madeon graced several BBC Radio 1 shows, released several albums, and performed in major music festivals like the Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Coachella in California, Lollapalooza in Chicago, and Electric Daisy Carnival in New York. The 22-year old DJ continues to tour the world because of his remix and mashup skills – including gigs with Lady Gaga.

There are many Internet sites that offer free downloads of mashup materials. The artists claim that their works are non-commercial but a display of technical skills and creativity. Some amusing materials available include Kenny Loggins singing “Footloose” over the instrumental track of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams singing “Blurred Lines” over the instrumental track of the Village People’s “YMCA,” Metallica singing “Enter Sandman” over the instrumental track of Bryan Adams’ “Run to You,” and Coldplay singing “Viva La Vida” over the instrumental track of the Commodores’ “Easy.”

Some mashup songs are made from all current hits, some are from all old hits, and others are combined from the old and the new. The good ones are seamlessly mixed and blend the right melody and chords. The bad ones sound “forced” as the a capella materials do not match the chords of the instrumental tracks. Mashups also come in video form.

Filmmaker and writer Kirby Ferguson made a name for himself with the popular video series “Everything is a Remix” (available on Vimeo) in which he proposes that everything mankind creates takes inspiration from something that has come before. He talks about the nature of creativity on a TEDTalks video and explains his thoughts at the end:

Our creativity comes from without, not from within. We are not self-made; we are dependent on one another. Admitting this to ourselves isn’t an embrace of mediocrity and derivativeness – it’s liberation from our misconceptions, and it’s an incentive to not expect so much from ourselves, and simply to begin.

Come to think of it, nothing is 100% original. Everything we know is a remix of ideas from different sources. We are even a remix of DNAs from our parents, our ancestors.

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