Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Girl Talk - All Day review

On November 15th, preeminent mash-up artist Girl Talk (a.k.a. Gregg Gillis) released his fifth album, All Day, via free download by the Illegal Art record label.  The album marks the end of a two year wait since Gillis' last critically acclaimed album, Feed the Animals.  Utilizing a reported 372 samples (of other artists work, but we'll get into that later), All Day was released as a seamless 71-minute single mp3 file, as well as 12 separate tracks for "easier navigation".  Let's take a moment to thank Mr. Gillis and Illegal Art for having the foresight to break the tracks up, because unless you're at a party or the club, I seriously doubt anyone would want to listen to this all the way through in one sitting, even if the Illegal Art website states that the album is "intended to be listened to as a whole".

Much like Girl Talk's previous releases, there are individual songs that are a blast to listen to.  These tracks are catchy, and often blend and blur genres so effectively that while your booty shakes, your mind marvels at the ingenuity behind it all, especially when you hear how he manages to couple Miley Cyrus' "Born in the USA" and M.O.P's "Ante Up" on "That's Right" and how it all bleeds seamlessly into Portishead's "Sour Times" and Big Boi's "Shutterbugg" on "Jump on Stage".  That being said, anyone with an audio editing program like Audacity will undoubtedly be wondering if they too, with the right amount of determination and creativity, could have created a mash-up album just as good.

This isn't to say that Mr. Gillis isn't creative or talented.  I'll be the first to admit that I have little knowledge or exposure to the underground mixtape sub-culture.  What I do know about it is that it originated in the early days of hip-hop, primarily with kids who had no idea what they were doing, but they knew what they liked to hear.  Fast forward a few decades and the word "mixtape" is thrown around pretty loosely.  Mixtapes are still very much a part of the underground musical community, and are even responsible for launching the careers of some of today's most bankable music superstars like 50 Cent.

What I find most interesting is the way mixtapes are produced.  Most mixtape creators (Girl Talk included) use unauthorized samples of other artists work, something the New York Times has labeled, "a lawsuit waiting to happen".  In today's climate, where the RIAA hasn't met anyone it wouldn't consider suing, the mixtape opens up interesting discussions regarding what is and isn't illegal to do.  Girl Talk has often cited Fair Use, a doctrine in United States copyright law that is a "limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders."  It's complicated, but this is usually in regard to things like criticism, reporting, teaching, etc (you can read up on it here), not for sampling and subsequently making money.

While Girl Talk gives away his albums for free via download off of the Illegal Art website, consumers can still purchase a physical copy of the album on sites like Amazon and in record stores or opt to "make a donation" before downloading the album.  I seriously doubt that Mr. Gillis is splitting those royalties three hundred and seventy three ways.

Overall, All Day is a fun record.  Mr. Gillis certainly has an ear that spans virtually every genre, so you know that every song is going to have a little something for everyone, which is exactly what you need when you're throwing a party.  Just do yourself a favor, download the 12 track version.

Download All Day here.
Check out a list of all of the samples in All Day here.


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