What do you think about as you lay awake at night? If you’re like me, the restless monologue goes something like this, “God, I love this bed. OK, time for some sleep . . . wait, did I set the alarm? Yeah, I set it in the kitchen . . . ooh, I forgot we bought ham. Is it too late to have some ham? I’m not going all the way downstairs for ham. I could wake HK up and ask her to get me some ham. We should totally get a ham refrigerator for the bedroom. But where would we put it? It would have to go on the floor, and the damned kids would constantly be stealing my ham. Dammit, kids, stop stealing my ham!”
OK, so I bet I know what you’re thinking. “Is there such a thing as a ham refrigerator?” I don’t know, but that’s something we should explore at a later date.
There are those of us whose bedtime thoughts trend toward the smoked meats and then there are people like Gregg Gillis. I would be willing to bet that Gillis, a musician who performs and records under the stage name Girl Talk, does not lay in bed at night wondering about ham refrigerators. And that is not because I Imagine Gillis being disinterested in ham, but rather because a man as creative as Gillis no doubt solved the midnight ham problem (a pretty good album name, if you ask me) long ago. And so, when Gillis finds himself wondering whether Radiohead and ODB (that’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard for those of you not in the know) are musically compatible, fortunately for us Gillis’s response is not, “Dammit, brain, get back to the ham!”
Gillis translated this, and many, many other similarly ludicrous thoughts, into a mashup album entitled All Day. In the year-and-a-half since I first downloaded All Day, I have listened to it countless times, and it is only recently that I’ve been able to listen to the album without being distracted by the sheer brilliance (and, let’s be honest, absurdity) of Gillis’s creation. The album’s first track, “Oh No” begins by pairing Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” with “Move Bitch” by Ludacris. I’m not sure what more to say about that, except that the tracks, recorded 32 years apart, sound as if they were always meant to be together.
And that is the genius of Girl Talk — Gillis’s frightening ability to not only conceptualize these combinations, but also to execute on that vision. At times, Gillis layers his tracks with seven or more songs at a time, but he does it with such skill that it is only after dozens of listens that you are able to fully comprehend what it is he has assembled. By the time “Oh No” comes to a close (with a rousing combination of J-Kwon’s “Tipsy,” “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones, Aaliyah’s “Try Again” and “Waiting for the Sun” by The Doors) you are left wondering if the rest of the album could possibly be as good as the first track. It is.
Throughout the album, Gillis pairs Beck and Snoop Dogg, Fugazzi, Sir Mix-a-Lot and Rihanna, Peter Gabriel and Foxy Brown, Miley Cyrus, M.O.P. and Whodini, T’Pau (c’mon, you know you love you some “Heart & Soul”), Skee-Lo, Notorious B.I.G. and Talking Heads, and dozens of other radically disparate artists. The beauty of All Day is that the whole is dramatically greater than the sum of its parts. Tracks that you may despise on their own (can you say, “All The Single Ladies”) become decidedly better in Gillis’s world. And what a wonderful world it is.
Oh, and did I mention that All Day is free? So go download it now and listen to it. A lot. And then, once you’ve listened to it enough that your brain stops shouting, “What the . . . seriously?!?” go and listen to it again here. The fine folks at Mashup Breakdown created an audio player and map (of sorts) that displays which of the 372 tracks sampled on All Day are being played at any given time during a track. Once you’ve listened to the inspired duet between Radiohead and ODB found on “Jump On Stage” you’ll learn what Gillis likely knew all along — ODB and Radiohead were made for each other.