Welcome back! If you missed Part One of the 10 best mashups on “All Day,” you might want to check that out first. You’ll definitely want to check out the album in its entirety before going any further. Trust me on this one.
(As before, all timestamp references are to the unabridged 71-minute track)
6. “Get Low” (Lil’ Jon and the Eastside Boyz featuring Ying-Yang Twins) vs. “Cecilia” (Paul Simon) (27:36)
“Cecilia” is a light, fun song. Listen to those animated bongo drums and those merry pipes. Clap your hands to the syncopated rhythm. And the song itself is high and airy. The subject matter of “Cecilia,” a fickle woman who frustrates the narrator, isn’t inherently fun. You could write an incredibly depressing song on the same subject (e.g., “Famous Blue Raincoat”). But Simon and Garfunkel turn it into a cheery anthem.
(Of note: I’ve found this song to be incredibly popular among young women, despite the fact that (A) it’s forty years old and (B) it doesn’t portray women in the best light. I mean, the guy’s got Cecilia back at his apartment and she starts two-timing him while he’s in the bathroom. And yet the ladies love it. This says a great deal about how tone can impact a song’s reception, on which more in a moment)
“Get Low,” by contrast, is terrifying.
“Get Low” is dominated by heavy beats, minor keys and unexpected bird calls. Every verse is either growled or screamed. The lyrics reduce the act of seduction to the most deconstructed level: nothing but bodily secretions (“till the sweat drip from my balls”, “skeet skeet”) and loud noises. I’m not saying it’s a bad song. It’s catchy and full of variety, if a bit overproduced. But Teddy Pendergrass had one way to talk a woman out of her clothes, and Lil’ Jon has his.
(Of note: another song the ladies love. I’ve been to my share of trashy dance clubs and Top 40 nights and I’ve found only one woman who dislikes this song. Only one, ever. Everyone else loves it! They can’t wait for that “skeet skeet” part)
Mashing “Cecilia” with “Get Low” makes a terrifying song friendly. Suddenly, you have something everyone can enjoy. Lil Jon’s commands to “back, back, back it up” now have a spirit of fun behind them.
The irony, of course, is that the peppy production values of “Cecilia” don’t make “Get Low” any more catchy. It’s already plenty damned catchy as it is. People have not stopped dancing to “Get Low” just because of its dark tone. No one will hear this song and say “Finally!”
Rather, mashing “Cecilia” – a song about a woman playing games with a man’s heart – with “Get Low” – a song about a man ordering a woman to present her ass – illustrates the whole give-and-take game of seduction. The male approaches; the female withdraws. The guy is bold; the girl acts unimpressed. The man yells “Get low! Stop! Wiggle with it!”, etc. The woman doesn’t have to do any of this if she doesn’t want to. But she complies.
Why? Because it’s fun. Because she can have just as much power over the guy as the guy has over her. And because, ultimately, it’s only dancing.
One last observation: there’s more than a little irony in mashing up a song that credits three distinct artists (Lil’ Jon, the Eastside Boyz, the Ying-Yang Twins) with a song that credits one folk duo (Simon and Garfunkel). Especially because, in the early Seventies, “Simon and Garfunkel” were still one discrete unit of music, not a pop powerhouse that had combined forces. It’s an interesting contrast between the glamorous world of modern pop and the unadorned folk revival of the 60s and 70s.
7. “Thunderkiss ‘65” (White Zombie) vs. “Wild Out” (Ying-Yang Twins) (32:32)
This mashup speaks more to Gillis’s ear for musical themes than any hidden irony. The link between the two lies in the guttural vocals – Rob Zombie’s in “Thunderkiss ‘65” and Kaine’s in “Wild Out.” Kaine punctuate D-Roc’s verse with deep, throaty growls at the end of each line (“smack that HONEY, make that MONEY”). This evokes the rough howling of Zombie in “Thunderkiss ‘65.”
The two tracks blend together so naturally that you wonder that they weren’t made for each other. In fact, for listeners not already intimate with the crunk scene, I would almost caution against listening to the original version of “Wild Out.” It just doesn’t sound as good without Rob Zombie behind it.
This is one of the signs of a truly transcendent mashup – it transforms one (or both) of the songs used such that you can’t go back to appreciating the originals. Who can prefer the dense, saturated synthetics of “Encore” (off Jay-Z’s The Black Album) to the stripped orchestral sounds of “Encore” mashed with “Glass Onion” (off of DJ Danger Mouse’s The Gray Album)?
8. “Layla” (Derek and the Dominos) vs. “Haterz Everywhere” (B.o.B. featuring Rich Boy) (40:56)
Music criticism has always been a court of Byzantine intrigue. When you read an album review, you’re seeing the aftermath of a battle among several impulses. The desire to ingratiate oneself with the record label, thus assuring a steady flow of schwag. The need to appear aloof and objective, which often translates into snobbery. The urge to show off one’s wit by trashing a piece cleverly. The eagerness to be the voice that heralds a new talent or a new genre. Given all of these factors, interpreting a music review takes as much art as interpreting the song itself.
Keep this in mind when you read Rolling Stone’s original review of “Layla”:
And, at last, “Layla” — another powerful opening, a strange Bobby Blandish chorus (“Layla, you got me on my knees; Layla, I’m beggin’ you, please”), a streaming and churning mid-section, and a lengthy piano solo (by Bobby?) edged by almost-unheard guitars that becomes an extended fade a la Nicky Hopkins.
That’s it. That’s what Ed Leimbacher took away from one of the most amazing guitar riffs of all time, lyrics that blend mad passion and art, and a second half that’s become one of the most enduring staples of the rock genre. Some nice work outta you, Clapton.
The above paragraph appeared in a review for Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs and the Allman Bros. Idlewild South. Leimbacher liked both albums, but didn’t hesitate to call Eric Clapton and Duane Allman out when he felt they were being “indulgent.” That’s the function music critics serve – to constrain artistic output within parameters of etiquette. Certain sounds are permitted; certain sounds are allowable, though excessive; certain sounds have no place.
This is a necessary function of art. A critic is no more than an informed member of the audience with access to a soapbox. He does what the audience does, but with the language of academia. To say that a movie or a song is “not for the critics” is to say that it’s not for an audience. It’s your own private bit of wankery. So don’t count the critics out.
That said, it’s still gotta be frustrating sometimes.
I mean, you fall in love with the wife of one of your best friends. You know what you’re feeling is wrong, but it’s such an overwhelming passion that you can’t shut it off. You start working on it one day in the studio, and who should walk in but Duane effing Allman. The two of you sit down, and with the kind of rockstar chemistry that most people feel in their lives maybe three times, you crank out a heartbreaking riff. A riff that sounds like the wailing of an anguished lover, like perhaps Majnun, protagonist of The Madman and Layla, a 7th century Arabic poem written by Qays ibn al-Mulawwah, who was driven to madness when the woman he loved was married off to another man. You are so distraught by this infatuation that you play this song for the woman in question at a party, and then later confess your love to her. In doing so you jeopardize your friendship with her husband, a friendship that had already composed such songs as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Badge.” You are torn apart by your love, by your friendship, and by the feelings that this incredible song evoke in you.
“Sustains itself pretty well throughout, but we’ve heard a lot of it before.” – Rolling Stone
Damn. It’s … it’s like there’s haters everywhere we go.