Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

We Are More Excited about Girl Talk on Everything than the Beatles on iTunes

Crazy technologist Anil Dash likes to talk about the end of the canon, as it applies to everything from Lady Gaga remixes to forked software on GitHub. Meaning: Increasingly we experience slightly different versions of the same thing. There is no more canonical version.

This is especially true of media. My favorite version of “Paper Planes” may be different than yours. (Yours sucks.) You’re rocking the DFA remix and I’m all about the Afrikan Boy & Rye Rye version. Even live media events are fractured, splintered through the lens of FoxNews or MSNBC or Autotune the News. It takes something huge to crash through the filters and clutter of modern life to get us to all experience the same thing simultaneously.

The new Girl Talk, released on Monday, did that.

For a moment at least, we are all talking about the same thing, at the same time. When Bill Wasik tweets “#favoritegirltalkspots Track 11 1:32-2:50,” I can go hear exactly what he’s talking about. It’s a water cooler moment for the era of weak-ties!

And then there are The Beatles. Apple made a Big Fucking Deal about a Tuesday announcement, hyping: “Turns out tomorrow is just another day. That you’ll never forget.”

They meant the Beatles on iTunes. Oh, that! So it turns out, The Beatles aren’t already on iTunes or Amazon MP3 or Rdio or whatever. We’d done forgot about that. Thanks for the reminder, Apple.

It was like seeing some kid win Chutes and Ladders, then rub it in everyone’s face. How proud you must be of your triumph! I’m sure Apple will trot out some impressive number in the next few weeks to demonstrate just how many people were totally Yoko for the Beatles. But so what? Meet the Beatles? We’ve already met.

Look, I long ago stole everything I wanted from the Beatles catalogue. (Or ripped the CD. Same-same, but different.) And I’m not the only one! Plenty of people managed to play it on iTunes and iPods and iPhones and, for gosh sakes, even their Zunes before today. I mean, OMG: The Beatles were the top played band on charts last week! But how

It doesn’t take The Beatles’ participation to legitimatize digital distribution. Nor did it prove the artistic merit of it. Both of those happened long ago. It was merely a long-coming business victory for Apple.

And so the reaction to Apple’s announcement was basically a shrug and a collective shuffling on to whatever is next. Which happens to still be Girl Talk.

The Girl Talk album is a straight-up event, precisely because it’s a moment in time. It wasn’t released, as much as it was loosed upon us. You don’t know it’s coming and suddenly it’s just everywhere—saturating its market, in full. "All Day" is all over Twitter and Facebook and email and blogs and bulletin boards. On Wikipedia, people promptly built a database of all the samples. Over at Rdio they’re using that data to build a playlist of all the samples in order.

The new Girl Talk even comes with scarcity, something we’ve barely seen since the days of vinyl. You couldn’t download it for much of Monday because the server was overwhelmed. Sorry folks, Illegal Art is all sold out of bandwidth today. You’ll just have to fucking wait. Or have a friend upload it to his iDisk.

I’m not saying "All Day" is better than the "White Album," or that Girl Talk is the greater artist. Pshaw, homie! The fervor delta has nothing to do with artistic achievement. But clearly Girl Talk won the week in terms of getting inside people’s heads. Greg Gillis—not Steve Jobs or Paul McCartney or Yoko Ono—gave us this week’s never-forget musical moment.

"All Day" felt fresh and alive and (unlike Apple’s surprise announcement) unexpected. The scofflaw samples and jarring juxtapositions that make us nostalgic for the past (like The Beatles!) while cluing us into something new and showing an entirely different way for artists to make a living around the digital distribution of their work (not like iTunes!).

My favorite Beatles moment today? It’s the sample of "Imagine" that hits at 2:58 on track 132 of the new Girl Talk.

Mat Honan is a co-founder of Longshot magazine and contributing editor to WIRED. He is Choire Sicha’s favorite Monkee.

44 Comments / Post A Comment

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

Interesting definition of "us" there.

Yeah, I was gonna say…

Also that "Imagine" sample is a bit shopworn; it's the way he ended his always-party-time set at the Bamboozle last May. Make sense: You always want to end the prom with the "deep" track, after all.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

A less overheated thesis would be "Thing gets talked about on day that it's new." For one example, I remember when the video for "Telephone" came out all those months ago, and "we" all talked about it for a day or two. And then, we stopped. Or maybe now we're all talking about different remixes or something?


MikeBarthel (#1,884)

Haha well the "Telephone" video was premiered on a cable channel whereas Girl Talk's album was premiered on an unworking internet website. But same thing otherwise, sure!

carpetblogger (#306)

I'm still talking about it. Did someone change the subject and not tell me?

Slava (#216)

P.S. the Street Diplo Mix is actually the best one.
Run and tell that, homeboy!

deepomega (#1,720)

ACCURATE. I was just ambling in to add this correction.

janine (#248)

Man, it's the internet. Something being an event or a moment in time is not special. Girl Talk certainly doesn't have the staying power of, say, Rich Juzwiak's cat Winston or any picture of a lemur. Speaking of which, I thought Girl Talk was Monday's topic.

You are so bored an jaded! Now I admire you!

janine (#248)

I'm neither, it's just that the internet isn't all there is. It's not even like 2%.

deepomega (#1,720)

And then I go into work and try to strike a conversation with anyone about the album and they… don't know what the hell I'm talking about? Sometimes it's easy to forget how much of an echo chamber certain wings of the internet can be.

Slava (#216)

Heh, I was at a twitter party (I know!) on Monday and a few people I talked to about Girl Talk said that they downloaded it, but haven't listened yet. It's like, if something is really talked about, people want to have a piece of it, even if it might not be their thing, and they have no intention to actually listen/watch/experience it themselves.

Aatom (#74)

I thought the same thing. My boyfriend didn't even know what Four Loko was last night. My first reaction was WHA?!? Then I became jealous of his blissful Loko-free existence.

ericdeamer (#945)

Jeez it's like these Beatles guys don't even WANT to win the morning or something.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

I cannot wait to sign up to be forever two steps behind you! Middle School Forever!

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Yeah, whatever you fuckers. Kinda in the middle of a war with sosh cons… but whatever…

Into my 3rd 4 Loko and still have a caffeine headache…

For some reson [oling a wad of my hold on still thinking

shuttup, still thinking.


Yeah, piling a wad of that onto my bedroom flooor and laying on top of it gave me a glorious, if wet pee moment made me feel better.

If by better it too me add k a good 1 hour to raise my head off the carpet.

But yeah really felt good at the moment.

One 4 Loko left. frist was a lemonade, then a watermelon then a lemonad.

Now, a purple. No one ever said what it tastes like.

What I won't do for research.

Who the fuck forgot that I start Internet wars when I'm like this?

ANwyaway, I'm here cuz Nick's a btich about his thing but you guys a WAIT. How the fuck did the bird site become a favorite of Andrew SUllivan and Huggington Post?

In like 5 months?

Fuck all. I need to bottle my magic or wirte something or whater my 4th Loko waiting.

It's purple.

Peace out.

Slava (#216)

I think you meant to say "fuckfaces"

garge (#736)

I thought I was going to be able to suppress my tourette's but the Beatles keep coming up! I'VE JUST SEEN A FACE IS I THINK THE BEST POP SONG I HAVE EVER HEARD AND WILL EVER HEAR!!!!! ajkfdkaljdjd phew

C_Webb (#855)

I do love that song.

laurel (#4,035)

My nostalgia for the skritchy charm of the needle drop is pretty thoroughly faded, but that song owns whatever's left.

Also like not for nothing but "contributing editor for WIRED"? Not exactly the target demo w/r/t the Beatles stuff — talk to some of the people who don't have the time or the wherewithal to sort through dozens of torrent sites and Megaupload dead-ends (and let's not even get into the whole process of prepping one's computer for said calisthentics) and then get back to me about who your "we" is.

Ugh. Why does "EVERYONE is listening to SOMETHING ELSE" musical contrarianism like this make me extra-aggravated? Oh yeah, it's because the people writing it don't look outside their own goddamn echo chambers … because they don't have to.

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

Also because writing an entire article about how little you care about something seems to kind of contradict your point, maybe?

Totally good for traffic, though. Oh, Internet-borne cognitive dissonance!

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

Technically, shouldn't this be posted on Hairpin.

Adouble (#1,300)

well since everyone is ripping this apart, let me pedantically mention that a list on a wiki page isn't a database. Thanks!

iantenna (#5,160)

i can safely say, without having heard the album or read the sample list, that i like every whole song, album, and artist sampled more than i like girl talk. but then again, willie nelson is my avatar so i probably don't fall under the editorial "we".

Miles Klee (#3,657)

… and a collective shuffling on to whatever is next. Which happens to still be Girl Talk.

-Sent from my Motorola Razr in 2006

spanish bombs (#562)

More excited about The Beatles personally. Why? The Beatles' availability on iTunes probably means nothing, while Girl Talk's new album is actively bad. This, after the awfulness of Feed the Animals, probably means that we can just acknowledge that Night Ripper was a fluke and ignore GT from now on, right?

And my goodness, I cannot believe that you seriously liked the Imagine sample on GT. Truly terrible.

katiechasm (#163)

You lost me when you started talking about Paper Planes to prove you had good taste.

Rw (#1,458)

Dude is an Amazing IJ. Trying to Imagine Him pulling his show off in MSG… He's just getting bigger and I feel like the most savage wolves are lying in wait for the right moment to snatch off his sheet and Bite him in his ass.

MollyculeTheory (#4,519)

The phrase "fervor delta" is really grossing me out. It sounds like a romance novel euphemism for an aroused vagina. Ugh ugh ugh.

Rw (#1,458)

He parted her fervor delta ever so gently… oh eeeeewwww I can't even continue you are right.

ImThraxx (#6,661)

The other thing to mention here is that Girl Talk's music is terrible.

"Are we a pop culture generation easily placated to hear our "references" bounced back to us, no matter the context or skill? Recall the Weezer video for 'Pork and Beans.' Is the whole game now: 'Hey, I know what that is!!?'"

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Can we all just be honest and admit that pretty much the worst thing that can happen to Girl Talk's clever parlor trick is that it goes on for the length of an album?

migraineheadache (#1,866)

I kind of thought of 2ManyDjs and Girl Talk as homages to "The Payoff Mix" with Soulwax opening it up and playing more of the songs, and Girl Talk compressing and repeating it over and over and over. I still listen to Soulwax 1 it always brings back memories of that Popbitch FW party.

I didn't find out there was a new Electric Wizard album until Monday so that was the biggest music news for me this week.

Rodrigo Vasquez (#8,655)

Go bury yourself in a hole and stop writing. Anyone that has seen girl talk live knows that he presses one button, plays the album EXACTLY how it is and dances for the rest act. It makes me ashamed of Colorado knowing that he got popular here, ughh.

So, years and years ago when I saw Girl Talk live on a rooftop in San Francisco it… Oh… Who am I kidding?

You have such a pretty smile, Rodrigo Vasquez. It makes me want to bury myself in a hole. With you! Only you! Will you be my friend on Facebook? I am so totally friending you right now! Poke, poke!

Stan Chinus (#8,208)

Actually taco suave he started in Cleveland. All that bean dip is clouding your thought processes.

Ken Layne (#262)


What is Mat Honan doing here.

WHO TOLD MAT HONAN ABOUT THIS. (I am no longer using question marks.) Mat Honan and I should do a Q&A about the History of the Internet. It would end like this.

Will need less Bill Wasik.

Ingrid Cruz (#3,771)

I just thought it was really funny how he mentioned in passing the death of the canon, and then proceeded to assume that Girl Talk is the new canon, which we all were talking about and downloading as soon as it came out.

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