Pitchfork: What about the role of irony in your music, if there is any? What is your actual relationship to the tracks you draw from? Which of them you think, "Oh, this is amazing; this is genius," which of them you think, "This is silly," and which of them you think, "This is a cheesy guilty pleasure."
GG: At this point I feel like I've graduated beyond guilty pleasures. I sample everything on this because I like it. Going back to my high school band experience, the bitter teenage years, back then I would sample the music almost to mess it up. Even on the first Girl Talk album, I don't want to say I was approaching it ironically, but I was taking songs that I maybe didn't listen to as much, like [Joan Osborne's] "One of Us", and completely mangling it. But [now], that's not really interesting to me.
Kind of taking a step back, I appreciate almost every form of music. If I'm not really getting it, oftentimes [it's because] I don't like something on the surface. There's probably a fan base for it, but I just don't understand why they're into it. There's a crowd out there who hates everything Pitchfork reviews, and there's a crowd who hates every jam band release out there. No one's really right or wrong in my mind, it's just a matter of your influences and your experiences growing up. All that factors into my never wanting to sample anything ironically-- I'm totally behind everything. Especially pop; it's so sincere and up-front, making a song everyone's going to enjoy. It's impossible for me to hate on that.
This quote immediately brought to mind two occurrences: 1. After Girl Talk's breakout album Night Ripper was released, my brother Joel said to me, "It makes listening to really bad rap fun"; 2. Dave once asked me if my inclusion of R. Kelly's "I'm a Flirt (Remix)" on a mixtape was "a joke."
Defending an entire genre of music is a difficult prospect because stereotypes are so prevalent, more often than not, for good reason. I'll refer you to an article I wrote on the merits of country (see pages 12-14), because most of the same arguments can be slightly altered and applied to pop. But I think ultimately, Gillis hits the nail on the head with that last line. Trace the history back through Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Elvis, and pop has always been about simplicity and fun, and not a whole lot more.
Most of my days are spent in the library and not tuned into the car radio, and as a result, I haven't a clue what today's number 1 hit is. That said, I have been lucky enough to catch a handful of gloriously unabashed pop singles this year. Here are a couple I've particularly enjoyed and a couple more that have me salivating for a future release:
First: Sugababes - "No Can Do"
I have no explanation for why some groups simply don't make it across the pond (example: probably the decade's best pop album, Robyn's 2005 self-titled, finally saw an American release in April of 2008--what the hell?). Sugababes have six albums to their name--their most recent, Catfights and Spotlights, is their "lowest charting in eight years," despite hitting #8 on the UK Albums Chart--and yet I'd never heard their name before moving to England. Their album, like most pop records nowadays, is simply not all that good: it's not at all cohesive, it's front-loaded to death, and much of it is downright boring. But there are a couple of singles that just scream perfect pop. Case in point, "No Can Do," which borrows a Sweet Charles Sherrell sample originally produced by James Brown, glimmers with a modern Motown feel. This is the kind of track that would put Christina and Britney to shame if it ever made it onto American airwaves.
Ah, ooooooooo-uu-oohh yeah!
The soul beneath Rox's sweet shout sounds like the product of peak-era Motown labor division--each piece molded with micro-level human care and macro-level cold precision. The excerpted vocal above is no exception: it only distantly exhibits characteristics that one would instantly recognize as "human." Like the studio-constructed self-choir Stevie Wonder made of his own impossibly keening falsetto on the middle eight of "We Can Work It Out" (2:08 to 2:15), this background holler is chrome. Most crucially is the break in the middle of the "Ah, oooooooo" part. It's the quick-hiccup sort of modification that most would identify with record-scratching, but there's no "scratch" sound present. Just a frozen microsecond of space, like gleaming side-panel detail work temporarily interrupted by the gap where the door opens.