I have been a fan of DJ Earworm for a number of years; the ability to mix music and videos fascinates me and he has often done it well and I am a frequent viewer of the YouTube channel devoted to mashups. I have, however, wondered for a while about how telling the United State of Pop mashups can be when relating them to the culture in which they were made. Can the mood and overall atmosphere of the music created with the top 25 hits (in the USA) tell us about the overall pop culture and the influences they absorbed? I decided to go year by year through these mashups and then relate my observations to what happened to the US (and in part western culture, and then the world) in those years specifically.
So here is my study:
This to me seems all about sex, all about partying; about forgetting the consequences and instead just focusing on the lust. There seems to be a little confusion, as if it is being implied that the character is giving up on relationships, just getting some sex when they’re hot for it. The mood of the song is pretty bland, like club music, no story, just sex. This is probably one of my least favourites of the series, and the main theme is probably the reason for that.
When I looked at the events of that year I hardly find it surprising that sex was on people’s minds; it often is. The war, destruction, etc, are happening with the West involved, but to be honest the west are often involved in war so there’s not much to distract people from what the media likes to tell us is most important: sex.
Moving into 2008 life is still massively sex, but there is at least some passion there, some heartfelt feeling. It’s as if a dialogue is going on between a guy and a girl, of pride in their relationship, intent to stay together. They are fighting to stay together with some kind of obstacle, but by the end of the song it’s over. There is much more of a story than 2007 and it fits the individual tracks together smoothly. It’s about passionate love not simply lust which gives it a deeper level which is pleasant.
News tells us that the recession happens, there are big bailouts, and money in banks are going wrong everywhere, not just the USA. People are generally a little happy by the end though as at least they have Obama in the election campaign – and everyone loves him so I suppose that could flow into the musics tempo.
2009 brings it! This track is hugely motivational, and amazingly upbeat. We’ve been down, things have gone wrong, but get up start having fun because things will get better. You will be alright, you’ll find love, you’ll make it! Tonight is going to be good because we’re going to party the pain away, and just keep going. This mashup is together like no other, all the songs involved have this air of pushing upbeat attitude. How can you not be smiling with joy through this!
For the USA this mashup makes a lot of sense. There is some honestly about having been in a deep, dark place but now is time for hope! Well they have Obama and the recession, something good and something bad, so they are obviously in need, and possibly in the spirits, to encourage an upbeat music year – something had to cheer people up! Also Michael Jackson died, so his general upbeat pop attitude may well have had an effect on music industry as a whole.
I seemed to see two options here: either the song portrays people actually just having a good time; or, there is some major escapism happening. The latter seems more likely as I searched the tone and emotion of the music. It asks again and again not to stop this, to keep going longer, to stay young forever, last forever. This doesn’t feel like the rose-tinted spectacles of teenagers having a summer of love; it feels as if this is a need, they don’t want to deal with anything other than having fun, and instead are avoiding what is just outside those party doors.
Who can blame them? The world was suffering some big stuff: Haiti shook the world to its bones, the oil spill left a stain on its beauty, and the recession left people struggling worldwide. Oh, and Justin Bieber was found on YouTube *sarcastic yay*. Who wouldn’t be a little depressed and want to escape everything while going through this lot!?
By 2011 something has gone wrong, very wrong. The world is exploding around people, and they have given up, they just don’t care, they can’t care, it’s too much. Take it all, in this hopeless place, where nothing lasts, and everyone has given up on hope. They may as well do what they like until the end of the world (which was predicted multiple times!), the last bit of fire in their hearts is mixed with scepticism of anything good. They just don’t care what happens anymore..
We didn’t think it could get much worse than 2010 but it did. And how! The Egyptian protests, Japanese tsunami killing so many people, the vicious Libyan rebellion and civil war, european financial state is still not in a good place, volcanic ash clouds slow down the world, Norway suffer horrific terrorist attacks, floods hit Thailand, Occupy Wall Street protesters set up against capitalism and are followed by thousands of people worldwide, the earthquake in Turkey, flood in the Philippines, Bin Laden was found and killed, oh and the Royal Wedding. Could anything more happen in 12 months? I think “boom, boom, boom” just about describes it.
It was pretty surprising when I found out all that. Of course, we need to give some credit to DJ Earworm as the retrospective editing could have easily have had something to do with the history and music matching up so well. I would also love to hear any other interpretations of music within our very modern history so if you do have an opinion, think I’m wrong, or have something to add, please comment! Start a debate! Go on, try me!
As a final thought: what do you think 2012 will bring? We are only 2 full months into it, but has anything stuck you as somewhat definitive, something big that you think will have an influence of popular- and western-culture? If so here’s an idea: write it down, date stamp it, then look back in 2013 and see if you were right. Lets hope it’s something good. I’m not sure how much more pain our little world can take.
[General data about each year was taken from The People History]