This story starts like a joke – a woman walks into a bar. The woman, in case you haven’t worked it out, is me, but as it turns out, the joke was kind of on me. Drink in hand, I was chatting with the girls and grooving to the sounds. I was pleased that I had recognized a current song by the Naked and Famous and was feeling not quite as old as my ID said I was. Then, out of nowhere, a stab of dissonance entered my brain like an ice pick.
The heretofore cool-ish DJ had just crashed and burned: my ears were assailed by a most irreverent mash up of the 80s mega hit of John Cougar’s “Jack and Diane” with what I interpreted as some random hip hop SCRATCHING, which I later discovered was from Drake’s song “Over.” Since I am not a Drake fan, the juxtaposition of the two songs was lost on me, and I was left feeling totally dissed, as in dissonance.
Now I know the premise of mash ups is to bring together the most unlikely musical pairings to create a tension between the two disparate parts. But knowing this logically did not help me come to terms with how aesthetically offended I was by this song. Was it simply a bad mash up? Or, in keeping with the goal, had this song achieved mashup nirvana?
It got me thinking of other art forms that rely on tension or dissonance. One of my favorite authors, Lorrie Moore, has always captivated me by the way she can corral seemingly unrelated thoughts, concepts, and words to convey something so visceral, something that has been described as “startling and wonderful.”
The painter Edward Hopper used color to startle, creating a stark contrast to the seemingly sedate subjects that appeared on his canvas. From the zips of glaring green to the unexpected patches of purple, the interplay between color amplified or perhaps indicated the tension that was often apparent in the figures.
So, after thinking it over, perhaps a little jolt now and again isn’t a bad thing. As a “disruption in the Matrix,” it may even be the way to enlightenment. Although if enlightenment means I have to listen to Drake, then for me, it’s definitely game “over.”