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Tied for First: The best mashup of all time

Leaning into the unhinged

On Feb. 25, Post Malone dropped a cover of the 1995 hit “Only Wanna Be With You” by Hootie & the Blowfish to celebrate the Pokémon’s 25th anniversary. Ellipsis. Yep, truth be told, when this headline first made it from my oculars to my brainstem, I could instantly feel my legs start to go cold. I frantically grabbed the closest grounded object near me — my bedpost — in a semi-delirious effort to ensure my mind and my body remained as one. Luckily, they did. 

This past year has felt like the heavy-duty setting on the simulation washing machine, and that headline, of all things, was almost the straw that broke my camel’s back. 2020, by my definition, was the year of the unhinged. 2021, out of necessity, might have to be the year of celebrating the unhinged. That cover, admittedly, was pretty good. 

With that said, this column entry feels, well, silly on principle. And yes, just like the Post Malone cover, a little unhinged. Right? A mash-up? In 2021? I know. This article has gone through countless drafts, unbounded internal questioning and, in the end, just the right amount of subconscious justifications for me to put finger to keyboard. In the current moment of our collective crawl toward the 12th month of a global pandemic, I can’t bring myself to care about convention. This mashup of “Walk” by Foo Fighters and “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, is unequivocally the best song of all time. 

Let’s rewind for a second. First, let’s unpack the deep-seated mental mechanisms that make me silently giggle while reckoning with the fact that I’m actually writing critically about a mashup. There is an undoubted depth and richness in the legacy of mash-ups, but in the age of personalized online existences, this richness has recently amounted to one-off TikTok trends and quick-fix virality fodder. Extended remix “dubs” from Jamaica in the ’70s and fluid dance mixes from queer clubs in New York in the ’80s have built up a sturdy legacy of remixing, sampling, splicing and reconfiguring music by any other semi-ethical means. 

However, these pioneers have also led us to YouTuber William Maranci, the author of our mashup in question. Maranci has staked his claim in this seemingly ill-fated legacy by creating his own pure 21st-century mashup — perpetually unable to escape labels of corniness. Maranci’s most popular mashup? “Bohemian WAPsody,” which, by the way, is pretty impressive. 

Lineage is important, sure, but you don’t need to be a disc jockey to make a mashup anymore. All that is required is a simple recipe — inspiration, audio software and a loosey-goosey understanding of beats per minute. And that, to my understanding, is the recipe that gave us “Walk But It’s September by Earth, Wind, and Fire.”

This mashup has afforded me everything I’ve ever wanted but have never received in all of music history — a stadium-funk, power-grunge progeny. Maurice White’s heaven-sent falsettos always deserved a jarring sonic juxtaposition — and the Foo Fighters’ gritty guitarwork and thudding drumsmanship fit like a glove. With this new backbone, White’s voice sounds more immediate, urgent and, most importantly, triumphant. Both of the original songs, in their own right, rely on the invigorating power of the triumphant build — a tactic easily found in any Coldplay classic — organizing a satisfying musical plot structure, with straightforward exposition, climax and resolution. This mashup, however, happens to mostly consist of rising action.

The mashup quietly begins with a bed of gentle, jumpy guitar riffs, while White cooly makes it through the first verse and chorus. But then, the surging pum-pum-pum of the drums moving into the second verse raises the eyebrows of the heart and the soul. In this part of the imagined plot structure, the main character would be about to fall in love, land their dream job or defeat whatever could not be defeated before. 

In the song, these jubilant tropes are sonically maintained, but with the animated power and prowess of, say, Whitney Houston's national anthem performance or Prince’s Super Bowl halftime show. The ascending bridge “ba-du’s” and “ba-du-da’s” into auditory nostalgic conquest, filling my body with those youthful, wistful feelings of pure triumph — reminiscent of when I first defeated the Elite Four on Pokémon Pearl or any touchdown caught in a gravel-coated end zone or those first few seconds of unparalleled, exploratory liberation at the Scholastic Book Fair. Innocent amusements, sure — but they were mine. My plot structures. By the time the third chorus hits, I’ve found the Pokémon guidebook I wanted, with my grubby fingers gently grasping a $10 bill, and I’m ready to check out. 

Goodness gracious. OK. Deep breath. I can’t stand the fact that a YouTube mashup genuinely gives me goosebumps. But let me unpack that. Guilty pleasures are just that — pleasures. And there’s no guilt in leaning into what breathes life into my heart and limbs. So I’ll relax, and allow myself to let the simple things be simple. And I’ll allow this song to continue to oil my creaky hip-gears, alone in my room, as I get out of bed and imagine a world where we can dance again.

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