Girl Talk, aka Gregg Gillis, is a mashup artist. His 2008 album, “Feed the Animals” pushed him into indie rock stardom, the indie part likely being permanent. Since Girl Talk creates all of his music from unlicensed samples of popular music, he’ll probably never be heard on the radio or get a studio album deal. Even his label is called Illegal Art. Where Girl Talk makes his money is through live shows, and Morgan Spurlock has caught him on the day of a performance at the Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
This has been the way most of the “A Day in the Life” episodes have gone so far. This is another performer on the day of a show and what he does in the hours leading up to it. I think here, Spurlock’s “get out of the way” approach that he has adopted for this series really hurts, mainly because there are so many issues and so many intricacies of Girl Talk’s music that are more interesting than just what he does leading up to a show.
For instance, it would be eye-opening to hear a debate on whether Girl Talk violates copyright laws or is in the domain of fair use, something that has been we touched on in a previous article for web video’s Red Vs. Blue. But where that series writes entirely different dialogue using the graphics engine from Halo, Girl Talk’s music is not written by him at all, although he does put a lot of hard work into the product. We hear one of his fans say, “…even though it’s all samples it’s original music.” I’d love to hear another side on this.
There’s no doubt that it takes a lot of work to keep track of so many loops of music and turn them into a cohesive jam. We do get a little insight into how this is done, all via Girl Talk’s laptop, a screen filled to the brim with samples. He has to memorize what amounts to around 400 samples and make sure they all hit at the right time. He even has a screen that maps out the process, and it looks like a garbled mess of things to keep track of all at once. Here’s where you find the genius in what he does, the art of it.
We learn that Girl Talk’s shows are parties, pretty much the stuff of DJs. I’m not sure the distinction is ever made clearly in this episode. Sure, Gillis tries to explain that “he doesn’t associate with DJs” and says, “it’s live electronic music with samples that no one ever really referred to as a DJ thing until it blew up.” So it is hilarious that after he tries to make this distinction, an interviewer prefaces a question with, “So, as a DJ you obviously have really eclectic music tastes…” Gillis, to his credit, doesn’t look annoyed. I think he’s used to it. He sees the difference even though others may not.
Girl Talk’s show fills up a massive tent in really hot weather. In the party atmosphere, he allows people to come up on stage and dance, something that used to be a free-for-all, but became a problem later when people got unruly. Now, it’s a controlled thing where people are screened and invited on stage. One of Girl Talk’s crew says, “Yeah, this kind of makes me uncomfortable, deciding who’s cool and who’s not.”
Here’s a teaser of the episode:
We actually get quite the onstage pass to Girl Talk’s show, which is something that we got a little bit with stand-up comedian Russell Peters and almost nothing of The Black Eyed Peas. It’s a frenetic show where everybody is dancing and having the time of their lives, and Girl Talk looks absolutely spent by the time it’s over. He walks on stage wearing a hoodie and shorts, but the hoodie is immediately discarded into the crowd as his body gets bathed in sweat from all the dancing he does behind his laptop and the likely ungodly heat of south Alabama in late May.
This is a decent episode but it is obviously hindered by a lack of information into the process and the legal issues of Girl Talk’s work.