According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, the first known use of the term mash-up dates back to 1859, although, alas, it doesn't say what it was. Thankfully, Wikipedia is slightly more helpful, offering John Zorn's Naked City album of 1990 as the first example, since it employs Ornette Coleman's “Lonely Woman” set over the bass-line of Roy Orbison's “Pretty Women.” Presumably, no one else bothered for over 100 years.
But whatever the case, there can be no doubt that mash-ups have taken on a life of their own in recent years and, like it not, they're not going away any time soon. Moreover, while many are plain dreadful, little more than a clumsy butchering of your favorite tunes, there are some mash-ups that combine the most disparate elements to create something that is utterly unique and quite brilliant. Sure, the mashees didn't write the tunes, but it takes a deep knowledge of music and a great deal of talent to do it well, so today we'll be digging up 10 of the best. Be warned, however, that they are not easily forgotten, and might very well become your new favorite songs.
1. Bob Marley vs Billy Idol – “With a Rebel Yell, She Cried, Don't Give Up the Fight”
While it's very tempting to kick things off with Bill McClintock's Bob Marley/Motörhead mash-up that cleverly combines “Exodus” with “Killed By Death,” there's really no beating his mix of Marley and Billy Idol. Indeed, Mr McClintock is something of a genius when it comes to this kind of thing, his YouTube page featuring more than 50 mash-ups that weld together the most unlikely of artists. As the title suggests, this one is a union of Marley's “Get Up Stand Up” and Idol's “Rebel Yell,” which, given Marley's endorsement of punk, seems rather apt.
2. Rammstein vs Lady Gaga – “Du Hast vs Telephone”
There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from die-hard metalheads when Lady Gaga performed “Moth Into Flame” with Metallica at the Grammy's, but in all fairness, despite technical issues, there really wasn't a great deal to complain about. Metallica are not unknown for doing whatever the hell they want and Gaga is a metal fan, so why not? It seems Metallica weren't the first to give her the metal treatment, however — this Ryan Nellis mash-up from 2011 gives “Telephone” a boot up the backside by adding the riff from Rammstein's “Du Hast.” Surely it's only a matter of time before they perform this live together.
3. Stevie Wonder vs Metallica – “Sad But Superstitious”
Bearing in mind the aforementioned collaboration between Metallica and Lady Gaga, it doesn't seem all that crazy to throw Stevie Wonder into the mix, horn section and all. Indeed, as several people have pointed out in the comments section, maybe Metallica should have worked with Stevie Wonder instead of Lou Reed — the irony being that this mash-up was released two months before the much maligned Lulu record. Interestingly, the result of this Wax Audio/Tom Compagnoni mix of “Sad but True” and “Superstition” wouldn't sound too out of place on a Living Colour album or possibly even a Mr. Bungle set list. It would appear that strange bedfellows produce great offspring.
4. Grease vs Dr Dre & Snoop Dogg – “You're The One That I Want in the Next Episode”
Without doubt the most delightful discovery of the day, this mash-up by Disfunctional DJ apparently dates back to 2005 and is absolutely guaranteed to put a smile on your face, the true beauty of it being that, as with many of these mash-ups, you don't have to like the original tunes to get a kick out of it. But you may well like them after you've heard it, not least because it conjures all manner of ludicrous images, like John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John getting baked or Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg as '50s greasers in a '70s musical.
5. ABBA vs ZZ Top – “Gimme Gimme Gimme [All Your Lovin']”
In case you've ever wondered what would happen if you took the first album in your record collection and mixed it with the last (assuming you do the decent thing and file them alphabetically). Well, wonder no more, because ABBA just got a lot heavier and ZZ Top got a lot prettier. Admittedly, the novelty value wears off pretty quick with this one, but it's fun while it lasts if only because it seems to have annoyed a lot of people by blending Swedish pop music with Texas rock and blues. Some people have no sense of humor.
6. Black Sabbath vs The Doors – “Break On Through to the Paranoid Side”
Credited as Black Doors and edited by Arnau Orengo this is one of those mash-ups that was just meant to be. It's not especially clever in that it doesn't combine bands from opposite ends of the musical spectrum and doesn't attempt to show off, but the result is a great song, nonetheless, all the better for its simplicity. As numerous people have noted in the comments section, it sounds a lot like Danzig. It also suggests that Jim Morrison would have made a great metal singer, and had he lived a little longer Sabbath might have been knocking on his door after Ozzy was fired.
7. Edwin Starr vs Slayer – “War (On And On South of Heaven)”
Another one from Bill McClintock, and while he has a habit of mashing Slayer with the likes of Wham! and the Bangles, seemingly for no other reason than to make Slayer fans hate him, this effort with Edwin Starr is nothing short of astonishing. Granted, the Bangles mix, “Walk Like An Angel Of Death” is mildly amusing, but it doesn't really work as a song, which is surely the whole point. This, on the other hand, works on every level, with the passion of Starr's anti-war message belted out, turned up to 11, and made all the more powerful by Slayer's savagery. Wow!
8. System Of A Down vs Daft Punk – “Bring Your Own Luck”
Given their wild eclecticism, it probably shouldn't come as a huge surprise that System of a Down goes rather well with Daft Punk, but it is rather a surprise to check the dates and see that this mash-up was put out just one month after the release of “Get Lucky.” Moreover, the ferocity of “B.Y.O.B.” mixed with such a carefree tune makes for an interesting juxtaposition; as one comment noted, it's like a rave thrown in the middle of a nuclear war. Credit for this excellent work goes to someone called Lobsterdust, who does quite a lot of this sort of thing and is very good at it.
9. Phil Collins vs Queen – “In the Air Is All I Want”
As easy as it is to sing the praises of a handful of talented mash-up artists, you should be warned that listening to too many of them will give you a terrible headache, and you'll have to listen to an awful lot of rubbish to find the good ones. Which is why we do it for you. Thankfully, this Phil Collins/Queen effort by Nox Bennett is rather more gentle on the ears than most, and while it's not a patch on either original – “I Want It All” and “In The Air Tonight” – it's still far from unpleasant, and a reminder, if ever one was needed, of what a phenomenal vocalist Freddie Mercury was. It gets a bit clumsy towards the end, but worth a listen.
10. CeCe Peniston vs Sex Pistols – “Finally, Did You No Wrong”
Saving the best 'til last, the colossal collision of CeCe Peniston's dance hit of 1991 and the much underrated B-side of the Sex Pistols' “God Save The Queen” is everything a mash-up should be and more. Absolute perfection! At the time of writing, it has just 20,000 views and 149 likes, which is utterly absurd and needs to change immediately. Seriously, those joyously powerful vocals layered with Steve Jones wall-of-sound guitar are just magnificent. Credit for this alchemy goes to Mark Vidler of Go Home Productions, but clearly not enough credit, since we're not tripping over statues of him. Yes, it's that good! Enjoy!