Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chocolate In My Peanut Butter

Something about the mashup fad has always bugged me a little. For those unfamiliar (hi, Mom!), a mashup is defined as a created work that is constructed of elements from other works, often of diametric genres, typically to comic effect, e.g. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. I suspect my unease with the concept is based on the general feeling that mashups are created by smug hipsters thinking, “Wouldn’t it be so ironic if …?” Most of them seem to be thought up by the same guys who brought back porn mustaches.

But the other day, I saw something that changed my entire mashup mood: “Mama Said Knock You Out” set to the backing instrumentation of “Come On Eileen,” complete with sepia video clips of LL Cool J looking ominous interspersed with Dexy’s Midnight Runners looking … well, slightly threatening. To good fashion sense, at least.

It was then that I realized that one’s connection to a mashup is really only as strong as one’s inclination toward the sources. I have no interest in Jane Austen nor in the undead, so Pride and Prejudice and Zombies never appealed to me. But ‘80s electronic pop and ‘90s hip-pop combined? Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis called, and they want me to give their love of that genre back.

Most of the other mashups I’ve fallen for lately haven’t been quite so intentional, but they may as well have been custom-made for me. When Aaron Sorkin not only appeared on 30 Rock but had a pediconference with Tina Fey in a nerded-out West Wing homage, while also subtly acknowledging his own failed 30 Rock-esque effort? Well, I’m glad no one took a picture of the stupid grin on my face. And the other night, I was innocently watching the newest episode of American Pickers when Mike started talking about House Hunters International. I think I actually shorted out a synapse.

I guess these aren’t technically mashups so much as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup-style combinations of awesomeness. Like when Neil Patrick Harris appeared on Sesame Street as The Shoe Fairy (bless you, PBS, you and your quiet, government-funded subversion). Or when The Office’s Angela Kinsey was on Andrew Dan-Jumbo’s short-lived TLC vehicle, Take Home Handyman. Wait, no, that was the other kind of mashup. The kind usually involving one-to-two trains.

The awareness of these perfect, unexpected combinations has put me on the lookout for more. It’s not as simple as a guest appearance or an out-of-character professional gambit. Something like George Clooney showing up as Cam’s bitter ex-lover on Modern Family wouldn’t count; that would just be great television. No, it really takes a deeper combination of elements. And ideally, elements exactly suited to me. I’m not really one for exuberance, but pairing up two things I love can make me downright giddy. So consider yourselves warned. If you happen to hear a squeal coming from my general direction, it’s safe to assume that Prince has released an album of Dylan covers, or they’re filming the Felicity reunion in Stars Hollow, or Jon Hamm is getting his Rookwood pottery appraised on Antiques Roadshow. By Oprah.

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