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Pop Eats Itself: Listen to Mash-Ups of Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Kate Bush, & More

NYC-based singer-songwriter and DJ Bright Light Bright Light mashes up new and classic hits on TikTok.

Beyoncé
Photo: Mason Poole

British music magazine NME once predicted that “pop will eat itself,” as artists continually recycle ideas so often that the perfect pop song could be written by combining the best ideas into one track. Though the New York Times has traced the origins of the “mash-up” back to the early 20th century—who are we to argue?—the genre as we know it today originated in the late 1960s, when musicians like Harry Nilsson and Karlheinz Stockhausen took the art of the “medley” and spun it into something entirely new.

In 2022, the mash-up is ubiquitous on social media, where tracks such as Mr. Wired Up’s mix of ABBA’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” vs. Britney Spears’s “Gimme More” have exploded in popularity. NYC-based singer-songwriter and DJ Bright Light Bright Light (a.k.a. Rod Thomas) has also gotten into the game, sharing infectious mash-ups of Robyn vs. Inner City, Mariah Carey vs. Grace Jones, and Lady Gaga vs. David Bowie. And he’s concocted a deliciously disco-fied version of Kate Bush’s 1985 single “Cloudbusting.”

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It’s a series the Welsh-born musician has dubbed “How My Mind Works.” “My brain is like a Rolodex of song lyrics, keyboard riffs, and melodies. I love how pairing one song’s instrumental with another’s a cappella brings out totally new energy,” Thomas says. “I was so fascinated by bootlegs like Frankie Knuckles’s ‘Your Love’ vs. Candi Staton’s ‘You Got the Love’ and Soulwax’s As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt. 2—hearing people blending songs from very different worlds.”

BLBL’s most recent mash-ups cross contemporary hits like Harry Styles’s “As It Was,” the undisputed song of summer 2022, with pop classics like Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle”:

@brightlightx2

Replying to @anthonyfxmakeup if #harrystyles was a 90s #popmusic #rnb pinup! @Christina Aguilera #xtina #christinaaguilera #genieinabottle #asitwas #asitwasharrystyles #mashup #mashups #mashupsong #mashupdj

♬ Harry In A Bottle Brightlightx2 mashup – Bright Light Bright Light

And he spins Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” into a heady house throwback courtesy of “Everybody Everybody,” Black Box’s 1990 hit featuring Martha Wash:

@brightlightx2

If #breakmysoul had leaned into #blackbox instead of #robins #everybodyeverybody #beyonce #dancemusic #popmusic @Beyoncé #mashup #mashups #mashupsong #mashupdj

♬ Beyonce vs Black Box Brightlightx2 mashup – Bright Light Bright Light

Of course, not every inspired mash-up idea can become the next TikTok sensation. “There are plenty [of mash-ups] that don’t work,” Thomas admits, “mainly because the vocals are too many steps apart from the instrumental, so you can’t pitch them without it sounding dreadful. I did a Robin S. ‘Show Me Love’ vs. Robyn ‘Show Me Love’ which almost works but sadly is much more amusing in theory than practice!”

Find more of Bright Light Bright Light’s mash-ups on TikTok and download the full versions on Patreon.

Sal Cinquemani

Sal Cinquemani is the co-founder and co-editor of Slant Magazine. His writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, Billboard, The Village Voice, and others. He is also an award-winning screenwriter/director and festival programmer.

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