Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #93 Girl Talk - Night Ripper
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#93 Girl Talk - Night Ripper
Ahh, and with Girl Talk's Night Ripper I encounter one of the most frustrating blocks a music reviewer must sometimes face: at which audience do I aim my review? Most everything's been said about the phenomenon surrounding this album, and if you've heard it - like it or not - you probably understand why it's on this list. No need to convince you of its appeal. If you haven't heard it, no amount of textual spin can prepare you for the experience. Then again, if you haven't heard it, whatchu doin' on my site?? Okay, okay, you can stay if you want, and here's a single line of initiation: it's a mashup album made entirely out of other pop music samples, it combines most every prominent genre over the past several decades nearly effortlessly, and it is mindblowing and unexpected. Okay, that's all I have for the uninformed: now get thee to a record store!
Since this is a retrospective, maybe it's apt to say that one of the impressive things about this album is that the consensus of critical reactions was, for once, immediately accurate upon its release. In the perpetual rush among critics to release the most bombastic, absolutist review - and release it before everyone else - so often an album is unfairly reduced to a simplistic caricature of its parts. We, as critics, tend to begrudge only a rudimentary nod to real complexities; we compromise a fair analysis in favor a gripping one. But with Night Ripper, the allure is in the caricature itself - we were all blindsided by the innovation, and we all marveled at the surreal and sideways arrangement of obvious components. It's the "holy shit, why didn't I think of that?" effect.
For instance, Ying Yang Twins on top of the romantic strings of "Bittersweet Symphony?" Manipulating the bubbly piano in Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" to extract the honest nostalgia from Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy?" What the fuck is this orgy of incongruous sounds in my speakers and why can't I get it out of my head? I won't even go into the portions where three or four or six clips all manage to contextualize each other. This album made me love pop again, and indeed, most of the magic is that it connects listeners to genres they'd normally snub. (My "guilty pleasures" list exploded tenfold after I tracked down some of the rappers with verses on this album.) No, Girl Talk didn't invent the mashup - nor, for that matter, did he perfect it. Instead, he stripped away the gimmickry, turning Night Ripper into an undeniably singular piece of art, rather than a fleeting mishmash of novelty twists and turns. It is holistic and fresh, and for that reason it leaves a lasting impression as a favorite of the decade.