Once More With Feeling 

Best of 2006, #1

Simply put, Girl Talk's Night Ripper is not just the best album of 2006; it's the future of music. In the wake of BitTorrent, the death of Tower Records, and just about any of the other numerous signs that the music industry is F-U-C-K-E-D, it's clear that music as we know it is evolving and changing at a faster rate than ever. Future generations have been nursing off an online stream of free music for years now, and have never associated music as a tangible product you pay money for. Case in point, my teenage neighbor who was smart enough to steal my home WiFi signal, but dumb enough to leave the "Share My Library" option checked on his iTunes. While he used my internet signal, I happily perused his music library and discovered a staggering amount of (not legally) downloaded music, including his two favorite artists: Norah Jones and G-Unit. Normally a baffling combo, both Jones and Fiddy make perfect sense as free downloads to a teen, who wouldn't otherwise bother to buy either.

Much like a kid downloading anything and everything off the system, Girl Talk (AKA Gregg Gillis) is a frantic mix of all genres of music, assembled together like one big psychotic mix tape. Not quite a DJ, nor is he some mash-up hack, Gillis uses samples ranging from Wings to 2 Live Crew, from Weezer to G-Unit. While there is a certain novelty, and Name That Tune skill, to discovering the Phil Collins sample that bleeds into Missy Elliott all within this crazed music jigsaw puzzle—the real importance of Night Ripper is in its boundary-less approach to music. It's too dancefloor-phobic to really please the club/DJ crowd, too much Ying Yang Twins for the indie kids, too much Neutral Milk Hotel for the hiphop kids, and just too frustratingly ADD to fit just about anything else. As music becomes less of a commodity, so will the stiff genres we assemble it into. The idea that "rock is dead" or hiphop music needs to follow a certain predictable template in order to sell, is now irrelevant for music like this. It's a natural evolution that just might signal the end of music as we know it. Not completely, of course, but with a younger generation chomping at the bit to take over the pop-culture reins, the mere existence of Girl Talk is a fantastic sign.

As for Night Ripper as an album, it's a beautiful train wreck, a glorious "you got chocolate in my peanut butter, you got peanut butter in my chocolate" moment of musical meshing that works for mere seconds at a time before hyperactively moving along to the next chopped sample. No genres, no typical DJ rules, no thought to what the audience might want—Girl Talk is furiously unfocused as he keeps the mixes coming until they either reach a furious boiling point, or they just peter out. Regardless, before your racing head can catch up, he starts again, another song, another sample, another bass line that you swear is from that one Better Than Ezra song, but by the time you realize that it is, he's long since moved on. It's painfully frustrating and sort of inspiring to listen to, and because of that—it's also the best album of 2006.

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