Mashups Need a Reason

A mashup – two songs smoothed together through common beat, harmony, or melodic contour. It’s like a medley but tighter.

For virtually any song you select, literally thousands of songs could be mashed up with it without much stretching.
So the question becomes, why mashup?
To me, the songs need more to connect them than a musical element. Pick as many songs as you want for your four chord medley, and it may be clever but it won’t be compelling.
Here are two examples to compare:
Winter Wonderland/Don’t Worry Be Happy (Pentatonix)
The mashup works very well musically, but I see no reason at all to connect these songs. What’s their connection? You could likely mashup half the songs on the Pentatonix album with “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.
Beautiful/Brave (Carole King/Sara Bareilles)
When Carole King and Sara Bareilles mashed up King’s Beautiful (1971) with Bareilles’ Brave (2013) the mashup resonated on so many levels.
  • They are both women singer/songwriters and King is clearly a model for Bareilles’ work.
  • The songs are both piano driven pop songs
  • The lyrics of the two both relate to being your true self.

Consider side by side the lyrics

“You’re beautiful as you feel.”
“Say what you wanna say…I want to see you be brave.”
These are two songs connected at the most fundamental level. Putting together elevated both of them. That’s what a mashup is all about.Arrangers: Before you put pen to paper on your next arrangement, ask yourself: does this mashup have a reason to be?