Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Adams, Kyle. “What Did Danger Mouse Do?: The Grey Album and Musical Composition in Configurable Culture.” Music Theory Spectrum 37 (Spring 2015): 7-24.

Danger Mouse (producer Brian Burton) recorded a performance of Jay-Z’s The Black Album in his 2004 The Grey Album, which challenges traditional notions of individual authorship. He produced The Grey Album by taking an a cappella recording of Jay-Z’s The Black Album and remixing portions of The Beatles’ The White Album as the instrumental backing. Because a mashup is a combination of two or more recordings onto a single track, it can be difficult to decide what type of art the mashup actually is, or what its creator has really done in making it. The Grey Album differs from A+B mash-ups such as Smells Like Booty (which combines Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit with Destiny’s Child’s Bootylicious) in multiple ways. First, unlike A+B mash-ups, The Grey Album is unequal in its borrowing. The entirety of Jay-Z’s lyrics are preserved, while The Beatles’ music is cut up and reconfigured to fit the lyrics. Second, The Grey Album deliberately obscures the incongruity of its sources. The aim of the album is to reinforce or reinterpret the lyrics, not to use them for comedic effect, and as a result, this borrowing has more in common with art music techniques than with existing popular mash-ups. Because the lyrics are clearly the focus of the album, it is not an independent composition, but rather a performance of The Black Album. Burton’s creative process connects him to the larger tradition of musical borrowing as The Beatles’s music served as Burton’s interpretative tool for his performance of Jay-Z’s album.

Works: Danger Mouse: The Grey Album; Soulwax: Smells Like Booty (8-9); Anonymous: Oops... The Real Slim Shady Did It Again (9); Berio: Sinfonia (11); Greg Gillis/Girl Talk: Feed the Animals (11); John Oswald: Plunderphonic (12).

Sources: Destiny’s Child: Bootylicious (8-9); Nirvana: Smells like Teen Spirit (8-9); Eminem: The Real Slim Shady (9); Britney Spears: Oops! I Did It Again (9); Jay-Z: The Black Album (10-23); The Beatles: The White Album (10-23).

Index Classifications: 2000s, Popular

Contributed by: Sarah Kirkman, Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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