After School, “너 때문에” (Because of You) & Infinite, “추격자” (The Chaser) (mashup by donfaustino2010). Obviously I really like mashups, but I particularly like the narrative quality to this one. There’s a story and a progression, and at 5 minutes it feels like watching a short film more than listening to a song. The two songs enter into a dialogue with each other, alternating lines and beats. They’re not singing about exactly the same thing - one’s about nostalgia for a relationship that ended badly, the other’s about going to the ends of the earth to win someone back - but there’s a sense that the two parties understand each other. “You told me to leave, and when I did you called me crazy,” she says, “but I still want to be with you.” “Yes, I let you go, despite my instincts,” he replies, “but now I know I was wrong, and I have to get you back.” (The transformation from direct address to narration also makes the Infinite lyrics sound remarkably less creepy; the threat of “so she won’t forget me” is softened when she seems to reply, “I’ll never forget you, boy”.)
Teen Top, “To You” & Sistar, “나혼자 (Alone)” (mashup by 0oPeopleDidntKnowo0). The day "To You" was released, Brave Brothers, the producer of both tracks, pre-emptively tweeted that he had started working on it before"Alone", and in fact intended the latter as a sort of extension of “To You”. My immediate reaction (and that of many others, judging by the initial Internet response to the song) was indeed to hear “To You” as a watered-down version of “Alone”, the rough draft waiting to be fleshed out. But the more I listened to it, the more I heard the differences rather than the similarities - or rather, the more I found strengths in the differences rather than weaknesses.
Teen Top fall squarely into guilty-pleasure territory for me, as useless as that designation is - my total enjoyment of their singles is always tempered by the rapper with a blasé view of child abuse and the gross noona-baiting. But I think they’re a good example of when “just singing the melody” works just as well musically as technical singing, and their singles work with their callowness and undeveloped voices rather than despite them, from the minimalism of “박수” (Clap) to the bubblegummy synth shower of "향수뿌리지마" (Don’t Spray Perfume). Conversely, Sistar’s greatest asset will always be how strong their voices are. So “To You” and “Alone” work as opposite sides of a coin: “To You” is light, “Alone” is heavy; the key instruments in “To You” are bass and drums, while in “Alone” the emphasis is on the strings and piano; “To You” is funk, “Alone” is disco. Even the music videos have opposite colour schemes.
Since there is a canon relationship between these two songs, this mashup works not just to satisfy an itch, but to present the two songs as closely together as possible to reveal the links. It sounds good, but it’s not quite the same thing as “To You”, and definitely not the same thing as “Alone”. And this is a bit tin-foil-hat of me, but I find it interesting that the part that works best is the second verse - which is also the part where Niel sings "ireoke na honja" (“like this, alone”) and, in “Alone”, the part where Hyorin sings “oh, ma boy”. (For a similarly satisfying Brave Brothers supermix, see Teen Top’s “Crazy” mixed with Big Bang’s “Last Farewell”.)
Mashups really appeal to me, partly because I am a consumer of pop music and enjoy hearing familiar things made fresh, and partly because I’m the kind of listener who is always going “this really reminds me of this…" (as you can tell from, well, any timeI writeabout asong onthis blog). I like mashups of songs that sound similar (that play on the differences) and of songs that are not immediately relatable (that play on the similarities). A Super Mash Bros. album can put me in to a catatonic state of listening.
Here are some K-pop mashups that put me in a similar, smash-the-replay-button state:
Unlike what YouTube stans think, the “vs.” in a mashup title doesn’t mean the songs/artists are literally competing; in fact, quite the opposite - they’re working together. Do I like Taeyang or Justin Bieber better? Can I say that I prefer them together to either of them alone?