This review of a new book titled Retromania by Simon Reynolds makes the book sound interesting, but dismissing the mashup as a barren genre is a mistake. Mashups are the only way to resuscitate 99% of the music that gets played on Clearchannel (speaking of barren) radio.
Mashups can be salvage operations. Take a lousy song with a terrific beat, a crummy song with a catchy riff, a limp song with a powerful vocal, a dreadful song with an inspired solo, a pointless song with a tantalizing bridge. Extract the good nuggets. Blend those nuggets together with a deep love for musical structure and fresh juxtapositions. Voila! A dynamite new song that rescues the good bits of a fistful of corporate audio product.
Mashups can be glorious new sound-blends. DJ BC's Art Raps fuses hiphop with old analog electro-music and takes listeners to a sonic landscape that never existed before. Check out L'eau de Rose (second tune down the page) from DJ Earworm. Is that lovely, or what? Admittedly the source tunes are lovely too, but this blend gives me chills.
Mashups can be nostalgia-2-go. There are songs that, to use a phrase my wife detests, are part of the soundtrack of our lives, but fall into a grey area somewhere between "Need to hear again from time to time" and "Never need to hear again". Incorporating these songs into a mashup lets us enjoy what works about them without sitting through, say, a five minute song to get 30 seconds worth of nostalgic kick. By the same token, mashups can provide a relatively painless intro to modern pop confections. Who wants to sit down and listen to an hour of the latest pop jams? I sure don't. That's why selfless DJs do the dirty work for us, listening to would-be songs of the Summer and compiling them into sampler platters.
Some people are pushing sound-collage and mashups pretty far, and have been doing so for years. People like Vicki Bennett, A.K.A. People Like Us.
DJ Food's "Raiding the Twentieth Century" is a splendid tour of the mashup art, blending lecture and demonstration.