Party music culture is shifting. There used to be one guy at every dance party that needed to suffer a long, painful death. He’s the one at a good rager with good music who decides that whatever fun being had needs to end immediately. He plays his garage sale-discovered acoustic Gibson and has a penchant for playing out of tune, finger-plucking riffs while trying to swoon any girl wearing American Apparel with his choppy rendition of “The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. One.” He does it, and then the party crawls to a halt and everyone goes to bed.

This needed to change.

And it did when mash-up artists arrived and were the next step in the party music phenomenon. Guitar hippie of the ’60s was replaced by DJing and entry-level electronic music and disco of the ’70s and ’80s, which was followed by the live house band stuff of the ’90s and the reemergence of DJs and then that damn Guitar Guy. But then all that was thrown out the window when the man behind the Girl Talk moniker, Greg Gillis, threw down an album like Night Ripper, an effort that appealed to hipsters because all of a sudden it was cool to like Elton John and the lyric “face down, ass up, that’s the way we like to fuck” in the same set. All of this happened while appealing to mainstream choices because popular hip hop could be picked out in tracks featuring something like LCD Soundsystem. It was the perfect mix for everyone.

Sure, there were others before him, probably hundreds, but Gillis revolutionized the model, showing that this everyday engineer could be the tracksuit-sporting baller that sweated buckets and took off his shirt at night clubs while still working his day job.

Never before has technology played such a large role in a genre of music. So much so that it’s even difficult to say whether it’s a genre at all. Is someone who sits around tinkering on his iPod thinking, “Hey, these might work when overlapped on one another,” really making music? He’s not really making original music, but rather just combining things in creative ways. Nothing new is birthed here; just a combination of two infants.

DJing was an entirely different beast all together. Reworking songs required a lot of effort and obvious energy from the more skilled, dedicated individuals, and it also felt like real live music. There was exuberant performing and a certain talent that made someone either god-awful or worthy of instant praise. And I don’t think many people spend time trying to make DJing into it’s own genre.

But technology made it all so simple. You didn’t need to buy hundreds of records and a turntable and spend weeks or months learning the intricacies of needles and scratching techniques — your MacBook does mash-ups for you. Programs like Ableton — one of the more popular forms of software to make mashes — have made things easy for anyone with a torrent site, a library of music and some free time to put together their own disc of mash-ups featuring their own ironic selections. But the real problem comes when these simple programs make it so easy that very little effort or thought is required to crank out something, no matter the quality. Even if someone tells you it sucks, you just make a new one on your lunch break.

Gillis breaks the mold in so many ways. Sure, he’s a self-made man so to speak, and uses most of the same software programs that any other beginner could use — though AudioMulch and Adobe products do give him more cred right off the bat — but most people don’t realize why his albums are so throbbingly kinetic: there’s talent and an unbeatable ear for layering and blending rhythms.

Ableton and other programs are creating a new version of the guitar-playing guy at parties who now uses his laptop instead of his pawnshop purchase. Technology has made the DIY mentality easier than ever, but in doing so, it’s becoming more and more obvious that no matter how good technology gets, the showmanship, musical ear and overall talent level will never leave the genre. Girl Talk should be viewed as the exception, not the norm.

So go ahead and let the drunk guitarist continue to play on for now. If nothing else, he’s at least trying to do something new with his talents and not trying to sleep with girls only through his laptop — at least not all the time.

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