I grew up knowing how to play music. My parents started me on piano lessons when I was very young, and played violin in middle and high school. When I was in college, I taught myself how to be a human beatbox. Lately, my tastes in music have turned more towards the electronic spectrum; perhaps a fitting choice, given my software engineer background. For years, I’ve owned a copy of Apple’s Logic audio production app (Logic Express 8, and recently upgraded to Logic Pro 9). And while I had played with it on and off, I never really finished anything, due both to a perceived lack of skill and a lack of confidence in ability to actually make something worthwhile.
Fast forward to a time when the Korean pop song Gangnam Style by PSY has taken the Internet by storm, racking up a hundred million views in a few weeks. Mashups of this song came out quickly and by lots of people. I’ve had a fascination with this song since I’d first heard it. That everyone else was getting into mashups of a song I was completely hooked on created an itch in my brain to give it a try. At the very least, I could put some ideas in and see what happened; I was safe in my insecurity about my own ability because I never had to let another soul hear whatever came out.
Last weekend was the three-day-long Labor Day weekend, and I had nothing better to do. I spent Saturday putting the song together, combining the K-pop music track with vocals from LMFAO, Dev, the Offspring, and the Bloodhound Gang (as unlikely a combo as you’d expect to find in a mashup). I posted it to SoundCloud and got a bunch of positive feedback along with the constructive criticism. Over Sunday I tweaked a few things in the song. And on Monday, I decided to try and put a video together.The whole time my brain was fighting me to stop, to give up, to pretend I’d never tried, and forget it ever existed. But I kept pushing, and out came my first real mashup ever. And here it is.
I put this up on the Internet, tweeted a link, and waited for feedback. I wasn’t expecting much to happen; my wildest expectations were that it might get 10,000 views and maybe a link on Reddit’s mashups community. Barely even a splash. I had no delusions of grandeur about its value; I just wanted to play with some ideas, get a little experience, and pull this splinter out of my mind.
I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Once you put something on the Internet, you lose any control over what happens to it. Within an hour, my mashup had gotten posted to Buzzfeed where it quickly started to gain traction. Within 12 hours, it had grown to 8,000 views like it was nothing. Within 24 hours, that number shot past my crazy hopeful dream to 16,000. It hit Mashable and The Daily What. That number grew to 34,000. 44,000. 88,000. Blogs and news sites started posting it as their viral video of the day. Know Your Meme picked it up. Radio stations around the world started playing it. 104,000. 122,000.
Then, just as it seemed like it was peaking, something utterly unexpected and amazing happened.
— LMFAO (@LMFAO) September 7, 2012
And a few hours later, it got retweeted by the man himself, PSY, in what may become my favorite screenshot ever.
I never expected anything like this. Not at all. It is an incredible honor to have a mashup work celebrated and shared by an artist you took from, let alone two.
Throughout this whole experience, I’ve been floored by supporters. People on the Internet tend to tell you what they really think while hiding behind the shield of anonymity. So much to my surprise, the response has been phenomenal. There are over 5,000 likes of the video on YouTube, with 26 likes for every dislike. It’s been shared on Facebook and Twitter over 12,000 times; the LMFAO tweet itself got over 1,000 retweets. The audio files I posted on the YouTube page have been downloaded over 6,000 times. The video got hundreds of comments, most of which are positive. And I’ve gotten dozens (if not hundreds) of mentions on Twitter, Facebook, and App.net from friends and strangers who love it.
And the most astonishing thing to me? The mashup itself is catchy, but it’s far from being technically great. There are issues with some parts of the song not mashing well, clashes between keys, mismatched song syncing and beatmatching, issues with the video clips not being perfectly aligned, etc. It’s my first time making a mashup, and it was meant to be a learning experience, not a viral hit with flawless execution. I’ve heard my own song dozens of times, both during and after the process of making it. When you hear your own work that much, and you know exactly how it is pieced together, the faults are not only obvious, they get in your face no matter how much you try to shut them out. But it’s too late to do anything about that now. The Internet has taken the song and given it legs to run. It’s out of my hands, technical merits be damned.
I’m very fortunate to have an audience of thousands of people on social networks to seed ideas to. Many of them fall right on their face. I expected this to, as well. But then that group took it and started a chain reaction which brought this little weekend project to hundreds of thousands. I am deeply grateful for and humbled by the friends and strangers who gave me a week of consistently beaten expectations and holy-crap-I-can’t-believe-this-is-real moments. But most of all, I am more encouraged than ever to push forward and keep this little dream of making electronic music alive. I have a renewed sense of confidence and courage to improve, to try again, to turn a what-if into a reality.
So thank you to those who have offered their support, praise, critique, tweets, shares, likes, upvotes and downvotes. Thank you to everyone who overlooked the technical flaws and offered their appreciation. Thank you to LMFAO, Dev, The Offspring, The Bloodhound Gang, and of course PSY, for being the unwitting participants in a learning experiment, for putting something into the world that I could draw from. Thank you to the bloggers, the writers, the curators, and the DJs who gave me the elation of feeling for just a moment like a rock star. I won’t ever forget it.
Try something that scares the hell out of you. It just might turn into something wonderful.