Analysis of Do What You Want to Do - DJ Earworm's United States of Pop 2014

Overview

Assignment: Choose a song that is based heavily around samples. Research the origin of those samples and analyze how they are being used. Were the samples chosen for any intent other than simply sounding good?

My favorite type of song remix is the mashup, so I had to go for one of my current earworms: DJ Earworm's United States of Pop 2014. Since 2007, DJ Earworm releases an annual remix of the 25 biggest hits in the US according to Billboard's weekly Hot 100 Charts. 

What I love about this mashup is the message in addition to how danceable it is, which I'll break down below.


Songs Used

Here are the songs used in the mashup (source: the official video)

A Great Big World feat. Christina Aguilera - Say Something
Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea - Problem
Bastille - Pompeii
Dj Snake & Lil Jon - Turn Down For What
Hozier - Take Me to Church
Idina Menzel - Let It Go
Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX - Fancy
Iggy Azalea feat. Rita Ora - Black Widow
Jason Derulo feat. 2 Chainz - Talk Dirty
Jeremih feat. YG - Don't Tell 'Em
Jessie J feat. Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj - Bang Bang 
John Legend - All Of Me
Katy Perry feat. Juicy J - Dark Horse
Lorde - Team
Magic! - Rude
Maroon 5 - Animals
Meghan Trainor - All About That Bass
Nico & Vinz - Am I Wrong
One Direction - Story of My Life
Passenger - Let Her Go
Pharrell Williams - Happy
Pitbull feat. Ke$ha - Timber
Sam Smith - stay with me
Taylor Swift - Shake It Off
Tove Lo - Habits

So we have twenty five songs to look at! All of them are utilized very differently - some are much more prominent than others, which makes sense since there are 25 songs to use. 


Core Message and Sample Usage Themes

The main message of the mashup is basically in the title: you can do what you want to do. DJ Earworm weaves a pretty uplifting story about making choices regardless of what others say, that  we are already enabled to do these things internally. 

The core themes I found with the utilization of the song samples are

  1. Original lyrics
  2. Baseline/underlying instrumental part
  3. Lyric mashup, message shift
  4. Similarities across songs

Original Lyrics

Some of the songs have a group of their lyrics pulled to build on the story of being happy  and knowing that one's self is good enough. Two big examples are the choruses from Shake It Off and Fancy . While Fancy is a little more prideful than Shake It Off, which comes off as self affirming, both put the listener in a position of empowerment beyond what 

Baseline/underlying instrumental part

Some pieces are used purely for instrumental purposes, . When you listen to the individual songs, there isn't anything lyrically that could have been spun to add to the message. Thus, the mashup in these songs is done to either

  • Create a baseline - this is primarily Dark Horse and Black Widow (which funnily enough have very similar baselines)
  • Add a riff on a repeated musical technique - Pompeii and Turn Down for What are used to create variants on the mashup of All About that Bass/Don't Tell Them

Lyric mashup, message shift

In some cases the message could be totally changed for the source song by throwing in lyrics from other samples. For example, let's take Jason Derulo's Talk Dirty to Me: 

Been around the world, don’t speak the language
But your booty don’t need explainin’
All I really need to understand is
When you talk dirty to me
— Talk Dirty to Me, Jason Derulo feat. 2 Chainz

But by tossing in some Taylor Swift, you get this: 

(Can’t stop won’t stop moving)
Don’t speak the language
(Music) don’t need explainin’
— United States of Pop 2014

It's now about music and dancing to your own tune.

Similarities (lyrics and instrumentation) across songs

DJ Earworm takes advantage of (or perhaps intended to highlight) some of the similarities across songs that are entirely different from each other. Some of the ones that I picked up were: 

  • Let It Go/ Let Her Go (Frozen and Let Her Go)
  • Use of brass instruments in Problem and Talk Dirty to Me
  • The baseline of Black Widow and Dark Horse
  • Artists saying their own name or the name of other artists on the track

...and countless more. 


So in conclusion...

The goal was to take 25 songs and somehow fit them into one big mashup. DJ Earworm could very easily have just cycled through each song somehow, kind of like what Norwegian Recycling did with 8 Become 1 (Where is the Love? by the Black Eyed Peas was the underlying baseline while the rest of the selected songs were sampled briefly in sequence). He opted instead to create this story that is very uplifting and meaningful, and I think that the end product is highly successful.


Summary of Samples

A Great Big World feat. Christina Aguilera - Say Something: instrumental (intro)
Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea - Problem: lyrics, some instruments
Bastille - Pompeii: baseline (first use of All About that Bass)
Dj Snake & Lil Jon - Turn Down For What:  (prominent in the second use of All About that Base)
Hozier - Take Me to Church: lyric (one line)
Idina Menzel - Let It Go: lyric (one line)
Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX - Fancy: original lyrics, lyric mashup
Iggy Azalea feat. Rita Ora - Black Widow: baseline
Jason Derulo feat. 2 Chainz - Talk Dirty: lyrics
Jeremih feat. YG - Don't Tell 'Em: lyrics
Jessie J feat. Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj - Bang Bang: instrumentals
John Legend - All Of Me: lyrics
Katy Perry feat. Juicy J - Dark Horse: baseline
Lorde - Team: lyrics (one line)
Magic! - Rude
Maroon 5 - Animals:
lyrics, source of song title
Meghan Trainor - All About That Bass: lyrics
Nico & Vinz - Am I Wrong: lyrics
One Direction - Story of My Life: lyrics (one line)
Passenger - Let Her Go: lyric (one line)
Pharrell Williams - Happy: lyrics
Pitbull feat. Ke$ha - Timber: instrumentation? (I wasn't too sure about this one, I couldn't really find it)
Sam Smith - stay with me: lyrics
Taylor Swift - Shake It Off: lyrics
Tove Lo - Habits: lyrics (used as instrumentation)