DJ Earworm talks about creating “Do What You Wanna Do,” his latest year-end mash-up, with a lack of smash dance hits
Every year since 2007, DJ Earworm has taken the calendar year’s 25 biggest pop songs and combined them into an incredibly popular, joyfully constructed mash-up, perennially dubbed the “United State of Pop.” Earworm has been analyzing the Billboard charts since he was a kid, and for “Do What You Wanna Do,” the 2014 edition of Earworm’s single-length mega-mix, Billboard.com serves as his launching pad. Watch to the exclusive premiere of the latest “United State of Pop” below:
Over the past seven years, the California producer’s “United State of Pop” series has packaged the sounds of some of the world’s most colorful pop personalities — think Rihanna, Kesha, the Black Eyed Peas and many more — into kinetic dance singles that each earn millions of hits online; his breakout mash-up came in 2009, and that year’s video currently has 44 million YouTube views. Although Earworm’s creations typically operate at high BPMs, the DJ tells Billboard that he has to respect the ebb and flow of popular music, which is why his 2014 mash-up is a bit more contemplative.
“The thing that has been most notable in the past two or three years is the decline of EDM,” says Earworm of the 25 songs he selected for this year’s song. “The ‘United State of Pop’ became this dance track from ’09 to ’12, and then starting last year, there just wasn’t enough in that genre to fully support it, so I went down-tempo. And this year, ‘Timber,’ which was popular in January, is the only popular dance track I’m dealing with. It’s definitely down-tempo, so you have to decide, how is this going to go? How am I going to maintain the energy levels while being true to the sound of the year?”
Earworm continues that 2014 was “dominated by these slow, ponderous songs like ‘Say Something’ and ‘All Of Me,’ and then swaggering hip-hop songs like ‘Turn Down For What,’ ‘Talk Dirty,’ and ‘Black Widow.’ Then you have totally uptempo songs like ‘Happy’ and ‘Shake It Off,’ too. It’s a little bit more diverse, and definitely softer than it’s been.”
Fashioning a pop song out of R&B ballads like John Legend’s “All Of Me” and offbeat pop-rock tracks like Bastille’s “Pompeii” is no easy task, and Earworm says that crafting the 2014 “United State of Pop” was a more challenging process than usual. He relied on the drums from Jessie J’s “Bang Bang,” the percussion of DJ Snake & Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What,” the horns from Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty” and the piano hooks from A Great Big World’s “Say Something” to help create an instrumental bed that was “much more complex” than in previous years.
“I would love the whole thing to be perfectly blended each time, but it also has to be digestible,” Earworm explains. “Some years, it’s a pretty straightforward instrumental from one source, but this year is the most blended instrumental I’ve been able to achieve yet.”
Earworm says that he used to stay glued to the Internet when the “United State of Pop” would debut online each year, but in 2014, he’ll be too preoccupied to monitor the online feedback. “As soon as this [launch] is over, I’m going to New York, and I’ll be working on some original material which I’m super excited about,” says the mash-up maestro.