Although technically a "mash up" is the remixing of the vocals from one song with the instrumental elements from another song, I really think of the concept as a broader genre of songs -- like Lil' Wayne's rendition of "Shooter" featuring Robin Thicke (yes, the son of TV mainstay Alan Thicke and husband of Idlewild co-star Paula Patton), and the Game's recent single, "It's Okay" sampling Junior Reid's "One Blood" (featuring Junior himself on the track and in the video), an unexpected but successful juxtaposition of west coast rap and reggae.
It would be unrealistic to expect that mixing and matching pop stars and musical styles would really have an effect on the quotient of cultural harmony in the world, but that doesn't mean we can't try, right? Would you call it an accidental mash up if a pop group put sex-themed lyrics to an "Arabesque" melody that you're as likely to hear in Egypt or Saudi Arabia as you would on MTV?
The recent spate of hits falling into this category goes at least as far back as Eminem's "Azz Like That" (actually a fairly sophisticated farce about sexual mores), and runs up through the Pussycat Dolls' subtext-free "Buttons," currently #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. To the western ear, the songs sound like belly dance music set to a hip-hop beat, while perhaps the Middle Eastern ear hears down home blues ... set to a hip-hop beat. So how does music so closely associated with a part of the world that appears to almost unanimously oppose overt female sexuality adapt so easily into a track about undoing Nicole Scherzinger's blouse?
The trend is either a hidden breakthrough in cross-cultural communication -- one that ought to be exploited in order to bring about an exchange of cultures and dialogue urgently needed in the arena of international relations, or ... right now in an underground conference room in the mountains of Pakistan, the al Qaeda subcommittee on cultural affairs is watching the video for "Buttons" and wondering if it's meant to be a cruel joke that Scherzinger bears a resemblance to Osama Bin Laden's niece who posed for GQ.