DJ Earworm has been mashing up the top 25 biggest songs of each calendar year since 2007, when dance hits like Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” Gwen Stefani’s “The Sweet Escape” and Timbaland’s “The Way I Are” were still dominating pop radio. Earworm’s 2013 edition of “United State of Pop,” dubbed “Living The Fantasy,” takes a respite from the series’ usual breakneck speed, as the California DJ acknowledges that contemporary smashes like Lorde’s “Royals,” Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!” and Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” represent a slight changing of the guard at Top 40.
“It’s a little darker-themed, I think,” Earworm (real name: Jordan Roseman) tells Billboard about his latest mash-up masterwork, which was released on Tuesday (Dec. 3). The DJ, whose all-encompassing mash-ups have each earned tens of millions of YouTube views, says he even considered making this year’s “United State of Pop” a no-frills ballad, but ended up relying on the instrumental from Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child” to give the mash-up its fair share of uptempo movements.
Still, the seventh “United State of Pop” is startlingly emotional. In between chopped-and-screwed Daft Punk synths and Capital Cities’ buoyant horns is Rihanna’s murmuring, Cyrus’ pleading and Imagine Dragons vocalist Dan Reynolds tellingly declaring, “Welcome to the new age.”
“The ballads seem to be a lot more present than they have been in many years,” says Earworm, “and the dance music is having less strong of a pull. And even the dance music that is there is more gentle, like [Robin Thicke’s] ‘Blurred Lines’ and [Daft Punk’s] ‘Get Lucky,’ and not EDM bangers.”
Earworm says that he started sketching out this year’s “United State of Pop” roughly a month ago, but has considered what will compose his mash-up since the beginning of 2013. “Every song that hits it big, I’m thinking, ‘What does this mean? What does this represent, in terms of its lyrical themes and musically?'” he says. The DJ used to base his song selection on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart, but now relies on some educated guesses in order to save time. “I have a system of tracking down vocals, extracting the vocals [and] trying to get the pre-processing done ahead of time,” he explains, “so I’m not in a last-minute panic.”
Earworm’s video counterpart to the new “United State of Pop” is his first YouTube upload since “SummerMash ’13” brought “Blurred Lines,” “Get Lucky,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us” and other mid-year pop hits to the forefront in July. Earworm didn’t feature those tracks too heavily on “United State of Pop,” but made room for a heavy smattering of both Top 10 hits from Cyrus.
“‘Wrecking Ball’ is about destruction, and ‘We Can’t Stop’ is sort of about resilience,” says Earworm. “There’s a lot of themes [in the mash-up] about rising from the destruction. And she was very much a pop-culture force to be reckoned with this year.”