Grades 6-8, High School

Uptown Heat

Heatmiser74year.pngMusical mashups are ideal examples of cross-curricular integration. Done right, they combine the forces of genres, eras, artists, themes, rhythms, and singing/delivery styles in a cleverly entertaining fashion.

One particularly fantastic mashup by Ben Westlake combines seventies kitsch and in-the-moment cool. It’s a new video that syncs up the words and music of Uptown Funk with the video of The Heat Miser Song. Westlake’s clever combo was published April 1, 2015, and has been circulating through social media ever since.

Westlake’s bit of genius was made possible thanks to:

  • Heat Miser – He is the main bad guy from the Rankin/Bass 1974 now-classic children’s television special The Year Without a Santa Claus. Heat Miser was voiced by George S. Irving.
  •  Uptown Funk – Produced by Mark Ronson and featuring Bruno Mars, it hit one billion YouTube views in September 2015. Ronson and Mars wrote it with Jeff Bhasker, Philip Lawrence, Nicholas Williams, Devon Gallaspy, Lonnie Simmons, The Gap Band, and Rudolph Taylor.

Sure, it’s some fun entertainment. But why is this such a great example of cross-curricular integration?

  1. Saving Christmas for a kid audience has pretty much nothing to do with young adults heading out on a Saturday  night. Yet this combo is funny, not awkward.
  2. Westlake’s video does not show the smooth moves of Bruno Mars and his dancers, but just knowing they exist creates a funny contrast to Heat Miser’s clunky clay-mation stutter steps.
  3. Funk, soul, boogie, Minneapolis groove. These are the musical roots of Uptown Funk. That’s a melange worthy of its own post, but add it to 1970s TV and Christmas and you are at one funky clover leaf of artistic concepts.
  4. Brand new audio technology + pretty much ‘ancient’ video footage:  Westlake bridged the gap between the production needs and options of these two pieces.

Learning Options:

  1. What other odd couple combos can you find in Westlake’s video? List at least 5.
  2. Re-enact Westlake’s video for some classroom fun or a holiday show. Stage it as a Lip Sync Battle (audience gets to judge) for extra fun. Bonus points to the teachers who join the battle!
  3. List new pairings of classic holiday shows for kids and today’s top hits. Include various song genres like country, pop and alt rock. Add a 2-3 sentence rationale for why/how each pairing should work. Choose a favorite and create a class (video) performance of it.
  4. Create a Venn diagram or similar graphic organizer to map the overlaps and gaps between Uptown Funk and the Heat Miser Song.
  5. In small groups, write a Wikipedia article for Westlake’s mashup. See the Wikipedia Article Wizard to get started. (Even if your setting doesn’t allow use of this site, teachers can parlay Wiki’s guidelines to structure the assignment).
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