His recent video of President Barack Obama “singing” Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit “Call Me Maybe” has been an Internet and media sensation this summer, earning mentions on CNN and in Us Weekly magazine, The Huffington Post, New York Daily News, and dozens of other outlets. His latest creation, Obama doing Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend,” posted Tuesday and within twenty-four hours had more than 504,000 views on YouTube and had been featured on the Today show.
And his YouTube channel, which features all of his mash-ups, has gotten upwards of 35 million views.
Saleh’s mash-up mastery began late last year when he was lazing around his family’s home during the final days of winter break.
“I woke up late one day and climbed in the shower. I had a song stuck in my head and I wanted to get it out,” he said.
That song was Rhianna’s “(Cheers) Drink to That.”
Wondering what it would be like to hear Obama singing it, he meticulously perused the president’s speeches on the White House website for the song’s words. After hours of tedious editing, his first composition was born, and he posted it on YouTube.
His next video was Obama singing Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way.”
Suddenly, people began to take notice. The attention floodgates broke wide open when he posted Obama singing LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.”
Shortly after he posted that video, Maker Studios—which bills itself as “a media company that bridges the gap between YouTube and television”—contacted Saleh and asked if they could partner on some future projects.
For his mash-ups of Obama singing “Call Me Maybe” and “Boyfriend,” the company made instrumental versions of the song for him and, through their legal department, helped him take the necessary steps to sidestep copyright issues. The company has also promoted his work, which has helped him land some national media attention.
With this support, Saleh has been able to start turning a profit from his mash-ups. He allows YouTube to insert advertising trailers at the beginning and end of each video. Maker Studios gets a portion of the profits.
MTV Act, a social activism initiative of MTV, also has gotten involved. Seeing the musical parodies as a hip way of getting young people more interested in politicians and the upcoming presidential election, they’ve asked Saleh to consider making a Mitt Romney mash-up in the future.
Saleh said he’s also received calls from some recording companies pitching their client’s songs to him for mash-up possibilities.
With all the attention, Saleh wonders if mash-up-making could become a job, of sorts.
“In the beginning, I thought it would run its course and be done,” he said. “It’s very fun. I don’t think I realized how amazing and rare this is. Now I’m beginning to see how much I can really do with this.”
He may be a mash-up mogul now, but he doesn’t plan on letting it sway him from his career goal: becoming a doctor, possibly a pediatric oncologist.
Saleh—who is part of UT’s premiere scholarship program, the Haslam Scholars—is spending the summer volunteering at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis. He’s shadowed various specialists and helped entertain young patients hospitalized for treatment.
C O N T A C T :
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, email@example.com)