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Another Spin
A blog by Scott E. Shepherd · A continuing look at popular music, past, present and future.
Friday, July 14, 2006

Revise, Reprise
New artists "borrow" from the classics

Filed under: Recent Releases, Trends

In today's pop music world, it seems it's just getting harder and harder to come up with new material - maybe that's why "sampling" is in vogue again.

Truth be told, Rock was never as inventive as it pretends to be. Yes, there are "original" songs out there - songs that are unique and one could even call a starting point, but the vast majority, if you really listen, is someone trying to imitate someone else. Even the Beatles and the Rolling Stones are guilty of this - not content with covering Little Richard songs, the Beatles wrote their own, as evidenced by "I'm Down."

While lawsuits over plagirism existed throughout Rock's history, it wasn't until the late eighties that we had the beginnings of "sampling," that is, lifting an entire hook from another song and encorporating it in your own song. MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This" and Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" are probably the most infamous examples.

The initial problem with sampling is that artists usually borrowed from classics and "ruined" them (see above). But as more innovative artists used the technique some actually improved on the original. In my review of Imani Copalla's first album Chupacabara, I mentioned how her use of Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" in "Legend of a Cowgirl" grew on me. Now we have Rihanna using Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" in her new hit "S.O.S."

There is a bit of irony here - Soft Cell lifted a verse from the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go" on "Tainted Love" and now that song has been incorporated in a new song - the borrower has been borrowed from.

I never really liked "Tainted Love" and it irritated me that it became the song of radio's "80's flashback" programs. Rihanna has finally made the song enjoyable to me, mainly because her lyrics and voice are better - for that alone she deserves high praise.

Sampling took a bad rap when it first came out, mainly because of the lawsuits that instilled from "borrowing" another artist's work without permission. But, as Cyndi Lauper once sang, "Money Changes Everything." Now most artists are compensated something for being "sampled" and good samplers know how to do it right.

However, someday in the future, we'll have an artist "sample" a sample, and that will open a new can of worms. Everything old is new again.

12:58 pm ET  ·   Permalink  ·   Comments (0)  ·   Email  ·   Print

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Another Spin is a reworking of an older music column of the Partial Observer, written by my alter-ego, "Dr. Spin."

In Dr. Spin's column I often addressed reader's musical questions, whereas Another Spin will be entirely my thoughts and observations on Rock music and popular music in general, occasionally reviewing albums that I think are worth noting and artists who I feel have been overlooked in the past. Of course, as with any other blog, people can still leave comments. I love to know if you agree or disagree with me."

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