[Cover Photo courtesy of David M. Benett.]
In music, taking inspiration from other artists is extremely common. Sampling, covering, and referencing other songs is a technique that has been used for decades. With social media becoming more prevalent, artists have more access now than ever to connect and collaborate, as well as to surprise their audiences. Popular artists are now taking advantage of internet culture and putting it to use. With a new generation ready to listen, the charts are open for modern remakes.
In the past couple of years, especially with the pandemic, artists have started applying their own sounds to old classics. Songs that are making the charts and being played on the radio now also hit in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Seeing older songs adapt to current pop culture is truly fascinating. For example, Miley Cyrus is an artist that embodies this perfectly. In 2020 at the iHeart Music Festival, Cyrus performed a cover of “Heart of Glass”, originally sung by Blondie in 1978. The video was shared so much over various platforms that fans were begging her to release it as her own. After popular demand, Cyrus put it out as a single and later added it to her album Plastic Hearts.
Another example is the Italian rock band Maneskin. In 2017, after performing on X Factor Italy, the band released a cover of Beggin’. This was originally sung by The Four Seasons in 1967. In 2021, the song went viral, blew up on Tik Tok, and now has 900 million streams on Spotify. To the younger generation, these songs are just another hit that they can sing with their friends or add to a playlist. As you become older and develop a music taste, you begin to realize your favorite songs may have been just as popular fifty years ago.
Another way of having creative freedom in songwriting is sampling other songs into your own. This means using a snippet or portion of a song in another one (ex. taking a melody or backbeat). Sometimes audiences can’t even tell when a sample is used, whereas in other instances it is more obvious. Recently, there have been some songs hitting the Billboard charts that use sampling. “Cold Heart” by Elton John and Dua Lipa is currently number 10 and samples songs by Elton John himself. “Sacrifice” was released in 1989 and “Rocket Man”, a classic from 1972, can be recognized in the 2021 pop hit. Olivia Rodrigo also recently sampled Taylor Swift’s 2017 “New Years Day” in her debut 2021 album track “1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back”. Meshing the old with the new is exciting, and it can bond generations in a positive way.
Overall, this recycling of songs should be looked at in a good light. Fans often pin artists against each other, comparing and contrasting who is better, when in reality all musicians are forever learning from other people. Next time a song comes on, really take a listen, and maybe you’ll find more connections that you weren’t expecting.