Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I've heard this song before

There you are.
Listening to the radio or a favorite CD in the car. In your home. Wherever. You hear a song. Hmm, catchy. Then, it suddenly hits you. I've heard this song before. And though you could've sworn the DJ said it's the brand new single from so-and-so such- and-such, that strange swelling sense of deja vu lingers.. I've heard this song before. Chances are, more so than not, the brand new song you're listening to has a sample.

What's a sample?

A sample is when you take a portion of an existing song and you use the said portion on another song. If you listen to a lot of Rap and Hip-hop, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. At times, you may even have heard a sample, and not know it is a sample. Here are some songs I'm sure you're familiar with that utilize samples..

The intro to the song "Beep" from Pussycat Dolls samples Electric Light Orchestra's 1975 hit "Evil Woman." Speaking of ELO, remember that 2003 hit from Atomic Kitten,"Be With You?" That song was literally based on a loop of ELO's "Last Train To London" from their 1979 album Discovery. How about the Black-Eyed Peas and their hit "Pump It," which liberally takes Dick Dale & The Deltones' surf hit "Misirlou" and turns it into a hit of their own. Or Rap hitmaker Kanye West whose penchant for not only using samples but speeding them up, as in Chaka Khan's 1984 hit "Through The Fire" which he tweaked for "Through The Wire," has kept him visible on the Pop charts. Everyone's heard Rihanna's bubbly single "S.O.S." which owes a lot of its success and catchiness to Soft Cell's "Tainted Love." Or rewind back to the early 90's when Tone-Loc's "Funky Cold Medina" took a classic corporate rock hit from 70's AOR band Foreigner ("Hot Blooded") all the way to the bank. Another clever sample that caught my fancy is found on Jessica Simpsons' "I Think I'm In Love With You" which lifts the memorable intro of John Cougar's 1982 hit "Jack & Diane." And how could I forget the only song of Destiny's Child I truly like ("Bootylicious") for the mere fact that it features a sample of Stevie Nicks' "Edge Of Seventeen," a perfect marriage of sassy R&B and rock chutzpah. But personally, one of the most uniquely clever samples to date was one by Mario Winans, using the string intro of Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" for his 2004 hit "Never Really Was." Simply ingenious.

Here's more.
I'm sure you liked Eminem one time or another. His hit song "Stan," in particular. That song sampled Dido's "Thank You," which I'm sure she did thank Eminem for, as she did garner some semblance of popularity when people found out it was her song sampled for the Eminem chart-topper, not to mention the royalty checks she received for the use of her song.

As I mentioned earlier, lots of Rap and Hip-hop derives their music from samples. Back in the day, these artists would comb their record collections for nifty drum breaks, loops and hooks they could use on their songs. Some of the most sampled artists are 70's Pop/R&B group Chic and The Godfather of Funky Soul, James Brown.
Some of the more popular songs that lifted Chic's tracks are Faith Evans' hit "Love Like This," which put "Chic Cheer" to good use. Dance group Modjo's hit "Lady (Hear Me Tonight)" took "Soup For One" out on the dancefloor in 2000. But probably the most popular Chic sample there is was the one from the very first Rap record to hit the Pop charts back in 1979, "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang, which used Chic's "Good Times."

Other noteworthy samples were even lifted from New Wave artists, such as Dario G's "Sunchyme" which prominently featured the chanting chorus of Dream Academy's 1985 hit "Life In A Northern Town." Rapper Nas had Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" on his 2001 single "My Country." And let's not forget the memorable song "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss" by PM Dawn that took 80's Brit group Spandau Ballet's "True" to heights they never dreamed of back in 1993. Though they aren't considered New Wave, 80's Blue-Eyed Soul duo Daryl Hall & John Oates have been sampled of late, by none other than Simply Red. Hall & Oates' massive hit "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" enjoyed a spell of rebirth on Simply Red's 2004 hit "Sunrise." Even Queen and David Bowie's 1981 hit "Under Pressure" did a rebound, when white rapper Vanilla Ice sliced and diced it for his hit "Ice Ice Baby."

Some artists not only sampled someone else's song, they even invited that singer or musician to guest on the song itself. Such was the case with British singer Craig David, who used Sting's heartfelt ballad "Shape Of My Heart," for his own hit song "Rise & Fall," in which Sting himself sang back-up. Talk about doing them one better.

While other artists used only one sample per song, usually as a loop or hook, others used more than one, like pioneering 80's Hip-hop artistes De La Soul, who not only used one Steely Dan sample from the iconic 70's jazz/rock duo, but two, namely "FM" and "Peg" for their tune "Eye Know." DJ Z-Trip used two classic Black Sabbath songs ("Iron Man" and "War Pigs") for his song "Rockstar."

Samples were not limited to just Rap, Hip-hop and Dance music alone. Even Rock songs used samples just as heavily as other genres. Having mentioned Steely Dan as sample source material, other rock artists were not spared from being sampled. Rap artist Trick Daddy saw it fit to sample, of all rockers, Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train," for his song "Let's Go."

Punk/Pop hucksters The Offspring used Def Leppard's "Rock Of Ages" intro for the intro to their big hit "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)." Iconic Punk band The Clash inconspicuously graced Garbage's hit "Stupid Girl" via a sample of the drum intro to "Train In Vain."

But sometimes, instead of samples working for a certain song, they somehow work against the song, selling itself short or sounding too forced. Case in point: All Saints' take of "Under The Bridge" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It simply doesn't work.

And then there are those who rely too heavily on the sample to carry the song. We have the former Fresh Prince, turned actor Will Smith to thank for that. His solo hits have featured samples ranging from songs by Stevie Wonder ("I Wish") on "Wild Wild West," Patrice Rushen ("Forget Me Nots") on "Men In Black," he got jiggy with Sister Sledge's "He's The Greatest Dancer" on "Gettin' Jiggy Wit'It," used Grover Washington Jr. on "Just The Two Of Us," heck, even The Clash's "Rock The Casbah" wasn't spare for his flop single "Will2K." Clever, but not hit material. Yet another guilty party is Rap impressario Puff Daddy, who mined many of his hits by digging up samples such as The Police's "Every Breath You Take" for his Notorious B.I.G. tribute single "I'll Be Missing You." He also sampled David Bowie's "Let's Dance" for "Been Around The World," and even Diddied diva Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" on "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems," to great effect.

Have any artists gotten into trouble with their sampling? Yes they have. Just ask British band The Verve about the bittersweet details for their song "Bittersweet Symphony" over to the Rolling Stones. Having used a sample of an orchestral cover version of the Stones' hit "The Last Time" proved too costly for the band, handing over 100% of the song's royalties to the latter. Now that's bittersweet.

But whether or not samples are legit or not, as far as legality is concerned, these snippets of sound uniquely utilized in song, at times, make or break it, spelling the difference between being a hit, or merely a song.


For those whose curiosity have been aroused by this little piece, here's a list of songs I'm sure you've heard at one time or another,and weren't aware that they also had samples. Read on and enjoy!(Sampled songs are in parentheses)

(Dream On - Aerosmith)
AIN'T NO OTHER MAN - Christina Aguilera
(Happy Soul - The Moon People)
(She Comes In Colours - Love)
(Walk This Way - Aerosmith)
(More, More, More - Andrea True Connection)
HE GOT GAME - Public Enemy
(For What It's Worth - Buffalo Springfield)
CRAZY IN LOVE - Beyonce feat. Jay-Z
(Are You My Woman - Chi-Lites)
UPS & DOWNS - Snoop Doggy Dogg
(Love You Inside Out - Bee Gees)
FOOLISH - Ashanti
(Stay With Me - Debarge)
(The Way It Is - Bruce Hornsby & The Range)
(Super Freak - Rick James)
ALL I HAVE - Jennifer Lopez
(Very Special - Debra Laws)
COME WITH ME - Puff Daddy
(Kashmir - Led Zeppelin)
(Suavecito - Malo)
(Superfly - Curtis Mayfield)
(I Keep Forgettin' - Michael McDonald
PEOPLE EVERYDAY - Arrested Development
(Everyday People - Sly & The Family Stone)
ME MYSELF & I (Remix) - Beyonce
(Black Cow - Steely Dan)
ANGEL - Shaggy
(The Joker - Steve Miller Band)
(Bang A Gong (Get It On) - T-Rex)
(Jamie's Crying - Van Halen)
(Pasttime Paradise - Stevie Wonder)
ALL I WANNA DO - Sheryl Crow
(Boogie Oogie Oogie - A Taste Of Honey)
(Ventura Highway - America)
(Fast Car - Tracy Chapman)


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