It seems the act of musicians sampling in popular music has been increasingly popularized in recent years. Some consider it grand theft but others argue that it’s reinvention of the song. In the industry, using another artist’s work is a difficult legal and economical wage, but for some musicians, it pays for itself. Each song is its own case, depending upon how the artist works with the sample they’ve taken and whether it jives with the audience it was intended for. Sometimes fans have no idea what they’re hearing isn’t completely original! We’ve decided which samples really work and which don’t do the song justice.
“5 O’Clock (feat. Wiz Khalifa and Lily Allen)” Sampling “Who’d Have Known” by Lily Allen
This song writes a whole new story for Lily Allen’s song, which originally was a sweet story about sparking a sweet romance following a night staying up late talking. T-Pain bulldozed the plot line into an informal booty call, forcing Allen’s lyrics into a completely physical encounter and toss aside substantial writing. Leave it to an auto-tuned rap star to spoil any romantic element of a classic love story. Though it’s nice to hear Lily Allen on the radio again, it’s a shame it has to be in this context.
“Live Your Life (feat. Rihanna)” Sampling “Dragostea Din Tei” by O-Zone
T.I. and Rihanna took a Romanian dance song and not only made it American but also formed a wildly successful hip-hop collaboration. Even if the song wasn’t easy on the ears, it was still a big feat. Luckily, no Romanian lyrics were present, only a fantastically uplifting melody that fits well for the easy-going track about dismissing opponents or haters.
“You & I” Sampling “We Will Rock You” by Queen
Gaga’s friendship with Queen guitarist Brian May has produced only wonderful things, including a hand in getting granted the backing track for her essential rock & roll love song “You & I.” This is a prime example of how someone wouldn’t naturally pick out the familiar claps upon first listen, but somewhere, our subconscious relates the hint of Queen with great attributes. We give good ups to Gaga this time around. The added spice really inspired her song to rise to great heights.
“Your Love” Sampling “No More I Love Yous” by Annie Lennox
Nicki Minaj’s team equated Lennox’s theme of remaining guarded in relationships with an entirely new message, one of finding true love with a genuine man. But each song uses the “Do bi do bi do do do… oh” in a revolutionary way, somehow finding a way to use the simple sound to signify two very opposite conditions. It’s exceptional how the vocal scats can help the track sound either full or empty. This sampling was the “illest.”
“Beautiful Girls” sampling “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King
If Kingston had tried to re-create this song, he would’ve failed undoubtedly. It’s been done to the point where it’s untouchable. A classic like this can only be carefully used and his debut single was really fortunate to have gotten such a positive radio response. The use of the vintage sound was light and playful in Sean Kingston’s song, drawing a connection between the lovely messages, each of them present. Love is universal throughout the ages, so bringing back and old noise was a neat trick, however touchy it could have been.
“Stronger” sampling “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” by Daft Punk, which originally sampled “Cola Bottle Baby” by Edwin Birdsong
Ah, a sample within a sample! We feel like Kanye used the right phrase to lead into the chorus that allowed for “Stronger” to topple the charts, playing off of Daft Punk’s message. The original was laid in chrome, and West polished it with platinum power. The original Birdsong tune, which fed into Daft Punk’s hit, provided the electronic push it needed to sell itself. The three make a solid ensemble.
“Otis” (with Jay-Z) sampling “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding
Here, in the joint of two major hip-hop performers, a lot of magic happened. It’s rumored that the two paid a hefty amount of money to obtain the rights to Redding’s song. But was it worth it? The rap duet wasn’t the strongest on the album and it displayed only mediocre numbers on U.S. charts. Ultimately, the song was only toyed with and nearly disrespected, given what the two gave just to go well with their American-flag-and-denim-jacket ensemble. Just because they could afford it doesn’t mean it was necessary.
“I Think I’m In Love With You” sampling “Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp
So, it make sense that Jessica Simpson’s team thought it would be cute to draw a parallel between the story of Jack and Diane with Jessica and presumably Nick Lachey, but it’s pretty much been unanimously decided that Simpson shouldn’t be allowed to represent other artists. Especially Mellencamp. We’re still waiting for a formal apology for this.
“I Poke Her Face” sampling “Poker Face” by Lady GaGa
It would’ve been too soon for Cudi to remix the main version of Gaga’s song here, so finding a balance of his words along the work of the acoustic version was an incredible feat. Though he may have over-sexualized the song, it almost brought a satirical styling to her 2009 hit. He plays around with her words and doesn’t take himself too seriously with this mix. It’s fun.
“Whatcha Say” sampling “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap
The emotion in DeRulo’s version doesn’t waver one bit. He maintains an intimate discourse and trails into the dark just as Imogen Heap did. It’s fancy to hear the song with some beats, some male influence and a different message. Plus, it’s not often that the sample is taken from the bridge of the song. DeRulo did something cool with the song. In the end, though, we prefer the original.
“Right Round” sampling “You Spin Me Right Round (Like a Record)” by Dead or Alive
Flo Rida, a repeat offender of sampling, earned great success with this song. He brought back the ’80s song at exactly the right time, nearly providing a parody off the one hit wonder that once was. It was cool of him to hear it back, but we’re not bowing down to him or anything.
“LIfe Is Cinema” (with Ryan Lewis) sampling “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers
An interesting pairing of alternative and hip-hop. The result is always hit or miss, and here, it really works. He pays homage to the song right, leaving out the “I got soul” part of the Killers’ version but still honoring their chorus near the end of his mix. It’s the right amount of each of the songs. This dude should be careful, though. He doesn’t want to piss anyone off while he’s still emerging as an artist!
He also samples in “Kings” with “My Body Is a Cage” by Arcade Fire HERE.
“Nature Feels” sampling “Electric Feel” by MGMT
The breakout R&B act from OFWGKTA this year takes the sensuality of MGMT’s hit to an exciting level, remaining conscious of the song’s context but adding a soothing spin to the flashy song. Though his lyrics are a bit TMI, Ocean really plays around with the song in the right ways.
His debut album took apart two other songs in the same way (below).
“American Wedding” sampling “Hotel California” by The Eagles HERE.
“Strawberry Swing” sampling “Strawberry Swing” by Coldplay HERE.