Have we reached the point where there isn’t really any ‘new’ music – and does it even matter?
The ‘Sampling’ Debate
From the Axis of Awesome’s Four Chord Song using the magical combination for every pop song, ever. To the Gaye estate suing Robin Thicke for artistic likeness’ between Blurred Lines and Got To Give It Up – it seems that music today is, ahem, ‘heavily influenced’ by music of the past. At worst, it’s a straight up rip-off.
Now, obviously this is delving into the notion of what constitutes music – and there are men, women and orang-utans much more adept at arguing what music ‘is’. But in layman terms, we all have a pretty universal idea of what we would consider music. So for arguments sake, let’s use that as our reference point.
I’ll be the first to admit of my ignorance. It’s only because of the hysteria surrounding the Thicke/Gaye lawsuit that I began to question the originality of other songs. Turns out, every producer and their Nan are at it. Now. Let me take this time to formally denounce the hashtag-filled shit heap that is Blurred Lines. But the lawsuit against the producers and artists of this song, sets a dangerous precedent for creativity.
So I hopped onto http://www.whosampled.com/ – a site that will blow your mind. You can visit this site, type in a song, and find every sample that was used to make up the beat. Chances are, your favourite song is probably a chopped and screwed sample from an old jazz or Motown song. I know this sounds like they’re paying me to give them a shout out, but they’re not the cheap fu-aaaanyway, onto some examples!
Let’s take Breathe by Blu Cantrell. One of the best R&B songs to come out of the early noughties. For those of you who are into late 90’s Hip-Hop, you’ll already be saying; “nah, I’ve got you on this. This was the beat stolen from What’s The Difference by Dre!” Well, yes. But he nicked it from a fella named Charles Aznavour, the original creator of that iconic trombone section.
One Direction totes created The Best Song Ever omgggg (no, I didn’t just sprout a pre-pubescent vagina and sacrifice a lamb to the Gods of One Direction – that’s the name of the actual song. Clever marketing technique eh?) Their backing track is a re-manufactured, clinically made version of Baba O’Riley by The Who.
Or the KING of stealing samples – Kanye West. This fucker doesn’t know how to make a beat without using a sample. It’s like he assigns some random noises to a SamplePad, hovers over it with a drum stick and channels Michael J. Fox. His song Bound 2 (the music video of which is a great reminder of how his wife Kim K got famous – spending 4 and a half minutes on her back naked, while an over-rated Hip Hop star straddles her on film), has 4 different samples.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Cynically Sound is all about blasting the state of the industry, and you’re probably expecting me to say that sampling is killing originality.
It’s Not All Doom and Gloom!
But creativity is all about being inspired by other artists and their work. Obviously I don’t condone straight up piracy – credit and royalties have to be paid where they’re due. But if it wasn’t for the Blues and people like B.B. King, then we wouldn’t have Hip-Hop. Shakespeare invented slang and has an immeasurable impact on modern day language. If it wasn’t for Picasso, we wouldn’t have Hockney.
Great art, breeds more great art.
So this week, you’ve got more of a thinking exercise. Next time you listen to a great piece of music, watch your favourite movie, or even see a bit of graffiti scribbled on a train that catches your eye – think about the artistic process, which ended up with that piece of work being created. Backtrack the process, and you’ll find a treasure trove of new and exciting pieces of art to enjoy.