I have a real problem with pop songs that coast to success by sampling really, really good songs.
The most recent example of this is M.I.A.’s breakout hit, “Paper Planes.” The backing track comes from The Clash’s classic ur-ragga of post-colonial blues, “Straight to Hell.” Take one good song, a catchy hook (“all I wanna do is blam blam blam blam“), some mediocre lyrics and voila! Instant pop music! And not only are the lyrics fairly pedestrian, she repeats them twice. So the food’s no good and the portions are too small.
M.I.A. I can excuse, however, because screaming hordes of teenagers don’t instantly recognize “Straight to Hell.” There’s no law saying a sample has to be obscure, but I prefer it. It proves that people evaluate your song on its own merits, not by nostalgic transfer.
By that standard, Kid Rock’s 2008 dump, “All Summer Long,” is pure garbage.
Yeah, that’s a sign of true artistic talent right there. That’s the hallmark of genuine aesthetic integrity – sampling two of the most popular rock songs of the 70s, songs that are practically encoded in the DNA of every American born since 1977, and snarling half-baked lyrics that sound like John Mellencamp’s rejected first draft of “Jack and Diane.” You think folks will like it? Really putting yourself out on a limb there, Kid Rock! You bold genius! You maverick auteur!
The most egregious example I’ve ever seen of this comes from Mase and Bad Boy Records, circa 1997, with “Feels So Good”:
Never has the gulf between build-up (“ohmyGAWD, it’s DJ Kool, this my jam!”) and let down (“oh, shit, it’s just Ma$e again”) been so tragic.
I don’t object to artists sampling popular tracks for their songs. Kanye does it. Biggie and Tupac did it. Hell, “Good Times” wasn’t exactly an obscure song when the Sugar Hill Gang looped the bass. But in the two examples listed above – and in countless other examples I’m sure you can think of – the sampling’s so obviously mercenary. It’s talented hacks riding the coattails of more popular songs. That shit’s garbage, and I won’t stand for it.