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The epidemic of lazy sampling

Entertainment Column

Many of the biggest pop songs now are built off classic samples. Opinion Editor Devin Ankeney believes there’s a better way.
Many of the biggest pop songs now are built off classic samples. Opinion Editor Devin Ankeney believes there’s a better way.

You can’t make it an hour listening to your Spotify or the radio without running headfirst into a song that samples another song. It’s the big thing now.

Songs like “First Class” by Jack Harlow (samples “Glamorous” by Fergie) and “Freak” by Doja Cat (samples “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” by Paul Anka) use samples lazily. These are songs that seek to feed on your nostalgic bone until you’re numb. 

They take popular elements of former pop songs and make them the basis of “new” songs. Ask yourself this the next time you listen to songs like these: Do you like the new song, or do you like the old song behind a new mask?

Even songs that have a basis in comedy, like Yung Gravy’s “Betty (Get Money)” (samples “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley), are profiting off the effort put in by artists of yesteryear, rather than Gravy’s own musical poise.

But people love this trait of some popular songs. Let’s face it; they’re popular for a reason, and not everyone cares whether a sample takes advantage of the listener or is genuinely used to make something cool, new or entertaining. 

That’s a fair opinion. I might be looking too far into these current songs and judging them too harshly. However, my biggest fear is not what songs like “First Class” or “Freak” are doing right now to backdoor their way into enjoyment by listeners. 

I’m worried about the future. 

Songs like “Super Freaky Girl” by Nicki Minaj (samples “Super Freak” by Rick James) are just the beginning. These are songs that prey on our nostalgia and fail to use genuinely new elements simply to make it to the top of the Billboard charts.

But this attack on our deeper engagement with music in favor of lazy listening is paving the way for the future of lazy music creation that, I promise you, will hurt the art form as a whole.

It was only in November 2021 that Sting, legendary frontman of The Police, spoke of pop music in a similar way.

"In modern music, the bridge has disappeared,” Sting said in an interview.This has been true for years now, but still rings importantly true. Sting is foreshadowing a deeper change based in artificial intelligence and laziness that takes advantage of the listener for profit. 

First it was the loss of the bridge. Now, it’s the beginning of the loss of the original melody. After that, it will be AI-based music without any artist involved. 

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There’s a future in which popular music doesn’t require anything more than a prompt to a ChatGPT-esque service. “Savages,”, a song posted only last month, features Jay Z. Except … not really.

It’s an entirely AI-based song that would fool virtually anyone into believing Jay Z is the lead on the track. And, honestly, it doesn’t entirely suck.

Another song generated by AI, “by” Drake and The Weeknd, does suck but apparently was good enough to stay posted on Spotify for a while after garnering nearly 7 million views on Twitter alone.

We’re entering a dangerous period of art history in which the definition of art is shifting. Music is becoming less original to become more popular. Artists like Kygo are remixing popular songs to gain more popularity without bringing more than a few dial switches to the table.

There is still a glimmer of hope. Not all samples, obviously, are lazy attempts to poach listeners rather than creating something new and great. Some songs, like “Vegas” by Doja Cat from the movie “Elvis,” are simply fantastic. Using the context of the film and the original version of “Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thornton, Doja masterfully combines her expertise with the need to use the original song to make something genuinely worth listening to. On repeat.

There’s no reason we need to enter a brave new world of AI-generated, lazily sampled music that simply wants to profit instead of making new, original art. 

There’s no reason we can’t continue making original music that doesn’t cut corners. 

We may be in an epidemic of lazy sampling paving the way toward a pandemic of artist-less music, but the world is not devoid of music made with genuine creativity and effort, with an interest in making art rather than content.

It’s not like we want our music to get simpler and less intricate.

Hell, “Bohemian Rhapsody” still goes hard no matter your age.