Have you ever heard a song come on the radio or on shuffle, and you think to yourself, I know this song. But then, the song continues, and it doesn’t sound like the song you remember at all. If you’ve ever thought a song that you don’t know sounded familiar, if you ever wondered why an “original” song sounds like another one you remember, then you’ll find comfort in the post we’re getting into today.
One may wonder when two songs sound similar, is it stealing? Is it sampling? How far can artists go when referencing other songs in their own tune? This post is going to be focusing on songs that feature elements from other tracks as a form of intentional sampling to make it their own thing. That familiarity draws people in, and sometimes, it helps propel the song into the spotlight. So, here’s a list of songs that sample parts of songs we already know and love.
“All Summer Long” – Kid Rock
Samples: “Werewolves of London”- Warren Zevon and “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynryd Skynyrd
Folks, I introduce you to the song that inspired this post. First off, what in the world is this song? I have a distinct memory of watching this music video come on VH1 one early morning when I couldn’t sleep, and I just kept wondering, what is this?! Sorry to anyone that loves this track but knowing that it’s an amalgamation of two good, far superior songs makes it feel so unoriginal and dumb to me. He clearly got permission in some capacity to sample these songs, but…why did he have to do it?
Okay, okay, setting my own personal bias against the song aside, “All Summer Long” is a mashup of the tracks listed above. It uses the same riff from “Werewolves in London” throughout the song, especially in the beginning. If you hear the beginning of both tracks, you wouldn’t know which song it is until the vocals begin. That’s how similar they are. I once heard my uncle at a party - after hearing “All Summer Long”- say “I remember when this used to be ‘Werewolves in London’.” This is to say it’s no secret which song it samples. And while the “Sweet Home Alabama” references are more in the subject matter than the song, the similarities are definitely there. Kid Rock has said about the song, “I knew the track was solid - it's got two of the best songs of all time mashed up together ['Sweet Home Alabama' and 'Werewolves of London'], it's got great melodies, so really, my work was done. I knew people would hear it and know I wrote it.” I believe Kid Rock is referring to the lyrics here because the rest can’t really be fully credited to him. “All Summer Long” at least credits both original artists.
So, if you’ve ever heard this Kid Rock hit and wondered why it sounded so familiar, I hope I solved that “mystery.”
“Right Round” – Flo Rida
Samples: “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” – Dead Alive
Even though the Flo Rida song is a little demeaning, I’ve always liked the song. What can I say? It’s catchy. When it came out, I had no idea “You Spin Me Round” even existed. It was my mom who told me the song sounded familiar to her. When we found the similarity, it tainted the song a bit for me. This is an example of song sampling where I feel that the originality just isn’t there. Flo Rida basically took the essence of the original and made a modern, raunchier version of it. The meanings are similar, but the lyrics were just changed to fit the “narrative” Flo Rida was going for. I always thought the “when you go down” part meant something dirtier, but according to Mr. Flo himself, it seems to be about going down a stripper pole. He said the song is about him seeing fine ladies in the strip club that make his “head spin round.” Dead Alive, the artist of the original song, is credited as one of the songwriters, so it isn’t like Flo Rida was making all the money off of the track. Still, what an odd sampling. It works.
“Hey Everybody!” – 5 Seconds of Summer
Samples: “Hungry Like the Wolf” - Duran Duran
This is a fun one I stumbled upon when I was searching for more songs that fit this category. “Hey Everybody!” was written as a pop-rock homage to the 80s, hence the sampling of “Hungry Like the Wolf” in the verses. While the song samples the Duran Duran hit, it feels like its own thing, especially when their original chorus hits. The subject matter of each song is vastly different, and I think this sampling is fun. What do you think?
“Steal My Girl” – One Direction
Samples: “It’s Not Your Fault”- New Found Glory and “Faithfully” - Journey
Please note that for this one, I use the term “sample” loosely because there are people out there convinced it was stolen from other artists. The piano at the beginning of the song has been called out for being similar to both New Found Glory's 2006 track, "It's Not Your Fault" and Journey's 1983 single "Faithfully." The frontman for New Found Glory Chad Gilbert noticed the resemblance and jokingly tweeted what you see below.
One of the songwriters for One Direction Julian Bunetta insists the resemblance was coincidental telling MTV News, "When we sat down and played the piano lick, nobody had any references in their head about what they wanted to write or anything and then I saw all the things about that [Journey song]…Sometimes there are only so many things you can do with a piano at that tempo."
While I don’t always agree with this kind of thinking when it comes to song stealing, I think Bunetta is in the right here. There’s only so much that can be created with a handful of keys. I think all three songs are different enough to stand on their own. Also considering “Faithfully” came first, I don’t think New Found Glory has much room to complain about stealing when their song sounds similar to this classic track. But these similarities do explain why hearing this One Direction song may sound a little familiar to you.
“Bootylicious” – Destiny’s Child
Samples: “Edge of Seventeen” Stevie Nicks
Can you handle this? The iconic opening to “Bootylicious” was not originally written by Destiny’s Child. The opening comes from the Stevie Nicks track, “Edge of Seventeen.” This is one I hadn’t even noticed despite knowing both songs, but when you put them side by side, the similarity is there. Compared to other samplings on this list, this is one openly endorsed by the original artist. When the music video came out for “Bootylicious” Stevie Nicks made an appearance in it. Having Nicks in the video helped appease any of Stevie's fans who objected to the sample. Beyonce has said in interviews that in writing “Bootylicious” she heard "Edge of Seventeen," and thought the guitar riff sounded like a voluptuous woman, so that inspired her to incorporate it. So if that beginning sounded familiar, you now know where it comes from.
“Stan” – Eminem
Samples: “Thank You” – Dido
This one is a little more obvious of a sample since the chorus clearly isn’t Eminem singing in a different pitch. Sampling songs in rap/hip-hop is pretty popular, and this is one of the more popular examples. Not many people knew of Dido or this song before Eminem sampled it for “Stan”, but it seems Dido isn’t too upset by the sampling. Eminem actually didn’t go the typical collaborative route when it comes to this sort of sampling. He just sent Dido a letter that said: "We like your album. We've used this track. Hope you don't mind, and hope you like it." Luckily, Dido loved the song, and she even appeared in the “Stan” music video. She’s also credited as a feature. While “Stan” might be more familiar to others than “Thank You”, hearing the original may cause you stop and wonder, is this the original or Eminem’s song?
“Look What You Made Me Do” – Taylor Swift
Samples: “I’m Too Sexy” Right Said Fred
Have you heard the Taylor Swift hit and wondered why it sounded a little familiar? That’s because the chorus samples the riff from “I’m Too Sexy.” This example is so subtle, and that’s why I wanted to include it. It doesn’t beat you over the head, but it’s something that once you make the connection, you can’t unhear it. Since the song's hook follows the same rhythmic pattern as the Right Said Fred track, they felt it was necessary to credit the original songwriters. I find it admirable that Swift’s team felt it was essential to credit the original artists given that so many other artists pull from other songs without crediting and then play dumb when they’re called out for it. Swift definitely has my respect.
“Check It Out” – will.i.am and Nicki Minaj
Samples: “Video Killed the Radio Star”- The Buggles
This is another fun sampling I just had to include. If the beginning of “Check It Out” by will.i.am and Nicki Minaj sounds familiar, it’s because it comes from the one-hit wonder “Video Killed the Radio Star.” The iconic, “oh-a-oh”’s are instantly recognizable if you know the original. There isn’t much more to say except that it works really well with the song Minaj created, making it its own thing. But if you couldn’t quite pin down where those “oh-a-oh”’s came from, now you know!
“Hotline Bling” – Drake
Like many other rappers, Drake loves a good sample. “Hotline Bling” is just one of many of his tracks that sample another artist. The beat for this song is so catchy, so you can’t fully blame Drake for wanting to repurpose it for one of his songs. The original beat comes from Timmy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Live Together” from 1973. There have been artists in the past that weren’t happy with Drake’s sampling, but Timmy Thomas seemed glad to have been so heavily sampled. Thomas told the music outlet Spin that despite the fact that Drake changed the song's message, he’s very proud of it (Source). The song’s messages are indeed very different, but both have something special and unique about them. I think Drake’s repurposing works well, and it’s good to know the original artist is good with it.
“Hollaback Girl” – Gwen Stefani
Samples “Another One Bites the Dust” – Queen
I’m not ashamed to say I’ve listened to this song dozens of times. “Hollaback Girl” was an important staple in my upbringing. I especially loved Stefani in her No Doubt days. Yet despite being a big fan, I never made the connection that the bridge samples “Another One Bites the Dust.” This is an example of one that is only noticeable if you have a really keen ear. If it’s ever sounded familiar but you couldn’t place what it sounded like, the connection is Queen. It’s so subtle that it was only noticeable to me once I’d learned of the similarity. I may have never noticed otherwise. Give both songs a listen and you’ll see the similarities.
“U Can’t Touch This” – MC Hammer
Samples: “Superfreak” - Rick James
This is another pair of songs that can get so easily confused. There have many times that I heard the start of “Superfreak,” and my brain immediately thinks it’s “U Can’t Touch This.” Yes, the MC Hammer version has his vocals kick in right away, but I still catch myself forgetting or getting them confused. And there’s nothing more embarrassing than starting to sing “Can’t touch this” when Rick James starts singing “She’s a very kinky girl.” Maybe I’m the only one there who got them confused, but I knew the MC Hammer hit before Rick James’. So, if you’re like me and knew you’ve heard the melody before, it’s thanks to Rick James being sampled that MC Hammer’s hit became as big as it was.
“Feel This Moment” – Pitbull and Christina Aguilera
Samples: “Take on Me” by A-Ha
This song was already bound to reach the top of the charts because of the two artists performing it. But add in a sampling of the iconic “Take on Me” by A-Ha, and you have a huge hit that brings in a wider audience. This is an example of a sample being used, in my opinion, for recognition purposes. That familiarity sticks with listeners and stays in their heads. Suddenly a party track without much substance suddenly has millions of plays. So, if you’ve heard this 2012 hit and wondered why it can’t leave your subconscious, the sampling of “Take on Me” might be the reason.
“Uma Thurman” – Fall Out Boy
Samples: The Munsters Theme song
Fall Out Boy has gone through a lot of different phases in their music career. Some fans love their old stuff from the 2000s only, pre-hiatus. Some fans love only their new stuff, post-hiatus. And some love it all, changing as they change. “Uma Thurman” comes from their post-hiatus times when they were experimenting with more electronic influences, expanding their production. How interesting that yet another song sampling a track managed to make it big on the charts. I have to reiterate the magic of familiarity. Yes, this song is fun and catchy, but I think their sampling of The Munsters theme song is what really elevates the whole song. Fans of The Munsters TV show might have already caught onto where this melody came from. But for others who couldn’t quite place it, here’s the connection.
There’s my list. If there was a song on here that always sounded familiar, but you weren’t sure why, I hope I cracked the case for you. And even if you knew all of these, I hope you enjoyed hearing some of my personal thoughts on the songs and if the sampling was truly sampling or borderline stealing. This post focused on songs that sample others, but if you’d like to see a post about songs that sound similar on accident or have gotten into hot water for stealing, let me know in the comments! I’d love to sink my teeth into that topic. Until next time, thanks for reading!
Special thanks to the following source for helping me gather information for this post. https://www.buzzfeed.com/hanifahrahman/famous-samples
Written by Kristen Petronio