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Theft/Homage in Top 40 Music and its Resulting Nostalgia

Here's another round-up of the toppest of the Top 40 music that has been infecting and/or influencing my and probably everyone else's life as of late. But this time there's a twist. I've noticed lately that every song that is currently getting overplayed in our America comes with a strong and unabashed bite taken out of some piece of auditory pop culture of our pasts. The most ubiquitous and obvious example has already been mentioned on this very complaining machine and is the main force behind this post as a whole - "Stronger" "by" Kanye West.

Obviously the "by" is in quotations due to its very oblique utilization of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" from 2001. Kanye merely (and almost awkwardly) lays his stylized brand of charismatic yet not silly rhyming very clearly atop the cult dance hit. Suddenly anti-social music nerds who like to let loose something are directly linked to overly social party music enthusiasts who like to think sometimes. Chaos thusly ensues. While the act of injecting the past with the present in pop music is nothing new, the choices that pop artists are making are becoming more (or sometimes dreadfully less) interesting, and often making the Top 40 landscape a better (but still sometimes terribly worse) place to play around in:

Song in Question: "The Way I Are" by Timbaland
Theft/Homage: The Beverly Hills Cop Theme Song

This song spent so much time just being background music that it wasn't until I finally arbitrarily decided in a fit of inexplicable anger to turn up the stereo as loud as I could stand it. This song came on as I ejected a disc of more reputable music, and the synth pierced my heart tenfold. Literally. For the first time, I realized that just because it had the same "yeah!" of "SexyBack" didn't mean it was the same song. Then the second synth came in and a flood of memories of watching bad action movie trilogies in the middle of the night on TBS hit me like a neon rainstorm of outdatedness. Suddenly my hands aren't on the wheel and I'm raising the roof (the Oldsmobile's moonroof that is) and I'm singing the word "motorboat" more than should be legal for anyone. While Kanye and Daft Punk both dominate their collaboriate time-masher, Timba makes a dance song for the background - perfect for mindless enjoyment, not that far off from how Axel Foley and his wide-toothed antics filled my adolescent weekend twilight hours.

Song in Question: "Bed" by J. Holiday
Theft/Homage: (Mystery Song?!?!?!?!)

Once again with the synth. Instead of a pierce, this was a slow-motion wave of tears as I fall backward into a bed of (cue Christian Slater's creepy smirk) roses. And it's taking me sooo very long to place where this emotional and deep synth bed (pun intended!) originally came from. I have been agonizing over it for hours and hours. Days and days. I'm here writing this post and I still don't know it! I'm shaking because I can't figure out where I've heard this, underneath a high-pitched rich female voice elegantly ululating in a number of ranges until a proud and heavy 80s bass/floor-tom combo kick in, followed shortly thereafter by a heavenly chorus of reverbed backing vocals. What is this song?!??! I'm imagining it being used in a legendary overdose or drug dealing scene in a movie about the 70s or 80s (Boogie Nights? Velvet Goldmine?) with dramatic zooms and pans. What am I thinking of?! Blogulator readers, help me out for the love of all that is holy and beautiful in this world and listen to the very beginning of this song/video and let me know I'm not crazy! Anyway, some piece of my past that cannot be verified is a part of this particular guilty pleasure. It's disturbingly moving, but because the original song that contained a similar synth line to this song was already recontextualized (in a movie? TV show? commercial?), I cannot place the original source. And it's driving me bananas. Can you imagine if this is how music continues to recycle itself? Through sources that have already recycled the original product? We'll all go mad trying to think of where we heard everything the first time! Impossible brian storage capabilities. Thus, death.

Song in Question: "Kiss Kiss" by Chris Brown feat. T-Pain
Theft/Homage: "Buy U a Drank" by T-Pain by way of "Blue" by Eiffel65

Okay so it's not really theft or homage. It's just T-Pain trying to convince everyone that vocoder is cool again. Not that it was cool when frat-bubbly-dance wankers Eiffel65 did it either, but (as you might have been able to tell by my constant use of the phrase "more vocoder!") this trend is positively puzzling (and spellbinding) to me. How is it that an effect that is so painfully retro-futuristic is being forced through every pop R&B song in existence now as if it's a new and exciting stage for pop music? According to Wikipedia, the vocoder as a musical device was first popularized via the A Clockwork Orange soundtrack in 1971, and soon thereafter most successfully used by Pink Floyd and Styx. This is the future of music as decided upon by film geeks on acid and intellectual hippies (and their drunken uncles) on acid. And now hip-hop/R&B musicians are re-appropriating it for the new future of their music? I can't say I'm not tickled every time I hear a vocoder, but there's equal amounts confusion and unintended cheesiness in this troubled decision. At least I'm having fun with it, I guess?

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  1. Blogger Sean | 12:24 AM |  

    do YOU believe in life after love?

  2. Blogger chris | 7:06 AM |  

    i thought that was it at first, but then i realized it was a good song, thus ruling that out.

    the song in question never rises up to ecstatic faux-techno proportions, the instrumentation stays slow and meditative throughout.

  3. Blogger qualler | 4:22 PM |  

    I almost said something about how Kanye's "collaboration" with Daft Punk turned out much better than Puff Daddy's circa 1998 "collaboration" with Led Zeppelin for the Godzilla soundtrack in my post about that song/album!

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