Did you know that “Closer” by The Chainsmokers is actually the same melody as “679” by Fetty Wap? Did you know that Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” was actually originally a Nine Inch Nails song? Do you know what the sample from Kanye’s “Bound 2” is from (its “Bound” by Ponderosa Twins Plus One)? The answer to the three questions is telling of a large problem that could be found within the music industry: The original writers of some pieces of music do not get enough credit by those who use their music. I don’t think that artists are held accountable enough for re-purposing other people’s original works and calling it their own. I think that this could be broken up into three different categories: Samples, Unattributed Covers, and Stolen Melodies.
Today in modern hip-hop samples are used extensively to supplement beats, samples are used as hooks, often the basis of songs. I don’t think pop music (I’m being hyperbolic) in 2012 would have existed without Etta James’s “Something’s Got A Hold On Me”. I think that unattributed covers were actually a larger problem before the internet existed. Now, there is a platform that allows people who feel as if their music was stolen, but that doesn’t stop people for covering songs and calling it their own. When it comes to stolen melodies, probably a few names come to mind, like Vanilla Ice (This video is hilarious) or the aforementioned Chainsmokers.
Some solutions to this problem come from websites like “Whosampled” which identifies the origin of the samples within popular songs. Honestly, I don’t think that’s nearly enough to give credit to those who actually wrote or performed the samples that were used. I think that Vanilla Ice actually articulated the point well in one of the previous videos (something I never thought I would say), when he remained unapologetic for “sampling” “Under Pressure”. His standoffish response of just giving them the sample credit and being done with it represents a larger problem within the music industry of him not being held accountable.
This entire argument is not completely one sided though. Pop music has always sounded a bit similar to itself. Perhaps there is only a definite amount of consonant pieces of music. To that point, I think that if you can’t think of something original, you shouldn’t be in the music industry. Maybe the use of samples is to pay homage to the artists that they respect. If all of these were true, why wouldn’t they give a featured credit to the artist they use? Why wouldn’t some artists put other artists as the writer of these songs?
I understand that this is the equivalent of a guy outside of a grocery store asking you “Did you buy organic?”, but I feel like artists should be held accountable to the artists that provided them the content with which they make money. You may be asking, “So What? I can’t do anything about this.”, and I hear you. What we must all do as listeners is try to keep ourselves informed of the original songs that were used, and to call BS when we believe that someone was ripped off.