Staff Top 10
Top Ten Totally Audacious Samples In Pop

what is it about pop and painting songs with wide strokes of already popular songs? Sure, you could call it “obvious” or “unimaginative,” but really, “audacious” fits best, because these artists (or rather, producers) have the balls (or gall) to use great swathes of other songs to make a new pop hit. There’s very little reworking or fiddling or really even “sampling” (in the traditional sense, at least); it’s just blatant reappropriation of another hook, chorus or riff, and for the most part, it’s bloody great. There’s something deliciously “so NER!” about their devious plans at the same time they’re hoping the mums and dads will recognize the hook and get sucked in, and that the kids won’t realize what’s going on and think the whole thing’s a crazy new sound. So, a toast to the audacity of the Top 40 as we count down the… Top Ten Totally Audacious Samples In Pop! OMG LOL!!

10. Modjo – Lady
Anyone who knows anything about sampling will know that Chic are regular residents of liner notes other than their own (see #6 in this countdown), with “Good Times” and “Soup For One” sampled by jackdawish hip-hop and dance artists more times than you’d care to remember (though they’re no “Funky Drummer”). As such, it was odd to see “Soup For One” featuring as obviously as it did in Modjo’s bittersweet dance/pop crossover, but there was no doubting the fact that the “sample” worked its magic effortlessly as “Lady” became the song of that summer of 2000 (well, that and another sample-heavy hit, Spiller’s “Groovejet").

09. PM Dawn - Gotta Be… Movin' On Up
Imagination’s “Just An Illusion” is such a fabulously rubbery song (and that bassline, mmm-hmm!) that it’s amazing it hasn’t been sampled more often (Mariah Carey’s “Get Your Number”, off Emancipation Of Mimi, is the only other notable jacking), so PM Dawn’s wholehearted re-jig of the song’s skeleton (a slight key-change, a little more oomph in the bass) is entirely understandable. In their hands, a captivating ‘80s R&B;/pop song becomes a mesmerising drone—perhaps not surprising considering their skill at audacious sampling; “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss”, er, memorably employed Spandau Ballet’s “True” to romantic effect.

08. Maxi Priest feat. Shaggy - That Girl
Despite unleashing Mr. Lover Lover on a world that thought it’d been rid of him post “Oh Carolina”, Maxi Priest’s ’96 multi-genre hit owed much of its impact to what one reviewer called a “good-natured” nicking of Booker T & The MGs’ brilliantly-buttoned “Green Onions” (and might have also had something to do with its awesomely ’90s video featuring couture-kitted Benetton-esque models, er, pushing shopping trolleys).

07. Milky – Just The Way You Are
Another one aimed squarely at the Mums and Dads, one-hit wonders Milky obviously realised the almighty pop power of The Go-Betweens’ “The Streets Of Your Town” (and, if you’ll forgive the cutely out of tune ESL vocalist, Wings’ “Listen To What The Man Says” as well), even if its ubiquity did drive purists mad when naïve listeners would hear the original and proclaim their love for Milky—but it’s not as bad as the time “Come Together” hit the classroom stereo and some dumbarse exclaimed “it’s the Maccas song!”…

06. Will Smith - Gettin' Jiggy With It
The Not-So-Fresh Prince is the master of the barely re-worked sample, from “Wild, Wild West” and its Stevie Wonder “I Wish” reappropriation to “Chasing Forever” and its “Ribbon In The Sky” nicking (also Stevie—at least Smith featured Wonder heavily in the “WWW” video clip), but this was the most memorably blatant—perhaps because, unlike other regularly-sampled Chic songs, “He’s The Greatest Dancer” loomed large even in the minds of non-trainspotting sample hounds; it’s a staple of classic hits radio and, as such, Smith had some nerve trying to fool people into thinking it was his masterwork. I guess the kids believed him, though, as it was an inescapable hit.

05. Sugababes - Freak Like Me
“Freak” probably takes the cake for the most inspired audacious sample, even if it is more technically a bootleg (or mash-up, whichever takes your fancy) by Richard X that was later given the green light by the ‘babes. And, it has to be said, the song’s excitement value comes largely from the genius of Gary Numan’s “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” than from the hot scrubbers—the enormous synth sound putting anything Timo “Whoomp! Whoomp!” Maas has done to shame—not that listeners cared, really; they just thought it was well wicked.

04. 5ive - Everybody Get Up
Ranks with “Ice, Ice Baby” vs. “Under Pressure” as the Song Whose Intro is Most Likely to Confuse Listeners; “Everybody Get Up” took the instrumental of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” and shot it into the stratosphere. They made it louder, extended the pre-orgasmic anticipation of the drum intro and generally took a bar-room/jukebox (ha) favourite and turned it into a sports rock anthem for all the ages.

03. Samantha Mumba - Body 2 Body
A sample artist’s dream, “Body 2 Body” jacked David Bowie’s “Ashes To Ashes” more or less under the table, but when the Thin White Duke heard the song, he gave it his personal seal of approval. Taking the tune and arrangement of the song and ever-so-slightly bending it elsewhere, “Body 2 Body” became an irresistibly slinky paean to teen curfew-breaking and, uh, setting rooves on fire.

02. Janet Jackson – Someone To Call My Lover
In much the same way that Steve Winwood fans praised Eric Prydz’s worship at the temple of the ‘80s synth AOR king upon the release of “Call On Me”, fans of America’s gentle West Coast pop rang out in choruses of “well, duh” when Janet Jackson’s “Ventura Highway”-sampling hit dropped. Capitalising upon the sweet steel-string riff of the song, “…My Lover” was a delightfully summery track—even if that had little to do with Janet J herself, but she probably planned for that to happen.

01. Jessica Simpson - I Think I’m In Love With You
Seriously, who sits down to write a hysteria-pop hit for the world’s second most famous virgin and has a light bulb go off when they think, “I know, what this song needs is some MOTHERFUCKING JOHN MELLENCAMP!” Well, someone must have, because “I Think I’m In Love With You” is hands down Jessica Simpson’s best song, and by “Jessica Simpson’s”, I do mean John Mellencamp’s—“Jack And Diane” has never sounded as massive as it did soundtracking Jessica spinning around on the docks with her mates. All that would’ve completed the package would be if JCM himself had turned up to play a solo at the end of the video and Jess could’ve alerted us to the fact, “Willy Nelson, everybody!” stylee.

By: Clem Bastow
Published on: 2006-01-13
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