Go West

16 March 2006

Pumping on every radio station around the past two weeks is Kanye West’s “Touch The Sky” – y’know, the one that samples Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up”. I say “sample”, because it really doesn’t do the word justice – it’s just such a lazy choice of tune, and a totally pedestrian use of it too, slowing down the tempo a little and then singing his own lyrics on top. I mean, most of the best sampling takes a (relatively) obscure loop or riff; if you’re going to use a famous song, then you should really fuck about with it a lot; add other sounds, mash it up with another track (or two, or three), such as The Avalanches’ masterful remix of (amongst many other sounds) Madonna’s Holiday on their album Since I Left You.

Ah, Madonna. She’s partly to blame too; that song that came out last year, whose title I’ve already forgotten that was basically her singing over ABBA’s Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! – that was even worse. At points in that song, she sounds like someone in the pub who’d started singing along to whatever’s on the jukebox, only they’re too pissed to remember the words and are singing something else. Perhaps in this respect, West’s song is even worse, as when he runs out of slightly banal lyrics, he actually starts singing along to his own sample. Which is a shame in his case, as I quite liked his other recent releases.

Of course, when any sort of music goes mainstream you expect a bit of vim to go, but what’s coming out as new right now is truly anodyne. If you’re only going to take an established well-known hit, and fiddle about slowing it down a bit, or enhancing the bass, you might as well just re-release the original and be done with it – actually, I’ve just remembered it has been done before with no mean success. And they say filesharing is responsible for killing new music…

One Response

I reckon Puff Daddy was the initiator in this trend of rebadged songs. It’s around earlier, but like you say it’s more obscure stuff that’s used rather than stuff that everyone already knows. My music history has tended to be of the “oh, so that’s where that sample’s from” reverse-discovery type.