Sunday, January 4, 2009

What Goes to Rehab and Cries Me a River in the Air

Pop artists are often pinned with accusations of plagiarism, especially when the song that launches their career into a radio, tv, and digital download heaven stood on the platform of a past career. It's been going on for years, but has anyone been upset about artist sampling others and getting away with recycling?

Flip on the radio. For the sake of argument, we'll check into Rihanna's "Rehab." It says so in the title that it is a collaboration with Justin Timberlake, but did you expect to hear two of his older singles embedded in "Rehab"'s beat?

Timbaland produced the beats for both "What Goes Around.../...Comes Around" and the unforgettable post-Britney bash "Cry Me A River." Timbaland also produced "Rehab," and it is odd how all three songs sound eerily similar. So similar in fact, that you can sing portions of each song in unison - a three part harmony of three different hits.

"Apple Bottom jeans/ Boots with the fur..." - the rest you already know of Flo Rida's breakout hit "Low." The Florida rapper also achieved chart success with his follow up, "Air." Now, listen to both chorus' together...yep, that odd similarity is there again.

Maybe the tride and true argument for the recycling of today's Top 20 hits is the mantra "I like the beat and it's fun to dance to." The attention span of anyone in the ipod generation is about that of a paperclip, so these may go unnoticed, or indifferently neglected.

The crime isn't plagiarism, but the lack of creativity that seems to plague the pop albums that are shovelling in money and keeping major record labels afloat in the storm of low CD sales and rise in digital downloads.

Do we want to keep blowing up old tracks just to "pop" them again? True, influences from other artists are flattering and, when studied, innovative tools for music's future. To put it simply, you can follow your parent's teachings, but you don't want to end up exactly like them.

Here's a grammar lesson: "Pop" is both a noun and a verb. Pop songs are adorably catchy, infectious, and memorable. These songs "pop" into the mainstream feed and, after a brief ride on the top, gradually leave us and take a backseat in music history. Pop music has defined moments, years, and generations. By using songs from the past, we have no words, rythems, or ryhmes to define the present.

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