Posts Tagged ‘P.Diddy’

Year after year new artists emerge, new songs are created and new stars are born. Or at least that’s how it should be. Lately it seems as though current artists are benefiting from older music – taking an original and making their own version. They always say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but that’s not always true – sometimes it’s just downright insulting. Here’s an in depth look at the wonderful world of recycled music, for better or for worse.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Let’s take a look at covers/remakes: when an artist takes an old song, keeps the lyrics the same, but puts their own spin on it without straying too much from the original. It’s common for bands to do this as their own personal tribute to a monumental tune. Like Hendrix, U2 and Dave Matthews Band did for Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”, or one of my personal favourites (along with Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”), Chris Cornell’s cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. They’re not trying to recreate the original song because they know nothing will ever compare; but as fans of the song, they want to be able to play it, to perform it as they heard it.

But it seems now as though some bands cover old songs just to get their name on the map: even if music fans have never heard of them, they will at least recognize the song they’re covering and have an instant familiarity or connection with the band. Case in point. Does anyone remember Alien Ant Farm? Didn’t think so. They covered Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”.  Michael Jackson is a music genre in himself, so covering one of his tracks is very risky and Alien Ant Farm failed. Miserably. It’s almost like a teenage-angry-band version of the song. It’s whiny, irritating and they even tried to re-enact the video by having portions of the sidewalk light up as they walked on it. They tried to get by just riding the coattails of someone else’s creativity. Shame on them.

Remixing involves taking the audio elements in a track (pitch, tempo, etc) and altering them. I don’t particularly understand the need for an artist to do multiple versions of the same song. Or more confusing are artists like J. Lo who put out an album (J. Lo) followed by a remix album (J to tha L-O!: Remixes) – so basically the same songs, just slightly different. Other than the obvious making more money aspect of it, what’s the point? What does infuriate me is the notion that just because a song can be remixed, that it should be. I know that DJs and producers like to be creative and forward thinkers and remix songs that no one ever would have thought of remixing. But just because you do something no one’s ever done, doesn’t make it right. For example, we all know and love Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. It’s a classic 90’s tune that defined the grunge movement, even moreso significant because of the untimely death of lead singer Kurt Cobain when the band was at peak of their career. Grunge music is about angst, indifference and not caring about appearances. It’s rock, it’s punk, it’s heavy metal and it makes teenagers jump around and get angry. Now who in their right mind thought it would be a genius idea to techno remix it? It’s an insult to the band and borderline blasphemy. A word to the wise, not every song needs a remix: certain tunes just need to be left alone.

Now on to my least favourite form of flattery something I like to call a rip off. It’s a combination of a cover and a remix, completely different from the original but still has enough of its elements subtly placed so it’s still familiar. To those who want to be politically correct, it’s also referred to as sampling. It seems to be an incredibly popular method of ‘creating’ music these days and this I can’t seem to wrap my head around. P. Diddy is the king of rip offs. “I’ll be Missing You” was ripped from The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”; “Can’t Nobody Hold me Down” was ripped from “Break my Stride” by Matthew Wilder. Some lyrics are different, there’s more of a hip-hop vibe but there are just enough underlying features of the song that we think of the original song.
More recently, Karl Wolf and Kardinal Offishal’s “Ghetto Love,” rips 80’s band Chicago’s “Glory of Love” and it irritates me so much because it’s almost like these artists think they’re being clever and getting away with more or less copying someone else’s song but presenting it like its their own – unlike covers, where it’s clear they are just paying homage to a great song.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Pop star Alyssa Reid ripped 80’s band Heart’s “Alone” with her track “Alone Again”; the lyrics in the chorus are unchanged, but the verses are different and the sound is more updated. Wow, how talented of her. Lastly, Lupe Fiasco. Here’s a rapper I actually thought was cool. Until his current track “The Show Goes On” which was completely ripped from Modest Mouse’s “Float On”. Don’t get me wrong, some rip offs can work: Jay-Z’s “Young Forever” which samples 80’s band Alphaville’s “Forever Young” retains the chorus as it was in the original version; almost like Jay-Z is respecting that part of the song by leaving it alone and not trying to take all the credit for track. Whatever the case may be, emerging artists, for the love of real music, try and create your own.
Music from the past heavily influences music in the present. Musicians get inspired from what they grow up listening to, from what they hear around them, what their family and friends introduce them to, so it’s inevitable then that traces of older music appear in newer music. Musicians should stick to what they know and who they are; they should be real and authentic. The minute they start taking short cuts, borrowing sounds from one source, cutting/pasting from another, and slacking on creativity, everything gets mixed up. Leaving us fans wondering who they’re going to imitate next.
Icons create music that is inspiring, original, revolutionary, shocking. They combine memorable lyrics with unforgettable sounds, enabling their music to stand the test of time, even at their end. They develop a large following of devoted fans who are continually inspired and allow these musicians to go on creating. Over the last decade or so though, a musician’s popularity seems to be so fleeting: no one musician has really stood out; no one has really made a significant mark on music. And I’m trying to figure out why.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Maybe everything has already been done. Musicians nowadays have adopted the same fate as the fashion world, and have resorted to recycling past trends and trying to re-introduce them. Since Madonna started the whole sensation of women and hypersexuality in the 80s, a trendsetter if you will, there have been a plethora of female artists who have tried to do the same: Britney Spears (“I’m a Slave 4 U” – way to be subtle),  Xtina Aguilera (“Dirrty”, which was just, well, dirty) and more recently Lady GaGa (who has hit a whole new level of raunchy). Problem is, it’s never as successful, because they’re more like versions of the original, more followers than leaders. Now I understand as years go on, every musician is going to be inspired by someone who preceded them, that’s a given; but has the concept of originality totally evaporated?
Take P. Diddy: here’s a guy who essentially gained his popularity  remixing other people’s songs. All he did was update the music a little and add some rap to it – that’s classic recycling (just ask The Police.) It was pointed out to me recently that Diddy (formerly known as Puff Daddy – the name change seemingly did no wonders for his career) never said he was a rapper, but he was first and foremost a producer. Fair enough. But either way, taking someone else’s original music and slightly altering it, isn’t producing or creating – it’s copy/pasting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that there is no musician out there that is doing anything original;  I’m focusing more on popular music, music that’s on the radio, on music channels, music that people request. I’m just trying to find a reason no one has any staying power anymore. When is there going to be a first of someone, instead of a next of someone else?

Maybe there’s nothing left to sing about. A lot of iconic music stems from the fact that it came out during a period in time when music was essential. A lot of the music in the 60s had to do with the anti-war sentiment. Heck that’s how Woodstock was created: a 3-day music festival to make love and not war. Music at that time became so popular because people could hold on to it, people could relate to it, people needed it. The Beatles were the first all-boy pop group and were largely successful, not because they were hugely talented (right Travis?), but because their music was about peace, love and wanting to hold your hand (ignoring the popular belief it was all about drugs). Their music affected an entire generation, as well as those that followed because it meant something, it was timeless – how can peace and love ever go out of style? These days, no one really sings about current world issues. On occasion there will be a song or two to help raise money for natural disasters in foreign countries, but no one really addresses any issues in their music. And those that do, (ie Bono/U2) are bands that have been around for decades, who already have staying power.

Let’s take rap music: I am definitely not a connoisseur, but according to a very reliable source, when rap music first started, it was about something, it had a message. Whether it was political or racial, rappers had something to say, and wanted to be heard. What I do know is that nowadays, (with few exceptions, ie Eminem) rap is completely ridiculous. No one is singing about anything real – it’s all about bitches and hos, money, poppin’ Cristal and rockin’ some bling. Is there anyone out there who really wants grills? Even with my limited knowledge about the rap genre, I definitely know that Tupac had a lot more to say than Lil’ Jon, Nelly or Young Jeezy.

Maybe music just isn’t about music anymore. It’s about what sells: and in this day and age that’s everything but the music. How else do you explain the mere existence of boy bands?? Mildly talented groups of young attractive boys dancing in sync (no pun intended) and capturing the hearts of all teenage girls; and this is captain obvious speaking, sex sells. Problem is, girls don’t stay teenagers forever, and neither do Backstreet Boys. Sooner or later they stop caring if Nick Carter wears boxers or briefs, and they move on. And boy bands fade because their music alone was never good enough to take them anywhere.

What also seems to sell these days is anything that gains media attention: be it pregnancy, marriage, rehab, jail, appearing on reality tv shows, you name it. As long as there is some sort of drama or scandal involved, any sub par artist can become famous, even if for only 15 minutes. Britney Spears has been married what 3 times now (once to K-Fed who somehow managed to release a rap record), and shaved her head for no reason whatsoever. She somehow put out 2 records during all of this, possibly hoping that her sudden media attention would help her music sell, who knows. The unfortunate part is, people will remember her for her antics – not her music, because her music is not memorable.

T.I. was on his way up the charts, when he got arrested for weapons possession and was sentenced to jail. But right before that, he managed to put together a reality show, awesomely named “T.I.’s Road to Redemption” where he would go around trying to convince teens to not take the path he had taken, and in turn by saving them, he would save himself. Wow. Dumbest idea ever, especially considering he recently got arrested again, this time on drug possession charges. What a great mentor. T.I. very possibly did this over-dramatic TV show just to make sure he wouldn’t be forgotten while he was in jail. Total fail. Once the media stops caring about him, there is no way his music will ever survive. I think his 15 minutes are up.
Compare that with MJ: here’s an extremely talented musician who had more than enough personal issues, was involved in countless scandals, yet at the end of the day, his music was so powerful that everything else faded away.

I could go on about this for days, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Music shouldn’t need an image, it shouldn’t need a specific demographic, it shouldn’t need to be tied to a scandal – it should simply sell itself. No musician really tries to be a legend, you just become one, and as years go on, it becomes more and more difficult to stand out. Maybe there are musicians just starting out who will one day be iconic, we just don’t know it yet. For now,  I’m still waiting.