Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mmmm...WHAT, You Say?

I'm kind of at a loss. I'm annoyed, but somehow, I'm also oddly intrigued.

20-year-old Jason DeRulo is the latest of the annual list of left-fielders which somehow score a sneak attack Top 20 hit with their debut single. His hit has him currently sitting at #4 on the latest Billboard chart (just below Britney's new #1 "3", Jay Sean's former #1 "Down" and Miley Cyrus' "Party In the USA"), and not unlike Mr. Sean, it's one of those songs that kind of crept up on you, and before you even knew which way was up, he was all over your radio.

His success, in my mind at the very least, stems from the fact that his single, "Whatcha Say", features a heavy sample of Imogen Heap's arguably most mainstream song, 2005 single "Hide And Seek", during the chorus. I'm unsure if it's a direct lift from Heap's track, or if it's a re-recording, as it does sound a bit higher in pitch and sped-up than the original.

For those of you who are a bit unfamiliar with Ms. Heap's work, the song seems to be best associated with a wayward (and more than little ridiculous) "Saturday Night Live" digital short featuring Andy Samberg, Bill Hader and Shia LaBeouf, randomly shooting each other to the tune of the song, in an apparant mockery of an episode of "The OC." The sketch became a viral sensation almost immediately after its airing in 2007, and helped propel Samberg and his writing group The Lonely Island to new levels of comedic notoriety.

What leaves me scratching my head regarding "Whatcha Say" is the fact that Heap was vehemently against "Hide and Seek" being used in the 'Saturday Night Live' sketch, so much so that the show didn't end up getting proper clearing, so the sketch had to be eliminated from future broadcasts, yet has agreed to have it be used by this sort of nameless up and comer. It's arguable to state this young gun has a formidable list of songwriting credits to his name in the urban/hip hop community, but the only one I'm particularly familiar with was the only decent song recorded by "Making the Band" product Donnie Klang (the lyrically perverse, but ridiculously catchy "Dr. Love").

Apparently, DeRulo originally wrote the song with the intention to give it to fellow JR Rotem protege Sean Kingston, and once you hear that, the sonic connection becomes almost blatantly obvious. Given the fact that I'm such a fan of that Imogen Heap song itself, I feel kind of cheated with this new rehashing, which takes such an original and haunting track and turns it into the urban staple of the week. However, "Whatcha Say"s success is somewhat solidified at this point -- it even has a fairly solid chance of hitting #1 on the Hot 100 given it's upswing in radio spins and its steady climb in downloads. It debuted on the chart just inside the Top 60 at the end of August, and is already charttopper bound.

I suppose it's the music snob in me, but I find the public appeal of "Whatcha Say" fascinating, considering "Hide & Seek" itself saw such a lacking in terms of a mainstream embrace. What's worse in my eyes is the fact that so many people now don't even know it's a sample at all, and that is the ultimate of insults, considering the chorus is the only really interesting and unique part of "Whatcha Say" anyhow.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for a clever sampling of a good song that didn't get the respect it deserved in the pop market. However, completely cutting and pasting the entire chorus into your song, and then passing the final product off as your own, without any formal acknowledgment is not just lazy, it's disrespectful.

As turned off as I am by the use of "Hide and Seek", I've decided to play Devil's Advocate with myself in the fact that at least Jason has a wide and surprising taste in music. Billboard Magazine has reported that his album, due out in early 2010, will feature co-writes with Claude Kelly (who most recently brought us Miley Cyrus' "Party In the USA") and more samples, including The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony."

Touche, Jason DeRulo. You have my interest peaked. For now.


Myfizzypop said...

the worst case of ignorance I ever heard re: sampling was in a bar when some young kid heard Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics played and said "ugh, sample Lady Gaga much?" I actually shed a tear.

Mel said...

Oooooh no you're kidding!!! That's so beyond sacrilege, I can't even tell you! As much as I love Lady Gaga - no one can diss Annie Lennox and get away with it -- even if they don't know they're doing it!

I've had several bad run ins. The most memorable recently has to be the Michael Jackson lines in Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music." GRRR.

People need to be more knowledgable about music. Ignorance is ridiculously irritating. Haha.

John said...

Have they not said that Imogen was the source of the hook, because I have thought that has been out the whole time. Or maybe the blogs I have read have just been more hip to it. Either way, any attention that Imogen gets is well-deserved, so if she's getting paid while getting unsolicited publicity, more power to her!

Mel said...

I believe it's kind of like "common knowledge" that its' her sample, but considering it's such a huge part of the song, I think it kind of deserves a feat. tag. What irks me most is so many people DON'T know its a sample, and think that DeRulo is so amazing for coming up with such a catchy hook. I've seen multiple YouTube "artists" stating they are going to sing "Whatcha Say", and just sing Imogen's hook. ::SMH::

Anonymous said...

None of you are addressing the samplee's interests. You think Dido would have gotten as big as she did without Eminem?

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