“About You:” A Study in Samples

I feel it’s happening with less frequency these days, but from time to time you’ll still come upon a Sample Hater: individuals whose blood boils at the idea of the scads of songs these days that draw directly from the work of others (with or without the owners’ knowledge or permission) in order to create something new. “New”?

Well whatever, haters gonna hate, but I personally think it’s a super cool way to produce art with ties to so many other genres of music; to see the new direction a musician can take an idea that developed in the head of another. It can also be fun to track down the various components of a song like some sort of musical scavenger hunt.

Take the song “About You” by XXYYXX (the moniker of Marcell Everett, a 17-year-old from Orlando who made this super psychedelic album in his bedroom). The self-titled album had kept coming up as a recommendation on YouTube, and finally I gave into its super Illuminati-inspired allure. I thought the production was really good and got pretty drawn into the hypnotic experimental progressions for awhile, but I’ll admit to getting distracted by something else in the bottomless world of the ‘Tube before long.

Until a friend was in town this weekend, and, upon meeting Ollie (you know, my Thai Domestic Fox), told me I had to watch the video for this cool track that featured fox masks that greatly resembled him. That track was “About You.”

If you’re like me, at some point you found yourself wondering just what that mysterious and ethereal theme meant, and in what language (“Something Slavic, I bet!”). Or… maybe you’re way smarter and deduced instantly that ol’ Marcell had just employed one of the oldest and most beloved techniques of hiding Satanic propaganda in popular music and simply reversed a sample.

Someone did us the favor of turning the entire track as we know it backwards:

we discover the vocalist is crooning, ‘here forever inside.’

At some point I realized that line must have an origin of its own and a quick search led me to the song “Just Hold On” by a producer called zircon, featuring Jillian Aversa. It’s just crazy to me that someone can… hear one teeny little line, think “I’ll turn that… backwards,” and then make something new and beautiful in a completely different way from it.

And just for some added sample-related cool, something that turned up when I downloaded Kanye West’s discography back in my torrenting days: Gold Digging: As Sampled by Kanye West. It’s a collection of the original versions of songs Kanye has sampled, and is just another testament to some of the really creative ways these guys are making new from old in music.

(There’s also a second disc.)

One year ago: Mattayom 3 Graduation
Two years ago: Mumbai (the Unbelievable Five-Photo Post)
Three years ago: Breathing, Contact, and Kissing… It’s Infective!

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