Try a Sample….Please!

Recently my mind wandered back in time to some of my music production work in the mid-1980‘s. Electronics were really starting to take over the industry. In fact, much of the productions I worked on my own were completely digitally recorded. That’s quite a feat for me. You see, I was one of those college educated musicians who came to this business the old-fashioned way. My first real job with a record company was with an executive producer who did not believe in electronics in music, whatever that means. Recorded music has always been accomplished electronically. But many, including my old executive producer, balked at the use of pre-recorded effects and sounds and yes, even the oncoming digital age. But I embraced it. In fact, I used that college education to work along with all the new digital equipment. I remember times sitting in the studio programming drum machines with an actual arrangement in front of me. Some of the younger engineers watched and laughed at me with this large piece of sheet music working purposefully toward my overall goal. Then when it started to come together in song form they loved it. But at the same time I was in the studio working on arrangements of original music, my counterparts were in the other rooms using samples of existing songs to finish their productions. I remember quite well around the year 1990 or so attending a music showcase with an artist, when I met another young producer and his artist/rapper. They both loved my arrangements. But they then went on to explain the financial advantages of their own work. It was only a matter of permission from the original publisher, which almost always was given because it meant free money with no investment at all. Welcome to the world of sampling. And years later even the mainstream artists are now using samples or hooks of existing songs and incorporating them into their songs. In fact, now whole songs are being used as the backdrop for new melodies and lyrics. Like a DJ mix. Well, all of this reflection came about after listening to Monica’s new song, “Everything to me”.

Well, upon listening to the song, I knew right away it was Deniece Williams’ “Silly”. I’m a huge fan of Deniece Williams and will discuss her in a future blog. “Everything to me” is receiving rave reviews so I wanted to find out more about the song. Jazmine Sullivan is credited as writer and Missy Elliot is the producer and samples of “Silly” are referenced as well. I like Sullivan and Missy Elliot both and respect much of their work. But I wondered how much production work did this particular song take? The music is already there, and it’s been there for over 30 years. Not to take anything away from Monica either because I have always loved her singing. But I couldn’t help think about all of the wonderful songwriters out there who still study music, practice their craft long hours, and are ready to express themselves with new songs. I wonder if the sampling has gone too far. Are we not hearing more original music because producers are sampling so much? What was wrong with the original lyrics of “Silly” that they had to be replaced and song renamed? The questions will continue for a long time.

We would love to hear your opinion