In case you missed the horrifying news, Roc Nation singer Rita Ora told UK’s The Sun that she is dead serious about doing a “Lady Marmalade” remake. Or to be specific, a remake of the 2001 remake that featured Christina Aguilera, Mya, P!nk and Lil’ Kim. But this version will be paler than ever:
“It’s always been my goal to create another ‘Lady Marmalade.’ I’m trying to round up the troops – I think it would be me, Miley [Cyrus], Charlie XCX – she’d be fun – and Iggy [Azalea].”
Someone cue in the timeless video of Bishop Bullwinkle singing “Hell Naw…(to the naw naw naw).” Because that’s exactly what I thought when I heard this story.
Well, that’s not all I thought. As I ranted to my coworker for about five minutes straight, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired of the lack of originality from today’s musicians. Ora wants to remake a remake? Because that’s what the game has been waiting for, right?
Probably because those at her label haven’t allowed her to put out many songs that don’t include a sample or a feature of some sort. Basically, they won’t allow her talent stand on its own, so she doesn’t know how to be original.
For example, one of her first songs, “R.I.P.,” is a sample of Nneka’s “Heartbeat.” In fact, “R.I.P., written by Drake, was originally intended for Rihanna, who gave it a hard pass. “How We Do“? A sample of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Party and Bullsh*t.” And sadly, when she first came out, even Ora’s image was deemed a rip of a variety of pop artists (Rihanna and Beyoncé, with a side of Jennifer Lopez). It’s a shame because behind all the attempts to make her into other pop stars, and the catalog of sampled hits, Ora has a pretty good voice. But she’s not alone in the struggle of artists today to be and sound original.
Everyone seems to go the easy route. Listening to a playlist on Spotify, it was brought to my attention that two of Trey Songz’s recent hits, “Na Na” and “About You,” are as catchy as they are because of samples: “Fu-Gee-La” by The Fugees and Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” (though his sample sounds a lot more like Janet Jackson’s “Son of a Gun,” which also took on Simon’s classic song).
Jeremih’s “Don’t Tell ‘Em” was a hit because its melody was a re-recorded version of “Rhythm is a Dancer” by SNAP! And his new song, “The Fix” with Nelly? A sample of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” You would think after Robin Thicke had his checks snatched over “Blurred Lines,” folks would leave Marvin Gaye’s music alone.
And while samples and interpolations became a mainstay in the ’90s (see SWV’s timeless “Human Nature” mix of “Right Here” or Bad Boy remixes), now they’re pretty much everywhere. From R&B to EDM pop. Like the trash EDM song “Pure Grinding” I heard today on MTV Hits that, for no reason, sampled Crystal Waters’s “100% Pure Love“: “100 percent, pure griiiiiind.”
Every time I hear a new song, I quickly realize that it’s not new after all. Beats are even recycled to hell. I can no longer enjoy Jidenna’s “Classic Man” the way I used to now that I realize its beat was pulled from Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.”
What catches my ear nowadays always reminds me of something I’ve already heard time and time again. The remakes bore me, and I’m left with a funky taste in my mouth. Feeling like it would make the most sense for me to to just listen to my oldies (but goodies), since that’s the sound everyone is going for anyway.
And while they say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, I think it’s a sign of a lack of creativity. Too many artists are solely focused on being in the public eye and being a brand that their music comes second. They put out any and everything that will generate buzz. Half the time they don’t write it, and because they’re too afraid to step out of the spotlight to live life and find inspiration due to fear that they will be forgotten (lack of talent does that), they put out crap to simply whet the appetite of fans. They sample some classics and serve it up as something new.
But I think we can all agree that those who step away for some time to focus on perfecting their craft and having a life away from the cameras always come back with the best, most original stuff. That’s why after all these years, Janet Jackson could still score a No. 1 album. Why people are asking Missy, Adele, Maxwell, Frank Ocean and other originators to hurry up and release new music. Why J. Cole could have the highest-selling hip-hop album of 2014 with no features and no promotion. And why D’Angelo, who doesn’t even really have social media and would rather stay ghost, had social media buzzing when he unexpectedly released Black Messiah last December.
But for every unique artist, there are too many who are lazy. Who rely heavily on samples and remakes. Who use the music you grew up on to get you on their side.
And don’t get me wrong, a good sample can go a long way. But just as important as it is to be able to identify a hit and use a classic to make one from time to time (that’s why we love Tribe Called Quest’s jazz-inspired tunes and Kanye West’s music from 2004-2010, right?), it’s also important to know when you’re doing too much. Do people really want to hear another version of “Lady Marmalade”? Doubt it. Especially not with the ladies Ora mentioned.
And considering that Patti LaBelle has already let the world know she’s not a fan of today’s divas, whom she called “little heifers” who can’t really sing, I doubt she’ll give Ora and her lily-White lineup her blessings.
Back to the drawing board. And for once, please, make your own sh*t.