Sampling and remix culture is the future, right? Not if you ask a lot of music lovers at the moment. The guest for the CDM Random Rant of the Week is our friend Liz. It’s an issue I suspect has troubled some readers here, especially as music technology is equated to the sample/remix culture (especially if you believe Wired Magazine and we’re in the age of mash-ups.) Sure, tracks sampling other tracks is nothing new, but the legal battles over hip-hop aside, is there a backlash brewing? Do people want to hear something original, after all? And can Kanye, erm, speak truth to power with both the President of the United States and mysterious French electro duos? -PK

…Do[es] anybody make real shit anymore?
Bow in the presence of greatness
Cause right now thou has forsaken us
You should be honored by my lateness
That I would even show up to this fake shit
So go ahead, go nuts, go ape-shit
Especially on my best stand, on my Bape shit
Act like you can’t tell who made this…

-Kanye West,

“Stronger,” ft. substantial elements of Daft Punk’s “Harder Better Faster Stronger”

Before I clicked on the link I’m about to share with you, I was a hardcore, devil-fist-throwing Daft Punk mega-fan. After the link jump at the end, I had to reluctantly join the melancholy ranks of jaded music fans who’ve seen through the hype to the source, eventually admitting that what I had admired was blatant plagiarism.

The success of Daft Punk’s ground-breaking single “Around the World” cemented my once-marginal interest in the then-peripheral disco/electro-house scene. Adding to that was the time I spent in France taking in the provincial culture while attending French raves and parties France-style (and loving the music video featuring robots as protagonists). In the scene circa ’98-’99 in major French cities, you’d hear a Daft Punk track or a French facsimile about every fourth track, and where it was appropriate, the place would go sweaty-wild with glee. Hipster fashion boutiques, shoe stores, and taco joints alike were a-bump with the Daft Punk spinoff Stardust’s hit “Music Sounds Better with You.” At every turn, it seemed as if DP’s tracks staked an uncontested cross-genre claim in the minds of many.

My unconditional love persisted well into the 2000s when DP dropped not only an extended music video / Anime feature (Interstella 5555), and then followed up their success with Homework. They introduced “Robot Rock” as a single that infiltrated many robotic / electro / rock playlists across the country. Not content to rest on their laurels they joined Lollapalooza this year, setting off diverse crowds that freaked out to dance-extended versions of their hit, “One More Time” on live sequence mode.

And as if they weren’t already mega-stars in their own right, they’re now being exposed to an entirely new segment of the popular-music-listening populace: hip hop fans. Kanye West’s “Stronger” track features a slowed down, rearranged version of “Harder Better Faster Stronger.”

But the funny thing is that Kanye is sampling a sample! The groovy riff from “Harder” is lifted straight from Edwin Birdsong‘s 1979 funk track “Cola Bottle Baby.” Sure, Daft Punk gives Birdsong a co-writing credit in the liner notes, but it’s a bit of a letdown. I don’t know how to phrase this.. ugh. It’s like, you attribute a certain technical and musical ability to one artist and then realize they don’t have that technical and musical ability, they are just pretending they do.

I don’t use samples in my own work because it feels like cheating, in a way. If I create a groove and the dancefloor goes wild, I would feel better about it than if it was lifted from another track. My boyfriend is just getting started with making his own music, but he chooses to sample guitar riffs and hooks from rock songs of the 70s and 80s and make them into dance tracks, and even though I’ve warned him about sample clearance, he says he’ll never release anything so it’s ok. I think closely studying tracks that you really like is an excellent exercise in learning about song structures and composition, but lifting hooks and calling them your own is… cheating. If you really like a groove, figure out why you like it and do your own version of it. This is just my opinion and I know lots of people who create and admire music would be up in arms at the idea of telling people not to use samples in their work.

So if you’re ready to face the truth and retract a bit of Daft Punk’s technical and musical genius-aura, behold the Daft Punk sample sources:

Sample Wednesday 27: Daft Punk [Palms Out Sounds]

Ed.: So, CDMers, what do you think? Has sampling dampened your enthusiasm for some electronic music, Daft or otherwise? Or do you say, bring on the remix-mash-sample-share-ups and license everything Creative Commons for open-source music? And can we get the sense of originality back in music? (Or did it ever leave?) We let Liz get her rant out; now’s your turn. -PK