UK chart: One in four top 40 songs samples older track

Issey Cross on set for her Bittersweet Goodbye music video. Issey, a white woman in her 20s, has cropped hair cut just below her ears with one side dyed bright orange and the other side dyed green. It is parted centrally and clipped back on the side of her face. Issey has blacked winged eyeliner framing her brown eyes and a small cross tattoo below her left eye. She wears a nose ring and septum piercing as well as three hoop earrings in each ear and looks down into the camera. She wears a shiny sleeveless top which is green and magenta. She is photographed in front of a van with the word 'bass' above the windscreen and the van is parked beneath a railway arch in London which is covered in graffiti.
Issey Cross' summer anthem Bittersweet Goodbye has been streamed millions of times

Heard this one before? If you're a music fan it's a question you might have been asking yourself recently.

More and more artists seem to be using samples - snippets of older tracks - to create new ones.

From Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice's Barbie World to Issey Cross' Bittersweet Goodbye, our summer playlists have been full of throwbacks.

And analysis shared with BBC Newsbeat shows that about one in four current UK Top 40 hits uses samples.

Press replay

Data from the Official Charts Company and website suggests as many as one in four tracks in the chart make use of retro tracks.

This week's number two, Doja Cat's Paint The Town Red, samples Walk on By, first released by Dionne Warwick in 1964.

Bou's Closer takes us back to the 90s, recycling dance anthem Children by Robert Miles.

And Charlie XCX wants to remind us of Toni Basil's 1981 hit Hey Mickey with Speed Drive, which also samples Robyn's Cobrastyle.

But one of summer's biggest songs based around a sample is Issey Cross's Bittersweet Goodbye, which entered the charts last week at number 31.

The dance track uses the hook from 1997 hit Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve, a track which, ironically, sampled Rolling Stones hit The Last Time.

American rapper Ice Spice performs onstage during day one of Rolling Loud Miami at Hard Rock Stadium on July 21, 2023 in Miami. Ice Spice wears a long orange wig down past her back, a cropped pink velvet bomber jacket and denim shorts over fish net tights, accessorised with a white studded belt, diamond necklace reading 'Princess' and a belly button ring. She holds a microphone with her right hand and points off stage with her left, following the direction with her face.
Ice Spice and Nicki Minaj dominated the charts with their track Barbie World, which sampled Aqua

You might assume that the sampling phenomenon is a result of our current fascination with the 90s and noughties.

Whether it's down to nostalgia or social media exposing a new generation to the era, it's inspiring trends in film, TV and fashion.

And it would be easy to assume the rise in musical throwbacks is simply down to young people rediscovering older music online.

While that's definitely played a part, US journalist Jayson Greene tells BBC Newsbeat the truth "is more interesting than that".

Jayson, who works for respected music website Pitchfork, looked into the issue of "making old hits new again".

Blame your lizard brain

His investigation started with music publishing companies - a fairly new business that really took off during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the US, two firms have snapped up the rights to dozens of tracks by legendary artists such as Bob Marley, Prince, James Brown, and Whitney Houston.

Jayson spoke to their bosses and found that the companies will look for opportunities to promote the material in the hope it gets used.

If it does, they get paid, and the songs that sell are the ones that people already know.

"The most universally recognisable properties are the ones that are being recycled," says Jayson.

Hearing familiar songs "hits like a node in your lizard brain that recognises something you already love", he says.

"And so that song seems more interesting to you than maybe something you've never heard before."

That's good for business, but potentially less beneficial for creativity, says Jayson.

"Because everybody knows them already... nobody has to do any work breaking in a new entity, a new voice," he says.

Singer songwriter Katie Gregson-MacLeod. Katie is a white woman in her 20s with cropped hair sitting just above her shoulders dyed blonde mostly tucked behind her ears. She has large brown eyes and dark eyebrows and has blushed cheeks. She looks to the left of the camera and wears a red sweater, a necklace and earrings. She is photographed inside standing in front of a wall covered with strips of tape with musical words like 'drum, bass, keys' written on them
Katie Gregson-MacLeod says TikTok introduces users to new music

It's only fair to point out that one in four tracks using samples means that the other three are original compositions.

And singer-songwriter Katie Gregson Macleod feels there's still an appetite for original music, especially on social media platforms.

"I think that [TikTok's] proven time and time again that people aren't just looking for the same thing, recycled," she says.

Katie has been writing songs since she was a teenager and balanced her music career between university and a job in an Edinburgh coffee shop.

The Scottish singer finally got her big break last year when her song Complex went viral - and she was then signed to the same record label as Adele and nominated for an Ivor Novello award.

On sampling, Katie says: "I don't know if it's tiresome yet. I think people just love to hear that stuff."

Music journalist Jayson isn't quite so convinced.

"I firmly believe that this sort of nostalgia cycle we're in is just a phase," he says.

"This happens every few years."

He sees similarities with current cinema trends - and suggestions that people are getting tired of superhero movies.

Jayson says lots of people have reacted to his article, and he's noticed an increase in people calling out overuse of samples on social media.

"When people start seeing how the sausage is made, I just think people's reactions to this stuff are starting to indicate that yes, there's got to be a turning of the tide, pretty soon."

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