How Music from the Past Influences Pop Music Today

Culture

Music is what keeps humans alive. If there were no music, there would be no dancing, no celebrating, and no community. You don’t have to know someone’s language to like a song. Music is a bridge to other people, to the present, and even to the past.

Music, specifically older music, connects us to the past in multiple ways. Through music, we can see pop culture trends- such as synths from the '80s or acoustic grunge riffs from the '90s. It is important to know music from the past because it is a way to connect the younger generations to the older generations. After all, music is a part of history--it's a tell-all. If you want to learn about pop culture from any decade, music is one way to do so.

Music is a bridge from the past to the present because it gives younger generations the ability to connect with the generations before them. Adults used records, radios, and boomboxes to listen to music. Although all these things are still around, they are vastly unpopular. Music now is mostly streamed via the internet. Modern technological advancements have made listening to music easier than ever before, so there is no excuse as to why younger generations can not give older music a try. If younger generations learn to enjoy music from different decades, they can connect with adults in a new way.

So listening to old tunes on new platforms is a great way to expand your musical taste. Although I will admit I enjoy today’s music, I am also a nut for classic rock. Many pops and rap songs of today are sampled. When I listen to them, I can hear rhythms from music from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. But not all teenagers enjoy music from before Y2K, and they are unable to understand, hear and appreciate these re-used samples. But did you know that even your favorite rappers, like Drake and Kanye, sample classic rock songs?

Songs You Didn't Know Were Sampled

Who’s a big fan of rap? I know I am! Rap and hip-hop have taken over the pop culture scene in recent years. It has become the new pop. Pop icons that teens used to be people like Brittany Spears and Justin Bieber, but my generation loves rap/hip-hop, for example Kanye’s song “Hell of A Life” has millions of streams. But did you know that the aggressive rhythm and beat in the back is actually originally from Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man?” Or take Drake, for example, who sampled a 90’s rap song in one of his albums from 2014. In “Poundcake,” by Drake, you can hear “C.R.E.A.M” by the Wu-Tang Clan on repeat during the chorus.

Juice WRLD has also sampled music, his biggest hit song made me realize how music connects us through generations and shared experiences. His most popular song, “Lucid Dreams,” (2018) samples Sting’s “Shape of my Heart'' melody. When I first heard it in middle school, I heard the guitar (Sting’s sample) and thought it was so beautiful and catchy. Juice WRLD’s song includes rap, and has an upbeat sound, but the Sting song is somber and sad sounding. What connects them is their shared exploration of emotions and heartbreak.

So when my mom played Sting’s “Shape of My Heart,” it made me more aware of the fact that Juice WRLD’s song was also a sad song even though the beats are happy. As for what the original artist thinks of remakes, you may be surprised. Sting actually commended Juice WRLD for his remake of the song, claiming it was one of the most beautiful remakes yet. They’ve even performed Juice WRLD’s version during concerts before. Sampling from an artist does not make another artist a thief. It is their way of paying tribute, and older artists can understand that. So it is important for fans of current musicians to see this kind of collaboration.

Honoring The Past

When artists sample music they are paying homage to legends. “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice samples “Under Pressure” by Queen as his baseline. This is perhaps one of the most famously sampled songs, due to the fact these songs were produced so close to each other. And When Kanye sampled “Iron Man,'' he explained that it was to pay tribute to Black Sabbath’s influence on rock and roll. Artists take samples to not only play homage or tribute to other artists but to also provide a sense of nostalgia for the listener. Older listeners will be able to recognize and enjoy these beats that take them back in time. It is also important for younger generations to recognize these samples too and see how music connects us from the past to the present.

If teenagers think that the artists they idolize created all these samples/sounds, they will never know the truth. Music is generational, and the more you know about music that is not from your own generation, the more you can appreciate it. When artists use the same music, they want a certain atmosphere in their song. By understanding that the sounds you hear are not solely created by a contemporary artist means you can better understand the music as a work of art on an even deeper level like I did with Juice WRLD.

Connecting To The Present

It is vital to recognize the legends who bought us these beats. If teenagers idolize artists thinking that they created all these samples, they will never know the truth. Art needs the past.

Difference between stealing and consciously using to be in a tradition or to honor an artist you like. If art never say anything or take false credit for their work, not only is it wrong, they are misleading an entire generation.

If rap and pop artists are attempting to honor other artists through their music, isn’t it evident they want their fan base to see that and to also enjoy the artist? Many teenagers don’t appreciate the samples behind these famous songs, and can’t appreciate the true beauty of the music.

So my advice? Go home and listen to some rock. See what you can hear and find, and try to make connections to modern music. You will not only discover some legendary music, but you will also be surprised at how much music you can recognize.

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Jacqueline Belkin
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Jackie Belkin is an 11th grader from New Jersey. Her intrests include political science, theatre, writing, hanging out with friends and horseback riding. Outside of Teen Magazine, she also helps run Local Kids Care- a Covid-relief charity based in Central Jersey.