10 Hit Songs You Had No Idea Used Samples

From MIA to LEN, Billie Eilish to Bruno Mars, everyone loves a free sample!

MIA And The Clash
CBS Records

Music is always evolving.

Sometimes, that evolution is a slow, arduous effort that takes years upon years before any discernible difference is made. Trends morph and tastes develop at a protracted pace, with one form tediously and interminably reinventing itself until eventually it is almost unrecognisable from the music that came before it...

Not unlike the evolution of nature itself.

Other times, it's a lot more straightforward. A musician hears something they like, and decide they'd like something similar in their song. They take a piece of the old sound, tweak it, transform it, develop it, and experiment with it until they've created something brand spanking new. That, or they take a few bars of an already existing beat, stick it on a loop and slap it right into a new song. It's a much more pronounced, obvious form of evolution that is much easier to track and determine...

Not unlike the evolution of a Pokémon.

And you know what? Pokémon are really cool. Probably even cooler than nature.

And so is sampling.

Pretty sure we've proven our point here. Shall we get right into it?

10. Paper Planes - MIA

Thirteen years after its initial release, Paper Planes by M.I.A. remains the best song of the 21st century. You don't need to fact-check that, we are telling you right now. It is simply the case.

While it has always been an undeniable dancefloor filler, Paper Planes is also a multi-faceted piece of art and a merciless political statement.

Using the language of gangsta rap, M.I.A. criticises America's ludicrous attitude towards immigration. The British-born singer of Sri Lankan Tamil descent draws on her own experience of being denied entry to the States, playing the character of the hypothetical immigrant that conservative America fears: a fictional bong-hitting brown girl who forges visas and wants nothing more than to *gunshot* *gunshot* *gunshot* *gunshot* *reload* *cash register*, and take your money.

Even the unforgettable banger of an intro has thematic relevance, being sampled from The Clash's Straight To Hell. A song that's been described as "saturated in colonial melancholia and sadness," it explores, among other things, the alienation of non-English speaking immigrants in British society.

It really shouldn't be any surprise that M.I.A.'s biggest hit uses samples: before she was known as a musician, M.I.A. was a a darling of London's underground visual art scene. Well known for her use of garish collage to create strikingly beautiful images (just look at her album covers!), she brought this same attitude and approach into her music.

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Jimmy Kavanagh is an Irish writer and co-founder of Club Valentine Comedy, a Dublin-based comedy collective. You can hear him talk to his favourite comedians about their favourite comics on his podcast, Comics Swapping Comics.