They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and nowhere is that more true than in pop culture.
One could also say that there is no such thing as a new idea in today's world, but why be so cynical? We're going to choose to believe that our entertainment forebearers were just so good at what they did that the only choice is to cull from their creativity. Exhibit A: Today's top 40 music scene.
Sure, there's a lot of original stuff out there. There's never been a Lady Gaga before and there probably never will be again. But everyone has an influence, even our favorite pop stars—and it seems that a lot of them get said influence from the '80s. It may be doomed to live in the shadows of the sexier, trendier decade of the 1990s, but the '80s played a huge role in shaping, well, everything.
It's hard to turn on the radio today without hearing a jam that sounds like it came straight from a John Hughes movie. Taylor Swift even shaped her entire conversion from country to pop around the '80s. But there's broad inspiration, and then there's straight-up sampling. In the spirit of competition, we're going to look back at the early influencers of some of today's most popular tunes to find out who truly did it better.
Were current artists able to unseat the magnificence of the '80s masters? Or are some classic jams just way too good?
"Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon versus "Where the Streets Have No Name" by U2
You know that part of "Shut Up and Dance" at the beginning of the video that you always fast forward through? Well that's pulled straight from this U2 classic. It should be no surprise, seeing as everything from Walk the Moon's hair to their outfits just screams '80s. This is a bit of a tricky mashup since the rest of the song could not be more different from U2. In fact, we're going to call it a tie. "Where the Streets Have No Name" is perfect for the rainy day blues, while "Shut Up and Dance" is pretty much the only song to play at a wedding immediately after the first dance.
"I Wish You Would" by Taylor Swift versus "She Drives Me Crazy" by Fine Young Cannibals
As we mentioned, the entire 1989 album felt like a riff off of the entire 1980's. Synthesizers are all over the track list, but nowhere is it more evident than in "I Wish You Would." You'll listen to it and think, huh, this sounds so familiar. And it turns out it sounds just like that one song. You know, that one? Clearly, we're choosing Tay's 2016 version over the original.
"Night by Night" by Chromeo versus "Let the Music Play" by Shannon
Let the music play, he won't get away/ Just keep the groove and then he'll come back to you again, let it play. Don't pretend like you don't know this jam. As much as we love a good Chromeo session, we have to give props to Shannon for creating one of those mysterious '80s songs that every single person knows the words to but we don't know why. Did it matrix itself into our brains? Quite possibly. Do we mind? Definitely not.
Anything Justin Timberlake versus Anything Prince
JT himself has proclaimed that you can listen to pretty much any song he's recorded during his solo career and find direct links to the massive discography of Prince. One day the student may become the master, but for now we have to award the prize to the one, the only Artist Formerly Known As.
"Fade" by Kanye West versus "Mystery of Love" by Mr. Fingers
What do you call that sound? Electronic drums? Not the bongos, right? Either way, it's virtually indistinguishable on these two tracks. We should also point out that "Fade"'s '80s influence shouldn't be a surprise at all, seeing as its corresponding video was pulled directly from Flashdance. Since a vote for "Fade" feels like a vote for Teyana Taylor (and her abs), so we're all for it.
"In the Night" by The Weeknd versus "The Way You Make Me Feel" by Michael Jackson
There is no contest when MJ competes, so let us just say...well, we don't know. Good try Weeknd.
"King Kunta" by Kendrick Lamar versus "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson
Okay, we lied. There is a contest, and Kendrick just won. His groundbreaking "King Kunta" sampled that infamous "Annie are you okay" line, but everything else about the song lives in a class of its own.
"True Colors" by Wiz Khalifa and Nicki Minaj versus "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper
What better way to sample an '80s song than by also naming your version the exact same thing? Unfortunately for Cyndi (and for us), her original haunted us throughout far too many elementary school choir concerts, and we must dub Wiz and Nicki the winners here.