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What’s Old Is New: Doja Cat’s ‘Vegas’ & Music’s Interpolation Influx

Radio programmers weigh on the many reimaginations in rotation.

Hound Dog” is back in the building on top 40 radio.

Doja Cat‘s “Vegas,” from the hit Elvis movie soundtrack, reaches the top 10 of Billboard‘s Pop Airplay chart, rising from No. 12 to No. 10 on the latest list, dated Sept. 3. The song samples Big Mama Thornton’s 1952 classic “Hound Dog,” which Elvis Presley famously covered, sending his version to No. 1 on multiple Billboard charts in 1956.

Meanwhile, “Vegas,” released on House of Iona/Kemosabe/RCA Records, is one of numerous interpolations infusing radio playlists. Joining “Vegas” in the Pop Airplay top 10, Lizzo’s “About Damn Time,” at No. 4, reworks the World’s Famous Supreme Team’s “Hey! DJ,” from 1984; Jack Harlow’s “First Class” (No. 8) brings back the hook of Fergie’s 2007 hit “Glamorous,” featuring Ludacris; and Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” (No. 9) samples Robin S.’s 1993 club anthem “Show Me Love.”

Adding to the current nostalgic boom, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” places at No. 5 on Pop Airplay. Originally released in 1985, the song has hit new heights this summer sparked by its prominent sync in the fourth season of Netflix’s Stranger Things.

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Beyond radio airplay, the songs above have all excelled in streaming and on the multi-metric Billboard Hot 100 chart, with “About Damn Time,” “First Class” and “Break My Soul” all having hit No. 1. On the Sept. 3 survey, “Vegas” hits a new No. 23 high. Also currently in the Hot 100’s top 40: DJ Khaled’s “Staying Alive” (featuring Drake and Lil Baby), which borrows from the Bee Gees’ 1978 disco-defining “Stayin’ Alive,” ranks at No. 27, two weeks after debuting at its No. 5 best, and Yung Gravy’s “Betty (Get Money),” which reimagines Rick Astley’s breakout 1988 single “Never Gonna Give You Up,” jumps 45-39.

(Country is drawing on its past, too: Cole Swindell’s “She Had Me at Heads Carolina” renews Jo Dee Messina’s 1996 hit “Heads Carolina, Tails California”; it holds at its No. 18 Hot 100 high – Swindell’s best career rank.)

Pop radio programmers are welcoming such songs’ built-in familiarity, while also ever aware of an over-reliance on any one style, given the format’s trademark balancing of textures.

In moderation, borrowed lyrics and melodies to create a fresh piece of art add another welcome layer to our presentation,” says Alex Tear, SiriusXM vp of pop music and programming. “There will certainly be mixed emotions on how each is ultimately received. We’ll watch audience reaction and adjust as needed to keep the most popular titles rotating.”

As for “Vegas,” which SiriusXM Pop Airplay panelists Hits 1, TikTok Radio and Venus played 61, 44 and 37 times, respectively, in the Aug. 22-28 tracking week, according to Luminate, Tear says that the track helps keep “pop’s DNA creative, versatile and fun, with amazing structure and production to modernize and elevate a classic.”

“It’s safe to say Doja Cat can do no wrong,” praises R Dub!, who helms programming for Pop Airplay reporter XHTZ San Diego, which played “Vegas” 56 times in the latest tracking week.

He muses that while samples can help fast-track listeners’ bonds with songs, depending on age (of both listeners and songs), any artistic creation is new to you if you haven’t previously experienced it. (Reboot culture has, of course, also permeated TV and film, while music, long before the latest group of hits, already sported a long history of reinterpretations, including, notably, in hip-hop.)

“As for the ‘You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog’ lyric, it’s the classic what’s-old-is-new cliché. It’s why Surf Mesa’s ‘ily’ did so well,” R Dub! says, citing the No. 2 Pop Airplay hit, featuring Emilee, in 2020 that revives the “I love you, baby” hook of Frankie Valli’s 1967 favorite “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” “These classic lyrics are brand new to much of our audience. I remember being a kid and sharing Al B. Sure!’s [1990 cover of] ‘Hotel California’ with my dad and being surprised when he sang along: How the heck did my dad know Al B. Sure!? As a 14-year-old, I had no clue about the [1977 rock staple] from the Eagles.”

R Dub! adds that the current run of interpolations “reminds me of the ’90s, when [so many] hip-hop hits sampled ’70s and ’80s music,” from Al B. Sure! to such 1997 Hot 100 No. 1s as Puff Daddy and Faith Evans’ “I’ll Be Missing You” (featuring 112), which updates The Police’s 1983 ballad “Every Breath You Take” – and which followed his “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” (featuring Mase), which interpolates Matthew Wilder’s 1984 hit “Break My Stride,” Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” from 1979, and more.

“We’ll see how long the trend lasts,” R Dub! says.

Mark Anderson, Audacy vp of programming overseeing Pittsburgh’s Pop Airplay reporter WBZZ, which played “Vegas” 98 times last week, says, “Anything that gets our audience fired up about current pop music is a good thing.” He feels that it’s “for the audience to decide” if too many reworkings of older songs cause listener tune-out.

“Not too many interpolations for me,” says Erik Bradley, assistant program director-music director at WBBM-FM Chicago, also pointing out the latest such Pop Airplay hit: Elton John and Britney Spears’ “Hold Me Closer,” which debuts at No. 30 on the Sept. 3 chart. The new mash-up blends the chorus of John’s 50-year-old “Tiny Dancer” and the verses of his 30-year-old “The One.” “Familiarity,” Bradley says, “always is a bonus.”

Meanwhile, one location especially welcoming of “Vegas” is in Mississippi – Presley’s home state.

“‘Vegas’ is a great record for the sound of Y101 for a few different reasons,” explains Matt Mony, WYOY Jackson, Miss., pd. The station played the song 42 times in the Aug. 22-28 tracking week. “While it naturally has pop appeal because it’s Doja Cat, the ‘Hound Dog’ sample really gives us something that stands out on the air. With the anniversary of Elvis’ death [Aug. 16] and so many people here visiting Tupelo [where Presley was born], we truly got a summertime hit that felt like it belonged to Mississippi. It all came together at the right time.

“As far as interpolations go,” says Mony, “I’m loving hearing some fun samples in our playlist. This has been a unique year for pop music so far, with Kate Bush, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ getting new life, Elvis on the radio through Doja Cat, Elton John back with Britney … I think it’s proving pop music can come in many sounds, and it’s giving top 40 radio the opportunity to embrace variety.”