Why Were There So Many Samples on the Charts This Year?
This story is part of Billboard's annual Year In Music package, which identifies and explores the major music trends and industry stories that defined 2022.
In an increasingly diffuse, streaming-dominated pop landscape, it’s harder than ever to cut through with a smash single that captures everyone’s attention. But one method proved a fairly effective shortcut to success in 2022: lifting an instantly recognizable chorus, hook or beat — and sometimes all three — from a proven older hit. “Familiarity always is a bonus,” WBBM-FM Chicago music director/assistant program director Erik Bradley told Billboard in August of the glut of second-hand hits. Here are five songs that went big with their samples and interpolations this year and were rewarded with big results.
Harlow scored his first-ever solo No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 — and the year’s biggest first-week streaming total, until Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero” passed it a half-year later — with his extensively TikTok-teased “First Class.” The celebratory jam’s title comes from its sampled hook, a repurposing of Fergie’s pop-rap smash “Glamorous,” also a Hot 100 chart-topper back in 2007. The former Black Eyed Pea gave Harlow’s update her seal of approval in August at the MTV Video Music Awards, making a surprise appearance during his performance to belt out her original chorus.
Though Rick Astley’s signature song originally topped the Hot 100 back in 1988 — eight years before viral MC Yung Gravy was even born — the song still packs a sentimental punch for listeners of Gravy’s generation due to its mid-’00s “memeification.” The rising rapper took advantage of that with “Betty (Get Money),” whose beat is built around the sweeping synth strings of Astley’s ’80s classic and whose hook swipes its infectious chorus melody. Despite being a virtual soundalike, though, it wasn’t a direct sample: “We basically remade the whole song [with] a different singer and instruments,” Yung Gravy told Billboard in August, “because it makes it easier [to clear] legally.”
DJ Khaled made no secret of the disco-era inspiration for his star-studded “Staying Alive” single; not only does Drake sing a modified version of the refrain from the Bee Gees’ 1977 classic, but Khaled appears in a Saturday Night Fever-ready white jacket on the single cover. That’s where the similarities between the versions mostly end, though, as Khaled’s version eschews the Bee Gees’ dancefloor strut for a darker, grittier trap beat. Regardless, the interpolation helped the revived “Alive” nearly match the original’s Hot 100-topping success, debuting and peaking at No. 5 on the chart.
It’s a formula that has worked before for Nicki Minaj, with her No. 2-peaking 2014 Hot 100 smash “Anaconda”: Take the widely recognizable hook from a still-beloved pop classic praising a particularly eye-popping female (in that case, Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”) and reframe it to own the narrative. This time, it worked even better: “Super Freaky Girl” prominently sampled the beat and post-chorus of Rick James’ 1981 funk standard “Super Freak” and soared past that song’s No. 16 chart peak to become Minaj’s first Hot 100 No. 1 as an unaccompanied lead artist.
The timing of this smash must have confused the two veteran hitmakers as much as anyone: After being recorded (and spun by Guetta during live sets) in the mid-2010s, Guetta and Rexha’s EDM banger, borrowing the synth and chorus melody to Eiffel 65’s turn-of-the-century surprise hit, had gone unreleased for a half-decade. But after the collaboration was teased on TikTok to fan-tantalizing effect, it was finally released in August, later becoming both artists’ first top 40 hit of the 2020s, climbing into the top 10 on the Hot 100.
This story originally appeared in the Dec. 10, 2022, issue of Billboard.