Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Williams, Justin A. “‘This Year’s Model’: Toward a Sloanist Theory of Popular Music Production.” The Musical Quarterly 105 (December 2022): 320-56.

Sloanism, the commercial philosophy of producing and selling an “updated” consumer good before the end of the original product’s life cycle, can be applied to certain practices in the popular music industry whereby existing songs are consciously updated with a new production, new artist, or new genre. Sloanism is named after Alfred P. Sloan, president of General Motors from 1923 to 1956, who pioneered annual models, trade-ins, and planned obsolescence in the automotive industry to drive production and consumption. In the music industry, Sloanism is particularly evident in the 1980s and 1990s due to a confluence between new technologies, genres, and copyright-based commercial strategies. The mid-1980s production team of Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Pate Waterman (SAW), whose many hits collectively sold over 40 million records, exemplify musical Sloanism in their repurposing of existing songs. For example, Kylie Minogue’s The Locomotion (1988), produced by SAW, is a Eurobeat cover of Little Eva’s The Loco-Motion (1962). While not strictly a cover song, Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation (1989), produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, is structurally based on Sly and the Family Stone’s Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) (1969). Jam and Lewis similarly update Sly’s funk sound into their synth-heavy style of “new jack swing.” In the 1990s, examples of Sloanism can be found in the trend of “rap cover versions” of older pop songs, wherein the original hook is retained in the chorus, but the verses are replaced with rap vocals. Will Smith is the rapper most strongly associated with this practice; most of his late-1990s hits, including the film tie-ins Men in Black and Wild Wild West, are Sloanist updates. Sloanism as an intertextual category overlaps with—but still crucially differs from—retroism as described by Simon Reynolds. Both deal with cultural fixation on material from the past, but retroism does not differentiate between recreating musical styles and repackaging “upgraded” musical products. While a Sloanist theory of music production only accounts for a specific kind of musical reworking, it demonstrates the relationship between musical material and modes of production.

Sources: Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff (songwriters), Mariah Carey (performer): All I Want For Christmas Is You (320-21, 327); Michael McDonald, Ed Sanford, Jerry Leiber, and Mike Stoller (songwriters), Michael McDonald (performer): I Keep Forgettin (328-29); Hank Ballard (songwriter), Chubby Checker (performer): The Twist (330); Gerry Goffin and Carole King (songwriters), Little Eva (performer): The Loco-Motion (331-32); Sly and the Family Stone: Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) (332-34); James Mtune: Juicy Fruit (335); Sting (songwriter), The Police: Every Breath You Take (335); Led Zeppelin: Kashmir (335-36); Patrice Rushen, Freddie Washington, and Terri McFaddin (songwriters), Patrice Rushen (performer): Forget Me Nots (336); Stevie Wonder: I Wish (336); Leon Sylvers, Stephen Shockley, William Skelby (songwriters), The Whispers (performers): And the Beat Goes On (336); Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers (songwriters), Sister Sledge (performer): He's the Greatest Dancer (336); Bill Withers and Grover Washington Jr.: Just the Two of Us (336); Charles Fox, Norman Gimbel (songwriters), Roberta Flack (performer): Killing Me Softly with His Song (337).

Index Classifications: 1900s, 2000s, Popular

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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