Jake Bugg might not like to admit it but indie music and pop are not quite standing across the trenches from one another, weapons locked and loaded at one another’s heads. In fact, if you look at some of this year’s biggest chart successes you find a trail leading right back the heart of the indie rock community.
Take Ke$ha’s latest album ‘Warrior’, released this week, for example. The recent news that members of both The Strokes and Black Keys appear on the record certainly raised eyebrows amongst NME.com readers, to say the least. One commenter under our news story perhaps best summed up the feelings of the majority with: “I don‘t get it, how could they?” However, as argued by Nick Levine in his recent blog, ‘Warrior’ is a closet full of rock’n’roll skeletons with both Wayne Coyne and Iggy Pop also popping up along the way.
Perhaps more interesting than Ke$ha playing at being a rock star however are the pop acts taking from the alternative music world and creating huge hit singles with the ingredients. Take P!nk for example. Her track ‘Blow Me (One Last Kiss)’ was a top five hit in the UK back in July but did you notice that the guitar line in the song is lifted from US indie band Modest Mouse’s song ‘Float On’? Now, you wouldn’t normally twin P!nk with Johnny Marr’s former band of blog-approved indie royalty but the song works. Similarly, Robbie Williams catchy/irritating (delete as appropriate) number one ‘Candy’ features a sample from Norse disco don Todd Terje. Rumour has it the request from Robbie’s team to clear the sample of his 2004 track ‘Eurodans’ came so late that Terje doubled his usual fee for the rights. Add this to Christina Aguilera sampling M83 on her new album ‘Lotus’, Plan B lifting from Peter Fox’s ‘Alles Neu’ on ‘iLL Manors’ and Dappy collaborating with Brian bloody May earlier in the year and it’s hard to argue against pop and alternative music being very chummy indeed these past twelve months. If we were the gossiping kind we’d go as far as to say they’re more than just friends.
Of course, pop stars flirting with indie acts is not a brand new sensation. Only last year, Rihanna took The xx‘s ‘Intro’ and used it to form the basis of her song ‘Drunk On Love’ on her ‘Talk That Talk’ album just months after Drake took the Jamie xx remix of Gil Scott Heron’s ‘I’ll Take Care Of U’ for hit single ‘Take Care’.
This begs the question: why exactly are pop stars tasked with creating the next big hit looking to music that traditionally has niche appeal for their inspiration? On the one hand, there is the transparent bid for credibility that has seen many pop stars ditch the glossy press shots for moody lighting and a large dose of serious face throughout the years, but none of the songs mentioned here are exactly Kylie and Nick Cave doing ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’. No, if anything, this trend is merely reflective of the increasing corrosion of genre lines in music. In a world where you can scroll from Rihanna to Radiohead without batting an eyelid it’s increasingly likely that stars of the pop world will be diving into the alternative for inspiration. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you when One Direction reveal they have sampled Ariel Pink and Flying Lotus on their next album.