6 Pop songs that Rip Off Classical Music

Kevin Winter / Getty Images for Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest / EA SPORTS BOWL
Kevin Winter / Getty Images for Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest / EA SPORTS BOWL

Musicians have always lifted tunes from each other. Stravinsky borrowed from Tchaikovsky, who rearranged Mozart, who stole from Beethoven, who took local folk songs and made them his own, and on down the line.

Of course, these composers were always pretty creative when it came to thievery. Here are six recent(ish) pop songs that were either influenced by famous classical melodies, or sample actual tunes and use them in the fabric of the song. I leave it up to you to judge whether or not they do justice to the originals.

1. "Coming 2 America" by Ludacris

Released: on the album Word of Mouf (2001)
Stolen from: Mozart's Requiem
And also: Dvorak's Symphony No. 9
More specifically: Mozart's Dies irae; Dvorak: 4th movement (Allegro con fuoco)

Fast Fact: Ludacris' real name is Chris Bridges.

2. "Someone to Call My Lover" by Janet Jackson

Released: on the album All for You (2001)
Stolen from: Gymnopédie No. 1 by Erik Satie
More specifically: Notice how the songwriters took the original tune in 3/4 and rejiggered it to fit the standard 4/4 beat of a pop song.
Fast Fact: Janet Jackson is the only performer to be nominated for the Grammy in Pop, Rock, Dance, Rap and R&B.

3. "Road to Joy" by Bright Eyes

Released: on the album I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning (2005)
Stolen from: Beethoven's 9th Symphony
More specifically: the "Ode to Joy" tune, based on the poem by German writer Friedrich Schiller. (Road/Ode, get it?)
Fast Fact: Beethoven wasn't the only composer who went deaf. Here are 5 others you should know about.

4. "Symphony in X Major" by Xzibit

Released: on the album Man vs. Machine (2002)
Stolen from: Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major
More specifically: the first movement, entitled Allegro

Fast Fact: Bach used his name as a musical theme in one of his greatest works, The Art of the Fugue. In the German system of notation, "˜B' is Bb and "˜H' is B natural, so he was able to use this tune: Bb, A, C, B.

5. "I Can" by Nas

Released: on the album God's Son (2003)
Stolen from: Beethoven's Für Elise
Fast Fact: The Beethoven piece is actually called Bagatelle in A Minor. But he dedicated it to a certain Elise, which is where the more popular title comes from

6. "They" by Jem

Released: on the debut album Finally Woken (2005)
Stolen from: Bach's Prelude in F minor from Book II of the Well-Tempered Clavier
More specifically: the Swingle Singers 1963 adaptation
Fast Fact: Jem is short for Jemma Griffiths.

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More

Apple
Apple

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Apple

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Sony

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Sony

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Martha Stewart

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Jashen

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Evachill

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Gourmia

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Townew

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Noerden

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Prices subject to change.

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11 Facts About House Party for Its 30th Anniversary

Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin in House Party (1990).
Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin in House Party (1990).
New Line Home Video

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the classic coming-of-age comedy House Party. Written and directed by Reginald Hudlin, the movie starred the rap duo Christopher “Kid” Reid and Christopher “Play” Martin of Kid ‘n Play as well as many other recognizable names including Martin Lawrence, A.J. Johnson, Tisha Campbell, Full Force, Robin Harris (who passed away just weeks after House Party was released), and the late John Witherspoon.

Centering the Black teenage experience in a way that had not yet made it into the mainstream, this now-classic comedy proved to Hollywood that the growing interest in Black cinema seen in the late 1980s was not just a fad. The film centers Black joy in a way media still continues to struggle with today, yet its universal appeal has endured even 30 years later. Here are some fun facts about the beloved film.

1. The idea for House Party started with a song.

While he was still a student at Harvard University in the early 1980s, Reginald Hudlin came up with the idea for a short film that would eventually morph into the feature-length House Party after listening Luther Vandross’s 1982 hit "Bad Boy/Having a Party."

"At the time, Black music videos weren’t really a thing, so I would come up with a music video in my head to a song," Hudlin told The Ringer about House Party's origins. "I kept thinking about what that would be, and then I thought: 'No, that’s a movie.'"

2. House Party could have starred Will Smith.

Much like the film itself, the casting process for House Party all started with a song. The song in question? DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince's "A Nightmare on My Street." Due to some legal issues that arose around sampling the music from A Nightmare on Elm Street, the rap duo ended up in a deal that put the House Party script in front of them. When the pair ultimately decided to pass on making the movie, it opened the door for Kid 'n Play to take on the project.

3. Kid ‘n Play met at a real-life house party.

On a 2016 episode of OWN’s Where Are They Now?, Play recalled meeting Kid at a party where he saw him rap. Both were in different groups at the time, with Play going by Playboy and Kid going by Kid Coolout. As time went on their groups broke up, leading the pair to team up and shorten their names to Kid and Play (or Kid 'n Play).

4. The Hudlin brothers have a cameo in House Party.

House Party writer/director Reginald Hudlin and his brother Warrington, who is also a producer on the movie, appeared in front of the camera, too. They played the two burglars who get chased out of the house by the dog.

5. House Party featured a Fly Girl.

A.J. Johnson, who played Sharane—BFF to Tisha Campbell’s Sidney—was a Fly Girl on In Living Color. Based on her dance background and her experiences in university, it was Johnson who suggested adding a dance battle to the film, which ultimately became one of the movie's most memorable moments. Johnson even choreographed her and Campbell’s moves.

6. Tisha Campbell and A.J. Johnson can still do the House Party dance.

Speaking of the iconic dance-off: Johnson and Campbell recreated their House Party routine in 2015 as a surprise for Alicia Keys's birthday party, which was House Party-themed.

7. House Party featured one of Martin Lawrence’s first roles.

Martin Lawrence and Christopher Martin in House Party (1990).New Line Home Video

Martin Lawrence had only appeared in one film, Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, prior to being cast in House Party. He met his future Martin co-star Tisha Campbell while working on House Party.

8. "Ain't My Type of Hype" is not on the House Party soundtrack.

Full Force's "Ain’t My Type of Hype" was the song playing during the iconic dance-off scene, but it is not actually on the movie's official soundtrack. Full Force, the hip-hop group who also played the film’s villains, released the song after the soundtrack was completed and it ended up being one of their biggest hits.

9. There was a lot of improvisation and collaboration on the House Party set.

Robin Harris in House Party (1990).New Line Home Video

Input was taken from the very talented cast assembled: John Witherspoon and Robin Harris improvised most of their lines, and Full Force rewrote their characters to make them more humorous. "We had rehearsals where we would improvise and freestyle and I would incorporate their ideas into the script," Hudlin told Black Film. "You don’t have people that talented and say, 'Stick to the script.' Particularly [when] you’re making a comedy.”

10. House Party launched a film franchise.

House Party has spawned four sequels—House Party 2 (1991), House Party 3 (1994), House Party 4: Down to the Last Minute (2001), and House Party: Tonight's the Night (2013)—though none of them were directed by Hudlin. Kid 'n Play have appeared in all but one of the sequels.

11. LeBron James is producing an all-new House Party.

Harry How/Getty Images

In 2018, The Hollywood Reporter announced that LeBron James and his producing partner Maverick Carter were planning to create a House Party movie for a new generation. But James was clear that the film wouldn't be a retread.

"This is definitely not a reboot," James said. "It's an entirely new look for a classic movie. Everyone I grew up with loved House Party. To partner with this creative team to bring a new House Party to a new generation is unbelievable." Though there is no word whether Kid 'n Play will be reprising their roles, Carter did say that they were "trying out some ideas for musicians to be cast in and to be a part of the project."