Hidden Inspirations: Interpolation and Samples in Today’s Music

Sarah Stukalin

One of the greatest and most unique aspects of music is the ability to recycle it and turn it or integrate it into something else. Some of the most popular modern music, such as Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” or Drake’s “Nice For What,” is known for sampling popular music of past decades. However, some samplings and interpolations go unnoticed, but before we dive into some modern-day musical examples, what exactly is the difference between the two?

Sampling music refers to reusing a portion of a music recording in another recording, while interpolation uses portions of the music, such as specific melodies or harmonies, and integrates them into another portion of music. Interpolation in music is certainly harder to identify, but both sampling and interpolation make for an interesting conversation on the reusability of music, and how universal it truly is. Here are some of my favorite lesser-known samplings and interpolations in today’s music!

The Weeknd’s “Scared To Live” from Elton John’s “Your Song” 


This example is incredibly faint and virtually indetectable without knowing about it beforehand (The Weeknd himself did not even realize until after the fact). The Weeknd interpolates a small portion of Elton John’s melody in “Scared To Live.” When he sings “I hope you know that / I hope you know that,” the melody is incredibly similar to when John sings “I hope you don’t mind / I hope you don’t mind.”

Taylor Swift’s “Champagne Problems” from Carl Perkins’s “Blue Suede Shoes”


Taylor Swift’s “Champagne Problems” has grown famous for being known as one of the most heartbreaking songs of 2020, but what many do not know is she samples lyrics directly from Carl Perkins’s “Blue Suede Shoes” when Swift sings “One for the money, two for the show.”

Tyler The Creator’s “Glitter” from Minnie Riperton’s “Lovin’ You”


“Glitter” interpolates specific points of the melody of “Lovin’ You,” particularly at the beginning of the song when Tyler The Creator sings “Da na na na na / Da na na na na / Da na na na na, my baby.” This is another lesson known interpolation, but listening to the two songs back to back, it becomes obvious.

Dua Lipa’s “Break My Heart” from INXS’s “Need You Tonight”


A more obvious interpolation, Dua Lipa takes the primary melody of “Need You Tonight” and integrates it seamlessly into “Break My Heart.” Listening to the songs back it back, it is obvious Dua Lipa took the melody of “Need You Tonight,” sped it up, and turned it into a pop ballad.