I normally enjoy teen-oriented urban dance-pop as much as I enjoy scraping a rusty nail file across my gums. Odd, then, that I should find myself working for this media outlet. In any case, whilst drowsily consuming my daily cup of Cocoa Puffs in ViaCom's cafeteria ("the Lodge") yesterday morning, my ears were perked up by the strains of an immediately familiar hook, but employed in an entirely new fashion. Glancing up at one of the inescapable video monitors, I caught my first glimpse of the ludicrously sexy video for "S.O.S" by youthful Barbados dancehall vixen, Rihanna (she of "Pon De Replay" notoriety, for those of you who keep up with such things). Despite the title, Rihanna's "S.O.S." is not a cover of the heartbreaky Abba classic (from whence the Sex Pistols purportedly stole the riff for "Pretty Vacant"), but rather an original. But what caught my ears were the signature beeps and rapid-fire laser beams (for lack of better descriptions) from Soft Cell's `81 electro-pop classic, "Tainted Love," newly utilized to propell Rihanna's absurdly libidinous grind. While the aging rockist in me would usually snort dismissively and lament the pilferage, I have to confess that I think the usage of Dave Ball's primitive synth arsenal really works for this particular track. I should also point out that the singer in question is an insanely subptuous feast for the eyes, but that really has nothing to do with my appreciation for this song. Honest. For all my ears care, Rihanna could look like Ruth Buzzy so long as she keeps cranking out songs like this one.
Rihanna's not fhe first artist, of course, to borrow the odd hook from out of the dusty New Wave attic. In 2002, Hip Hop producer Timbaland deftly inserted Bob Mothersbaugh's jerky riff from my beloved Devo's "Girl U Want" into Tweet's equally carnal "Oops, Oh My," though manipulated it to the extent that possibly only devoted Spudboys like myself would recognize it (listen for it, Devo nation, it's in there). Massive Attack used a snippet of the Cure's "10:15 Saturday Night" for "Man Next Door" on their suitably gloomy Mezzanine album, and fatuous cheese monkey, Will Smith, brazenly lifted the intro to "Rock the Casbah" by the Clash for "Will 2K," which is unacceptable on more levels than can be quantified (even if it's one of the Clash's least proud moments).
The comparatively recent advent of "mash-ups" has found odd pairings as well, such as the afore-mentioned Tweet track with XTC's "Making Plans for Nigel." UK dance outfit, Moloko, released a mix of their single "Cannot Contain This" which cribbed the keyboards and main riff from Killing Joke's "Love Like Blood". I'd still love to hear some maverick producer really up the ante and use, say, the riff from the Fall's "Cruiser's Creek" or the bassline from "Peaches" by the Stranglers or an Alan Vega scream from Suicide's "Frankie Teardrop" or that gurgling wail (a guitar?) from Throbbing Gristle's "Hamburger Lady." Hell, if Rihanna had used the comparatively sinister hook from Coil's rendering of "Tainted Love" (morphing the Northern Soul classic from bitter break-up song into disquieting funereal dirge) that really would've been something.
In any event, I was surprised to find that Rihanna's track isn't yet available on iTunes, but for those of you whose curiosity I've piqued, you can hear the track -- and see the video -- by clicking right here.