WXTJ Writes! by Grace Guinan: “An Obsessive Search for Song Lyrics Referencing Other Songs”

There are many ways to categorize music (verified by Reddit’s r/weirdspotifyplaylists) and recently I have become obsessed with a specific categorization: songs that reference other songs.  Music is always referencing other music, with samples being obvious examples.  But, more abstractly, all artists create music that is influenced by their predecessors.  Sometimes the lines can blur, like when Taylor Swift was recently awarded a songwriting credit on Olivia Rodrigo’s album.    

For my categorization, I am not interested in those examples.  I am only interested in song lyrics that explicitly mention the name of another song or artist.  It is especially funny to me when an artist sings about listening to another song- there’s something ironic about it (Balenciaga’s T-Shirt Shirt energy).  It can also seem like the artists are giving their fans a fun song recommendation.  Sometimes the songs referenced make perfect sense sonically and sometimes I cannot picture the artist ever listening to the song they’ve referenced. 

Over the past few months, I have searched and searched for songs that reference other songs.  It has been difficult and yet, so rewarding. All the songs I found are in this playlist.  But here are some of my favorites:

artworks-000074653724-jkbs5g-t500x500

“Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae

Probably the most obvious, Corinne Bailey Rae begins her iconic song, “Three little birds sat on my window…” referencing Bob Marley.

Party_in_the_USA

“Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus

An example of when the song reference MAKES the song, Miley Cyrus sings first, “And a Jay-Z song was on…” then, “And a Britney song was on…”

hqdefault

“Springsteen” by Eric Church

A whole song dedicated to Bruce?  Yeah, Eric Church is a fan. He sings, “I’m on fire and I’m born to run…”

a0502330321_10

Berlin” by Adult Mom

Stevie Knipe of Adult Mom sings “In the dorm room we sing Violet by Hole, screaming off our youth…”  An example of a song used to add specificity to a personal memory.

146f35f3c7ecedfccb09c86ba0d8369f.1000x1000x1

“deja vu” by Olivia Rodrigo 

Another example of specificity in songwriting, Olivia Rodrigo sings, “And I bet that she knows Billy Joel ‘cause you played her ‘Uptown Girl’…”  I love this lyric but do not understand it.  Billy Joel is super famous, how would this girl not know about him? Also, I would totally recommend listening to deju vu and Uptown Girl back to back -they are the most jarring pairing I found.  

Rod_Wave_-_By_Your_Side

“By Your Side” by Rod Wave vs “Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White Ts

By Your Side: “Hey there everybody, what’s it like in your city? / I’m a thousand miles way but look, tonight you look so pretty / Yes you do, oh / Times Square couldn’t shine as bright as you “

Hey There Delilah: “Hey there, Delilah, what’s it like in New York City? / I’m a thousand miles away, but girl, tonight, you look so pretty / Yes you do / Times Square can’t shine as bright as you” 

 

By Grace Guinan, who is a cohost of Goodness Gracious, Fridays 8-10 pm. ” Check her out on Spotify! @gracesguinan

WXTJ Writes! is brought to you by a team of 25 wonderful writers for the spring of 2022 and beyond. Our mission is to make our website come alive by diving even deeper into some of our favorite music — so get ready to talk music, media, entertainment, the arts, and read special stories told by radio-loving students every week here on wxtj.fm/articles.

 

More Recent Posts

  • WXTJ Writes! by Libby Eveland: “A Review of Roman Candle by Elliot Smith”

    It’s hard to critique an Elliott Smith album. What does one even say? Any critique would be a knock against Smith’s artistry. Each album Smith has made has been a testament to the events circling his life, and his debut album, Roman Candle, is no different. With limited access to instruments and recording equipment, Smith […]

  • WXTJ Writes! by David Christle: “A Shot in the Dark: Exploring the CDs of WXTJ”

    In a world where Spotify algorithms and corporate-owned stations shape our music tastes, college radio remains an outpost for the underground. Around the country, the freedoms of university and listener funding combine with the unconventional, and perhaps only slightly pretentious, tastes of music-obsessed college students to create a space where even the most obscure artist […]

  • WXTJ Writes! by Grace Duregger: “Meeting Mazie”

    This past summer I had the privilege of talking to mazie — a 22-year-old singer-songwriter who is taking the music world, and maybe even the political one at that, by storm. While she is legally known as Grace Christian, her stage name ‘mazie’ takes inspiration from her great grandmother’s name (which I think is equally […]

  • WXTJ Writes by Alice Cormier: “Childhood Magic & Fleetwood Mac”

    [DJ: You used to think you were a witch?] “Yes.”  – Stevie Nicks, WEGQ FM Eagle 93.7 , May 21, 1998 When I was a kid, my best friend and I played with fairies. I collected leaves, bugs and rocks, making potions and spells with handfuls of earth. One night, I hid from my cat […]