Battle of the Saxes (Ariana Grande vs. Jason Derulo vs. Macklemore vs. Wild Sugar)

It has come to my attention from various sources that there is a saxophone epidemic on our hands. I think the interesting thing about it is that the saxophone has always played an odd role in pop music. You have your Kenny G., the late Clarence Clemons (of  Bruce Springstein’s outfit), INXS’s Kirk Pengilly and a slew of other sunglass-wearing guys swaying in the background waiting for their time in the spotlight. I never really thought the saxophone was consider cool in rock and hip-hop but somehow it creeps in there from time to time. Is it making a comeback?

So I can’t decipher if today’s artists are using this instrument ironically in their music or not (I’m guessing a yes for Macklemore).

Let’s have a listen to some saxophone soundalikes:
(note: one of the producers on “Problem” is Max Martin. He has made numerous appearances on this site)

Ariana Grande - "Problem" (2014)
Macklemore - "Thrift Shop" (2012)

Some similarities here as well:

Jason Derulo - "Talk Dirty" (2013)

In a previous post I compared Macklemore vs. Le1f

Le1f - "Wut" (April 2012)

Macklemore - "Thrift Shop" (August 2012)

I thought it was fitting to bring The Beastie Boys into the mix. Their  song “Brass Monkey” features a sample from Wild Sugar. I included them both here:

Wild Sugar - "Bring it Here" (1981)
Beastie Boys - "Brass Monkey" (1986)

And finally in I thought there was a hint of the melody and rhythm of C&C Music Factory’s famous track in Grande’s riff.

C N C Music Factory - "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" (1990)
Ariana Grande - "Problem" (2014)

Attention! If you want to listen to 10 hours of THE MOST EPIC SAX OF ALL
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Also worth checking out:
“The 25 most awesome saxophone songs of all time” at DeathAndTaxes

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18 Replies to “Battle of the Saxes (Ariana Grande vs. Jason Derulo vs. Macklemore vs. Wild Sugar)”

    1. Mark Adams

      Yes, I noticed it too, but it seems to be a legit sample. Sir Mix-a-Lot said in an article that people expected him to be mad about the song, but he’s pleased. I don’t if he’s meant to be mad because he hadn’t given permission, but maybe what was actually meant was that he might be annoyed to have given her such a hit, like one of my lecturers at TAFE said the members of Canned Heat must have been pretty annoyed about Bryan Ferry’s Let’s Stick Together because it was a bigger hit than the original, but I have to say that it’s another opportunity to benefit from their song and “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.

  1. Eleanor J Calder

    Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop vs. Doug E. Fresh – La Di Da Di vs. Rihanna – Pour It Up
    Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball vs. Gary Moore – Always Gonna Love You vs. Undo – Sanna Nielsen vs. [Roar – Katy Perry vs. Sara Bareilles – Brave]
    Miley Cyrus – Adore You vs. Rihanna – Loveeeeeee Song

  2. Concerned Citizen

    It’s important you know that Jason Derulo’s Talk Dirty saxophone solo is a SAMPLE of Balkan Beat Box’s track “Hermetico”, which was released way back in 2007, aka BEFORE ‘Thrift Shop’.

    While I don’t actually see the resemblance, it’s important to clarify so there’s no confusion.
    I also suggest maybe using sites like whosampled to research your posts, as so many similar tunes might actually turn out to be covers or samples.

    1. Keith Post author

      Hey, thanks for your tip on the Derulo track. 99% of the time I do my research to make sure nothing on the site is based on samples. I admit I got a little lazy with this one but wasn’t too focused on the similarity in the melodies, but more on the general idea of using saxophone loops in pop music.
      As a side note I’ve been running this site by myself and before even existed.

      1. Concerned Citizen

        Fair enough. I didn’t mean to offend or anything. I enjoy your blog very much.
        This particular track really annoys me as someone who knew the original track before because people are familiar with the solo more than the rest of the song, and attribute it to Derulo even though that part is totally unchanged.
        Just before I commented I searched the track on google and the first article was about a Klesmer cover of Jason Derulo’s Talk Dirty, which is like playing the melody to Dido’s Thank You and calling it a cover to Eminem’s Stan… the only difference is, Dido was credited in Eminem’s song.

        1. Mark Adams

          And this part of Tradition from Fiddler on the Roof (1964). I know it’s meant to sound Russian, but it’s meant to sound like the music of the Russian Jews or Yiddish people and thus probably owes a lot to Israeli music. Talk Dirty probably sounds like any Middle Eastern sounding tune. BTW, as you mentioned Eminem, here’s an article about him applying for a lawsuit.

      2. Haasey

        If this page is gonna be littered with saxophones, might as well include Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street and George Michael – Careless Whisper.

  3. Mark Adams

    I can also hear the riff from Ain’t No Sunshine (1971) in Problem, just sped up.

    Also, if you’re interested in the history of the saxophone, it was originally used for marching bands, I think, before classical composers used it. It then began to be used by jazz musicians, and from what I’ve read, Louis Jordan, who made use of sax, invented Jump Blues by combining Jazz and Blues and by the late 1940s, this developed into rhythm and blues, which was then combined with country and to a lesser extent gospel and boogie woogie to form rock ‘n’ roll, but it may be more correct to say R&B and rock ‘n’ roll developed together, because there are over 50 different candidates for the first rock ‘n’ roll song, ranging from 1929-1951.

    Saxes could be found in early rock ‘n’ roll songs and Supertramp used it in the ’70s on songs such as The Logical Song (1979), which may have in part been due to the revival of classic rock ‘n’ roll by bands such as Creedence, who used it in the background on songs such as Travelin’ Band (1970), but gave it a solo on songs such as Long As I Can See the Light (1970) and John Fogerty also used it his solo career. All this before INXS and then they inspired another Aussie band, The Models, to use sax. Saxes are also an important part of a soul band and from there into funk, invented by the great James Brown and maybe into hip hop.

    Pop I don’t know about, but during the Jazz Age it borrowed from Jazz, as it always borrows from the popular style of the era, which is probably why it is still popular, and from rock ‘n’ roll by the ’70s, probably partially to keep it relevant and partially because the new pop stars grew up listening to rock ‘n’ roll and liked it, then from disco in the late ’70s and ’80s and now hip hop (or is that contempory r’n’b and not pop).

    1. Mark Adams

      And I forgot to mention that the reason sax was used in Jazz was that the Jazz clubs were getting bigger and in the days before amplification, the violins could be heard throughout the club and saxophone, surprisingly, was the closest instrument in terms of sound. If you ask me, it’s a bit of a ‘Straits of Massachusetts’ closeness and if you’ve seen Family Ties, you’ll know what I’m talking about. One more thing, Redfoo’s new single, New Thang, also uses sax and as bad as he is, when you put all of these songs together, you do get the impression of a trend, but maybe that’s only because we’re not thinking about the songs which don’t have a sax featured.

  4. Eleanor J Calder

    Taylor Swift – Shake it Off vs. Avril Lavigne – The Best Damn Thing
    [Note that: Shake it Off uses saxophone, and has also been compared to Thrift Shop & Pharrell’s Happy].


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