Time was people once actually had to remember things — imagine! But armed with a modern smartphone and a web connection, any human able to prod at a keyboard lurking underneath glass can become a cyborg armed with all of the world’s knowledge, and never be wrong about anything ever again. At least for a given value of ‘never be wrong’, which often equates to ‘never be wrong, although only from the point of view of crowdsourced information, which might occasionally actually be very wrong’. But anyway.
Whereas years ago you’d have had to suffer the sheer horror of not knowing the song a riff in a modern pop tune originated from (possibly requiring conversation and/or attempting to rifle through your entire record collection in one frantic evening), WhoSampled now provides you with an insanely large browsable database of who pilfered from who.
An encyclopedia of musical borrowings
At its core, the concept might not seem terribly interesting, not least when you discover every song you loved in your youth has been unceremoniously welded to a terrible brainless pop track by a teenage warbler. But on delving deeper into WhoSampled, it really does become an engrossing encyclopaedia of musical connections. Although you can easily enough rummage through artists and tracks the app deems ‘hot’, ‘most influential’, or ‘most connected’, you can also search to find your favourite tracks and artists, to discover how their music has been used (or the music they used).
On pulling up a track, you’ll see sample, cover and remix links in relevant directions. Tapping on an individual sample brings up a head-to-head comparison screen, which often enables you to flick between YouTube videos of the two tracks in question. Helpfully, there’s also a prominent ‘buy’ link, to grab songs readily available from online music emporiums.
Cost-free on Android
Originally released for iOS (where it was selected by Apple as an App Store best-of-year), WhoSampled does have a couple of changes for this Android remix. There’s no Now Playing feature for finding musical connections, but this is balanced by the app being bereft of a price tag — at the ‘expense’ of some mildly irritating ads that pop-up now and again.
Given its smart interface, addictive Wikipedia-style endless browsing, and favourites collecting, we’ll happily croon a ‘Download WhoSampled for Android/Or we might get a bit annoyed’ refrain, until our song fades out or someone points out we actually stole that riff from the Rolling Stones. Naughty us.