Year-End Lists \

The 50 Best Samples, Covers and References of 2014

The best links from some of this year's greatest songs to the rest of pop history

30. NEW SONG: Strand of Oaks, “Pink Rabbits”
SONG COVERED: The National, “Pink Rabbits” (2013)

The National’s original was the secret highlight of the gauzy Trouble Will Find Me, but Timothy Showalter’s 808s-and-heartbreak synth-pop version might have poked its head out to listeners even quicker. When a harmonized wall of Showalters bemoans, “You said it would be painless,” you genuinely feel guilty for letting the dude down. D.W.

29. NEW SONG: Beyoncé feat. Nicki Minaj, “Flawless (Remix)”
SONG REFERENCED: OutKast, “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” (1998)

There’s no real reason why “Flawless (Remix)” should take a mid-song smoke break to dip into the hook to OutKast’s late-’90s classic, but when Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj want to invoke the regal majesty of the greatest horn riff in hip-hop history, we smile, nod, and dare not question. A.U.

28. NEW SONG: ScHoolboy Q, “Prescription / Oxymoron”
SONG SAMPLED: Portishead, “Undenied” (1997)

Portishead’s eternally gloomy “Undenied” is the only thing dark enough to underscore ScHoolboy Q’s own personal seven-minute downward spiral, where “I just stopped selling crack today” actually leads to a far more menacing turn of events. D.W.

27. NEW SONG: Lana Del Rey, “The Other Woman”
SONG COVERED: Nina Simone, “The Other Woman” (1959)

Most of Del Rey’s psychedelically sad Ultraviolence deals with the realization that she’s fed up being “the other woman.” So why not close it by covering an unlikely kindred spirit’s lament of the same name? A chanteuse gotta do what a chanteuse gotta do. D.W

26. NEW SONG: Action Bronson, “Easy Rider”
SONG SAMPLED: Mazhar Ve Faut, “Ad?m?z M?sk?nder B?z?m” (1974)

Nothing like finding the perfect soundtrack for riding your Harley off into the sunset midway through a Turkish psychedelic deep cut from 40 years ago. Next time Slash wants to play a guitar solo alone in the desert, tell him to hit up Party Supplies for the backing track. A.U.

25. NEW SONG: Duck Sauce, “NRG”
SONG SAMPLED: Melissa Manchester, “Energy” (1985)

If you ever doubted that “Cheese” was Duck Sauce’s middle name, it won’t take more than one listen to their amped-up reworking of adult contemporary standby Melissa Manchester’s synth-pop flop “Energy” — turning it into the year’s most undeniable cornball dance-floor anthem — to be forever convinced. Duck Cheese Sauce, then: Probably gross, possibly delicious. A.U.

24. NEW SONG: One Direction, “Steal My Girl”
SONG REFERENCED: Journey, “Faithfully” (1983)

Pounding Steinmanesque piano, a love that endures the scrutiny of millions, a glimpse of the pressures of megastardom — hold up, that last one’s just Journey. In the Tumblr Age, there’s little need to play the pop star on record: hit your musical marks, reach those audience quadrants, and pull faces in interviews. The pity in “Faithfully” is redirected from the self to all those poor saps with their cartoon tongues on the floor; 1D’s piano hammers out triumph instead of constancy. The striking compositional similarities may or may not be coincidental, but the six writers of “Steal My Girl” know what gets those lighters up. B.S.

23. NEW SONG: The Afghan Whigs, “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”
SONG COVERED: The Police, “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” (1981)

Stomping and crawling like he insists his lovers always make him do, Greg Dulli doesn’t sound at all happy on his rendition of the Police classic, with the guitars chiming like church bells at a wake. “Every little thing she do just turn me on,” he realizes, probably too late. D.W.

22. NEW SONG: Hot Chip, “Go Bang”
SONG COVERED: Dinosaur L, “Go Bang” (1982)

Hard to choose just one of the covers from Yep Roc’s awesome two-disc tribute album, Red Hot + Arthur Russell, filled with winning, inventive homages to the versatile composer from Robyn, Scissor Sisters, and Sufjan Stevens. Best of all, though, may have been electro-pop goofballs Hot Chip’s spin on the left-field disco classic “Go Bang.” The London electro-poppers take an already rubbery and sprawling near-eight-minute jam and making it an even bigger “Bang,” 11 minutes of spaced-out grooves, silly sound effects, mid-song sidebars and fake endings. Hot Chip are hardly known for their stodginess, but it’s still tough to remember the last time it sounded like they were having this much fun. A.U.

21. NEW SONG: A$AP Ferg feat. Big Sean, “Ja Rule”
SONG SAMPLED: Ja Rule feat. Vita, “Put It On Me” (2000)

References to Jeffrey Atkins singing will never not be hilarious, so Ferg coulda just left the chorus to this one as “Fuck around and sing like I’m Ja Rule” and it’d be plenty awesome. But he had to go and double down on it by actually sampling Ja croaking, “WHAT WUUUD I BE WITHOUT MAH BAAYYYY-BEHHHHH??” from “Put It On Me” in the background, just in case anyone had forgotten the inimitable sound of that sweet, sweet baritone. Oh 2000, how we (occasionally) miss you. A.U.