Music has changed drastically in the 21st century; trends seem to last a matter of months before a new style is thrown into the limelight. New technology and new ideas mean that musicians are using novel means of experimentation to create new music. In this article, I am going to follow the route of one song, released in 2002, and see how it changed and evolved throughout the 21st century.
The song in question is ‘U Don’t Have To Call’ by Usher. It was written by Pharrell and Chad Hugo and released in January 2002. Apparently, it was originally intended for Michael Jackson which, as you will see at the end of this article, would have had a huge butterfly effect. The song did well; it reached No. 3 in US Singles Chart and No. 4 in the UK singles chart and it has 37 million views on YouTube. It helped Usher win a Grammy in 2003 and after this, it went into hibernation.
The song is on YouTube, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AszPTJXIgM
The song rested (and became outdated, especially the music video) until 2014 when Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover, brought it back to life. Looking back at this moment from 2019 is special because we have the ability to appreciate Donald Glover’s many talents. It is only right that this song was brought back by him. Glover released the song with the same title on his mixtape ‘STN MTN / Kauai’ and it received 917,000 views on YouTube. He stripped down the song substantially and made it into something entirely new but the core of the song was still there.
Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSAdEX2f3os
Back in 2015, Mura Masa was the best representation of what music was popular back then. Everyone wanted to get onto the Mura Masa wave of groovy, melodic tunes. Just before he properly blew up with ‘Firefly’ he released his own version of ‘U Don’t Have To Call’ which used Glover’s track. He changed the title to ‘I’ll Be Alright (Tonight)’. It was posted on YouTube by @MajesticCasual and managed to get 3.5 million views.
Then, in 2015, a little-known rapper called Elhae, who is from a town called Minot in North Dakota, got his hands on the song. His new version was posted by the channel @EscapeTracks and it managed to get 1.2 million views. As an up-and-coming rapper, he cleverly used a popular song that was making a resurgence through new musical techniques and used it to boost his own exposure.
Finally, in 2016, the self-proclaimed ‘RnB Prince’, as it says on his SoundCloud page, an artist residing in Arnhem, Netherlands, made his own version of the song. The artist in question goes by the SoundCloud name K9Instrumentals and he has produced 4 songs. The title for his version of our song: ‘Elhae Situations (K9 Bootleg)’. It was simple and effective. His song has nearly 33,000 views on SoundCloud, far more than any other song he has produced. It is even more significant when you learn that he only has 114 followers on SoundCloud. The success of his post can only be attributed to the sheer power of this song. If it was an earthquake it would be a 10.0 on the Richter Scale.
The most remarkable thing about this song is that the version I found first was the K9 Bootleg. I was introduced to the song by a friend and it captivated me, and I couldn’t understand why. Slowly but surely I worked my way back in time and discovered the chain of songs that led from Usher, a mega-famous musician with millions of fans, to K9Instrumentals, a SoundCloud user with 114 followers.
The song is a chain that keeps on growing and adapting to the musical context it finds itself in. The song is a living organism. Even now, as I am writing this article, I have found that other artists (Londrelle – Situations) have sampled one rendition of the song in a way that does not fit into the chain I have described here. Indeed, this song has spawned multiple different narratives. It is like some sort of out of control cryptocurrency using blockchain technology.
I strongly recommend you click on the links I have provided and listen to the development of this amazing song. The sheer adaptability of the music is incredible. For example, the song begins with the title ‘U Don’t Have To Call’ and it becomes ‘I’ll Be Alright (Tonight)’ and then becomes ‘Situations’. Each one of these titles relates to the song in a significant way and none of them is meaningless, they all capture a moment, an idea, a concept within the song that is significant. They each say something different about the artist and his/her creative vision of the song.
Written by Finn Grant