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Iyaz' 'Solo': total Janet Jackson rip-off, or loving tribute?

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R&B upstart Iyaz has already scored a chart-topping smash with the sunny, Caribbean-flecked flashback ditty “Replay”; now he seems poised to do the same with new single “Solo,” a track that riffs on Janet Jackson’s 1993 no. 1 ballad “Again” without directly sampling either the main hook or re-upping the lyrics directly.

Instead, the song just lifts a substantial chunk of Janet’s lilting melody—stream it below:

Countless hooks in R&B and hip-hop are built, of course, on borrowing; you could say Iyaz is just aiming to compete a land of Jason Derulos (whose “Watcha Say” hinges entirely on Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek”) and Jay-Zs (his recent “Young Forever” transposes the title of the 1984 Alphaville song and recasts the hook with friend-of-Kanye Mr. Hudson). And maybe it feels unfair to call him out for not taking enough of the song to make it more than just naggingly familiar.

Iyaz’s publicity openly acknowledges the connection (though they say his song is “set against the backbeat” of “Again,” which isn’t strictly true), but it still feels a little squirrelly, especially considering many of the 22-year-old singer’s young fans probably aren’t familiar with Jackson’s nearly two-decade-old hit.

Undoubtedly, the song will put some residuals cash in Janet’s jumpsuit pocket, and also very likely save Iyaz from one-hit-wonderdom forever. So in the end, it mostly comes down to the listener: Are you bothered by the snake-eating-its-own-tail aspect of songs like these, or is this brand of recycling, as long as it acknowledges the source, just fair play?

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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