Pop Songs Based on Broadway

10 Popular Songs that Borrow from Broadway Songs

While there are many differences between the realm of musical theatre music and other popular music genres, they’re often more related than originally meets the eye (or ear). Musical sampling is the direct reuse of a portion of a sound recording in another recording. While Broadway’s influence on popular music is only sometimes seen through true sampling, plenty of popular music songs turn to Broadway tunes for inspiration, be it by borrowing title, melody, lyrics, themes, or any combination of elements. So the next time you’re jamming out to any of these songs, remember their roots and be thankful for the universal influence of showtunes.

“Hard Knock Life” by Jay-Z (1998) — “Hard Knock Life” from Annie

Jay-Z’s 1998 “Ghetto Anthem” takes a direct approach at sampling Annie’s “It’s a Hard Knock Life.” Not only is the title of Jay-Z’s song a near replica of the Broadway tune’s title, but Jay-Z also infuses a pitch-modified sample of the song “It’s the Hard Knock Life” from the actual 1977 musical soundtrack of Annie. Needless to say, the lyrics and melody of the tune remain the same, as well as the original (slightly re-tuned) voices of the children who played the orphans on Broadway.

“Anything” by Jay-Z (1999) — “I’d Do Anything” from Oliver

One year after Jay-Z sampled “It’s a Hard Knock Life” in his song “Hard Knock Life,” he brought Broadway back into his music, directly sampling Oliver’s “I’d Do Anything” in his own 1999 song, “Anything.” His song samples the 1968 soundtrack from the movie version of the musical between each verse. Each break features the same segment of the original song,  “I’d risk everything, For one kiss — everything, Yes, I’d do anything…Anything?!, Anything for you!” The segment loops several times at the end of the song.

“Big Spender” by Missy Elliott (2002) – “Big Spender” from Sweet Charity

Another popular song that directly samples from Broadway is Missy Elliot’s 2002 song “Big Spender.” In addition to the exact replica of the title, her “Big Spender” samples the background tracking of Sweet Charity’s “Big Spender,” as well as a snippet of the original 1966 Broadway cast singing the lyrics “Hey big spender…spend a little time with me” interspersed throughout her rap verses.

“Popular Song” (2003) by MIKA feat. Ariana Grande — “Popular” from Wicked

The 2003 MIKA song featuring Ariana Grande heavily features Wicked’s “Popular.” The melody of MIKA’s chorus is taken straight from the chorus of the Broadway song, and the lyrics are a close match, revised from variations of “Popular, I’ll help you be popular!, You’ll hang with the right cohorts, You’ll be good at sports, Know the slang you’ve got to know. So let’s start, ‘Cause you’ve got an awfully long way to go!” toPopular, I know about popular, It’s not about who you are or your fancy car, You’re only ever who you were, Popular, I know about popular, And all that you have to do, is be true to you, That’s all you ever need to know, So catch up, ’cause you got an awful long way to go.”

“Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani (2004) — “If I Were A Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof

In addition to borrowing the themes and a variation of the title from Fiddler on the Roof’s “If I Were a Rich Man,” Gwen Stefani uses the melody of the Broadway song in the chorus of her pop hit. She revises the lyrics from the original “If I were a rich man, Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum., All day long I’d biddy biddy bum. If I were a wealthy man” to If I was a rich girl, Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, See, I’d have all the money in the world, if I was a wealthy girl.” On top of the melodic and thematic similarities, she also mimics the use of nonsense syllables.

“Wind It Up” by Gwen Stefani (2006) — “The Lonely Goatherd” from The Sound of Music

Gwen Stefani came back to Broadway for inspiration for her 2006 song, “Wind It Up,” which she opens by singing a variation of The Sound of Music’s “The Lonely Goatherd.” She sings the melody and slightly revised — though largely thematically similar — lyrics: “High on the hills with the lonely goatherd, Lay-od-lay-od- lay-he-hoo, He yodelled back with the girl and goatherd, Lay-od-lay-od-low.” She also samples the orchestral backing of the track under her “wind it up” chorus and continues singing the yodeling melody throughout the track.

“I Got Money” by Young Jeezy ft. T.I. (2006) — “The Phantom of the Opera” from The Phantom of the Opera

Young Jeezy borrows the iconic organ pattern from the overture to The Phantom of the Opera in his 2006 song “I Got Money.” He layers the organ pattern periodically in the background of his rapping, interspersed with other variations of an organ accompaniment. The pattern is heard most prominently at the very beginning of the song.

“Build God, Then We’ll Talk” by Panic! At The Disco (2007) – “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music

Panic! At The Disco takes a different approach through musical parody in their 2007 song “Build God, Then We’ll Talk,” in which they borrow — and twist — the lyrics of The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things.” Instead of the original “Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, Silver-white winters that melt into springs, These are a few of my favorite things,” Panic! sings “There are no raindrops on roses and girls in white dresses, It’s sleeping with roaches and taking best guesses, At the shade of the sheets and before all the stains, And a few more of your least favorite things,” in their pop-punk, emo-alternative anthem. Uniquely, Panic! does not maintain the original melody, but simply alludes to the song through the lyrics.

“Mama Said” by Lukas Graham (2015) — “Hard Knock Life” from Annie

Another integration of Annie’s “Hard Knock Life,” appears in Lukas Graham’s “Mama Said,” which features the melody of “Hard Knock Life” in the chorus of his song, but modifies the lyrics from the original “It’s a hard-knock life for us, It’s a hard-knock life for us, ‘Stead of treated, We get tricked, ‘Stead of kisses, We get kicked, It’s the hard-knock life” to “When mama said that is was okay, Mama said that is was quite alright, Our kind of people had a bed for the night, And it was okay, Mama told us that we were good kids, And daddy told us never listen to the ones, Pointing nasty fingers and making fun, ‘Cause we were good kids.”

“7 rings” by Ariana Grande (2019) – “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music

Unlike Panic! At The Disco, Ariana borrows the melody of the family favorite “My Favorite Things,” in her 2019 hit “7 Rings.” Though she very directly uses the melody of the verses of the original Broadway tune as the verses in her pop song, she modifies the lyrics entirely with only one reference to the original lyrics in the first verse, where she sings “Buy myself all of my favorite things,” a close revision of the original “There are a few of my favorite things.” The title “7 rings” also cleverly rhymes with the Broadway tune’s title.