Embrace Your Unoriginality

Are We Running Out of Ideas?

By: Olivia Frasca

Recurring trends can be found in today’s music, fashion, and art. (Credit: Vanityfair.com)

Most people can agree that originality is the ability to think creatively and uniquely. College students are often pressured to stand out from the crowd and to think outside the box, especially when the time comes to apply for internships and jobs.

But is an idea ever completely original? Virtually every new idea is built off of pre-existing ideas. Sliced bread, antibiotics, and electric cars are just a few forms of innovation that arose out of need from society.

But by 2019 we seem to be running out of ideas. Chances are that the original idea you have in mind has been done before, many times.

The Guardian has a similar take: “For there truly is nothing new under the sun, or not entirely new, anyway. Originality does not burst from an artist’s head like an alien entity, but is a subtle game of variations and transformations out of which, once in a while, comes the shudder of true artistic surprise.”

Ever notice how every pop song seems to sound the same, or that most songs from a certain time period has a specific rhythm? Besides using similar chords, many artists tend to produce a popular song because it has that catchy tune that people are familiar with.

Some artists look to classic tracks to add flair to their own music. Ariana Grande’s “Break Your Heart Right Back” features a sample from Diana Ross’ hit song, “I’m Coming Out” from 1980. Mariah Carey’s 1991 “Emotions” was also sampled on Drake’s “Emotionless.”

Ross and Carey’s iconic tracks, though released decades earlier and known by millions, add a creative twist to these modern songs.

The most famous battle of copyrighted music is between Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby.” Queen and Bowie’s classic features a catchy bass line that was used many years later in Ice’s song.

According to Rolling Stone, although Ice paid the price for this infringement, “Some argue that isn’t enough to make up for the potential credibility lost by Queen and David Bowie, who are now linked to him through a collaboration they had no choice in joining.”

Designers strive to be original in fashion too. Unique outfits are most likely influenced by another era.

Denim, for example, became essential for women during World War II. Women wore overalls or high waisted jeans as a safety precaution while on the job.

70 years later and denim is a flattering addition to any outfit. Mom jeans, oversized denim jackets, scrunchies, chokers, and fanny packs are recurring fashion trends. Vintage clothing emulates an original look and is traced back to past decades.

It is hard to be original when nearly everything has been done already. This allows for appropriation to occur, which can diminish the value and intent of an artist’s work.

The skateboard brand Supreme has been caught stealing artists’ work, namely that of conceptual artist Barbara Kruger. Most of Kruger’s 1980s art featured white Futura Bold font letters inside a red box, just like Supreme’s famous logo.

“However, Kruger’s work also explicitly and implicitly questions the way we relate to one another within the structures of capitalism, advertising and patriarchy . . . and this is where Supreme’s use of her style becomes a misappropriation,” says Heroine.

Kruger’s art is meant to question the status quo. Supreme’s appropriation of this style contradicts her artwork entirely, as the designer brand relies on sales from mainstream buyers. Just like Queen and Bowie’s tie to Ice’s song, Kruger is involuntarily associated with Supreme and her original message is clouded.

Originality is really a matter of interpretation. According to BusinessInsider, “While many familiar thoughts circulate through generations, what remains original, and ultimately distinctive is the filter through which our ideas are processed and shared.”

If you’re looking for originality, look in the mirror. Your individual voice, influenced by your upbringing and experiences, is the most original thing you can offer.

If you admire a certain artist, style, or look, take inspiration from it. But most importantly, give credit where credit is due.

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