While most music lovers immediately recognize the constant musical references to Haydn and Chopin when listening to the collected works of Britney Spears, many fans are incognizant to the fact that most, if not all of today’s artists cite such esteemed classical composers as Debussy and Handel as major influences driving pop music in the new millennium.

“Just as there’s a direct connection between Vivaldi and Metallica, many of today’s up-and-coming musicians often turn to classical composers for examples of music theory and pacing,” says noted musicologist, Dr. Nigel Tufnel, whose 1995 book, Smells Like Liszt Spirit chronicled the 19th century composer’s influence on the grunge movement that would emerge more than 100 years later. “If only I had two bits for every time a band like Orgy or the Kottonmouth Kings lifted a chord progression from Rinaldi, or a timing signature from Schubert, I’d have a helluva lot of quarters.”

But many music scholars are questioning the use of classical music within the confines of current pop idiom, accusing bands such as blink-182 and artists such as Tim McGraw and Jimmy Buffett as “perpetrators of plagiarism,” who often incorporate snatches of symphonies, concertos, even operas into their own compositions. “It’s quite obvious that ZZ Top owes its success to the classical Romantic Movement of the mid 1800s,” says Oxford professor David St. Hubbins. “As anyone who’s listened to the Texas group’s Tres Hombres album can firmly attest, there’s a direct link from the master’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, to the band’s ‘Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers.’ Especially in the guitar solos.”

Are today’s musicians recycling riffs and hooks from days gone past? Or are the classical musicians of yore merely the “godfathers” of contemporary music? Is John Mayer a reincarnation of Mozart? Is Madonna simply a blonde-haired, 21st century Gustav Mahler who can dance? Furthermore, will today’s audiences continue to relate to their favorite stars once they know that their heroes are firmly entrenched in the music of past?

“What difference does it make?” asks Dr. Tufnel. “From Strauss to Dido, from Busby to Christina Aguilera, all today’s fans demand of popular music is that it has a beat and they can dance to it.”

A beat that you can dance to? And that makes borrowing from classical composers acceptable?

“Let me put it this way,” adds Dr. Tufnel. “It’s only Bach and roll. But I like it.”