Cheap Imitation became something of a departure for Cage, because it was his first "proper" composition, in the old sense of the word, since 1962. Furthermore, the open declaration of Cage's own feelings (about Satie's work) was something very unusual for his work, which was, since the late 1940s, almost entirely impersonal. Cage himself was well aware of the contradiction between the rest of his works and Cheap Imitation:
In the rest of my work, I'm in harmony with myself [...] But Cheap Imitation clearly takes me away from all that. So if my ideas sink into confusion, I owe that confusion to love. [...] Obviously, Cheap Imitation lies outside of what may seem necessary in my work in general, and that's disturbing. I’m the first to be disturbed by it.