Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Two Syllables, Sounds Like: Lounds Sike

Sam Smith always seemed like a pretty swell guy to me. He just proved it in his recent amicable settlement with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. Petty and Lynne will be added as co-writers of the song "Stay With Me" due to its overwhelming similarity to "I Won't Back Down." Hear here. Smith maintains he wasn't familiar with the original song, which is possible, but more likely it existed somewhere in his subconscious a la George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" and the Ronettes' "He's So Fine." Easy breezy settlement this time. It does, however, set an interesting precedent when so much of today's musical output can be described as derivative.

Don't believe me? Take Rixton's song "Me and My Broken Heart." They gave Rob Thomas a writing co-credit from the beginning. Mainly because their song sounds exactly like his song "Lonely No More." But I guess that is the easiest way of covering yourself when you set out to write something original, end up with something that sounds like something else, but you really like it and want to use it anyway, so you acknowledge the similarity, say that they inspired you and throw them a co-writing credit. Is it me, or does that seem just a bit lazy? I imagine that it is legally the best way to do it, but it just doesn't seem 100% right to me. The only real difference in these two stories and my take on them is my own personal taste in music and the fact that I prefer the former set of artists to the latter.

Musical interpolation is nothing new. I have been hearing songs that sound like other songs for forever. It's part of the popular music landscape. And I know I'm not alone because in writing this, I found several sites solely dedicated to song similarities. I have my own list of songs that sound like other songs, and I'm happy to see some of them were covered like Jewel's "Standing Still" and Bruce Springsteen's "My Hometown":
That one had been bothering me for a while.

And Arcade Fire doing their best John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band from Eddie and the Cruisers (Eddie lives!!):

But then there were a few that I didn't see that have plagued my brain. Perhaps it is because no one gives Joe Jackson any credit... or maybe (hopefully) these guys took a page from Rixton's book and already gave him credit. I'm not sure. But for your comparison, I submit:

The Raconteurs "Steady As She Goes" as a version of Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him"
Steady As She Goes

Is She Really Going Out With Him

And continuing with my random, overly specific defense of Joe Jackson's intellectual property, N'Sync's It's Gonna Be Me reminds me an awful lot of Steppin' Out. Both fantastic videos in their own right, but musically there is something quite familiar there...
It's Gonna Be Me

Steppin' Out

I also want to point out the various "hey" shouting songs from a few years ago, just because this seems like the right place to do it:

Hey Ho
Little Talks
No Cars Go

Now, to be clear, I am not trying to start any sort of legal situation here. Sh!t happens. In fact, I quite enjoy hearing similar songs, which is how I ended up spending half my day on, and

But now I am hungry for more. Whatdya got friends? Any songs plaguing your brain with their inherent catchiness and over-familiarness? Tell me about it...
You can leave out Baa Baa Black Sheep/Twinkle Twinkle/ABC and God Save the Queen/My Country Tis Of Thee since I am already aware of those.

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