Monday, 12 September 2016

Unintentional Plagiarism #1

In the first in an occasional series (that might not turn into a series, because it's highly probable that I'll forget about it, but that doesn't matter right now), I'm going to attempt to identify some examples of songs that sound like other songs.  Of course, loads of songs sound like other songs in one respect or other - after all, there's only so many ways of putting chords/notes/sounds/rhythms together - but some songs are so extraordinarily similar to others that it's not possible to think that they must be linked in some way.

I already wrote about the Fox version of "Captain Of Your Ship" and how it contains a section that is remarkably similar to 2 Unlimited's "Get Ready For This" here.  Actually, that should really have been the first in this occasional series.  Ah well, never mind.

Recently there was the whole "Blurred Lines" farrago, which went to court and ended up succeeding in Marvin Gaye being added to the existing writing credits (and the payment of back royalties to the Gaye estate).  Basically - as I understand it - the Marvin Gaye estate alleged that Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" plagiarised Gaye's "Got To Give It Up" and the courts agreed).  That one, I think, was justified:

Essentially, it seemed to boil down to whether the "sound" and "feel" of "Blurred Lines" had been copied from "Got To Give It Up":

And I think it is pretty undeniable, listening to the two songs side-by-side, that "Blurred Lines" does bear a remarkable similarity to "Got To Give It Up", especially when you listen to the way bass is used in the two songs.  Personally I think the right decision was made (i.e. the addition of the co-writer credit; previous cases, I'm sure, have led to a complete overturning of songwriting credits), Anyway, there's a lot more interesting stuff on that case to be found here.

The one I'm blathering on about today isn't new.  In fact it's fifteen years old and I can't believe I've never noticed it before now.  Here is "New Slang", a track from The Shins's debut album, "Oh, Inverted World" (released in 2001):

It's a lovely song and - if I remember correctly (although bear in mind my memory's a bit hit-and-miss at the best of times) also a single, one which helped them break through into the public consciousness at the time.  Listen especially for the vocal melody at 0:05, 0:13, 0:20, etc., that essentially forms the song's intro, then recurs at 3:27 to form the song's outro.

Now here's Paul Mauriat's classic easy listening version of "Love Is Blue" (released in the UK in 1968, although the original French version - "L'amour est bleu" - came the year before; it was in fact the Luxembourg (thanks to Martin Bishop for the correction!) entry in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1967, coming fourth):

The main melody at 0:14 (and repeated throughout - it's the main melody of the track after all) is surely exactly the same as that vocal melody from "New Slang"?

I don't think any conscious skullduggery went on here, in that I doubt very much that the Shins deliberately copied from "Love Is Blue".  And I certainly don't think it's the basis for any kind of legal action, even in today's hyper-litigious world.  But the two melodies are so very, very similar.  So very, very, very similar that it makes you wonder how it came about.

My theory (for what it's worth; not much, generally) that it's one of those melodies that has been used so often that it has probably insinuated its way into everyone's brain by now.

The thing that I don't understand is why have I only just noticed it?  I've known the Paul Mauriat track seemingly forever and I've had that Shins album for well over ten years now.

All very odd.

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