You know how there are tunes which just remind you of something you’ve already heard before? I’m not talking about the songs like “Blurred Lines”, which infamously became one of the most popular “rip-off” songs, thanks to the entire process of Marvin Gay’s family and Bridgeport Music’ lawsuit and authorship questions Robin Thick and Pharrell Williams went through. This article is dedicated to those tracks which stuck in your head and make you question about where did you hear that tune previously, or, maybe even leave you thinking that it’s entirely different song you’re listening to, a song you already partly know, without realizing it’s actually another one, the one you’ve never heard before.
For instance I still believe “Bailando” by Enrique Iglesias, featuring, well a lot of people, and “El Perdón“ by Nicki Jam and the main singer of the previously mentioned track are the same song. There’s also this part in “Cold Water” by Major Lazer (feat. Justin Bieber & MØ) which kind of reminds me of something else. It’s that quite Backstreet boyish element which starts somewhere around chorus, right when Bieber’s vocals begin the lines “And if you feel you’re sinking, I will jump right over into cold water for you” and, I would be more than grateful if someone will help me with solving this mystery consisted of my ignorance of which this particular part of the tune reminds me of.
In a world ruled by capitalism in which mass-production is welcomed and needed in every sphere of the society, even culture, and, therefore music, it is entirely understood how recycling successfully proven methods became widely spread by the industries and cheerfully greeted on daily basis by the majority of the population. Having a bit more edgy, mostly rap or hip-hop acts featured on the tracts, lyrics about sex and/or promiscuity and repetition of both music themes and lyrics are just some of the well-known clichés which today’s music stars use in their songs, which eventually leads to the majority of them sounding pretty much the same. If you don’t believe me, just listen and compare Fifth Harmony’s “Worth It” and Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty”. Not only both of these songs exploit the fact that this society will always have a market for sex with their tasteless lyrics, but they’re also repetitive in both, musical themes and lyrical sence, and rappers like Kid Ink and 2 Chainz are featured as well.
The previous example just shows that a lot of songs have pretty much the same construction without sounding that much alike. The problem with it is the fact that it does not raise the question who recycled, or better yet borrowed, from whom, which is the main focus of the following list of Sound-Alike Songs. The only reason why those songs and their similarity was mentioned was to portray the lack of originality which habitats today’s music industry which could be one of the motives why some of the upcoming artists on the list to come in this article had to seek their inspiration in the products of someone else’s talents and creativity.
If you’re interested in listening to any song mentioned on this list, just click on its title and you’re be directed to the YouTube link of it.
1. “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” – Jet = “Lust for Life” – Iggy Pop ?
“Lust for Life” (1977), co-written by Iggy Pop and David Bowie, and its opening drumbeat became well-known among the representatives of my generation thanks to being the “Transporting” soundtrack and a part of Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”(2003). Not only that the drum pattern(s) of these songs sound extremely alike. but their guitar riffs are nearly identical, so there’s no wonder why “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” is constantly cited for similarities with Pop’s tune. But here’s where things get a bit more complicated.
If you were to concentrate on “Lust for Life” only, you were to realize the well praised drum rhythm is far from original, as it was derived from “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Suprems and “I’m Ready for Love” by Martha and the Vandellas. Pop and Bowie were opened about using these tracks, both realised in 1966 with strong Motown Sound, as their starting point, which was once again proved in Jet’s interview for Uptown Magazine.
Talking to Jared Story in 2009, Jet’s drummer Chris Cester mentioned the media’s treatment “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” was receiving and its constant comparison with “Lust for Life”. Referring to his meeting with Iggy Pop, Cester said:
It’s funny because I asked him point-blank about that. He said I was crazy. He said that when he and David Bowie were writing “Lust for Life”, they were ripping off Motown’s beat. It’s funny that he said that to me because we also thought we were ripping off Motown more than “Lust for Life”. To be honest with you that kind of annoyed me a lot, because I always thought it was really lazy. People just go well Lust for Life is more well-known so that’s what they go for, but if you listen to a song like “You Can’t Hurry Love” (The Supremes) I think you’ll find its closer to “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” than “Lust for Life” ever was. And that’s what Iggy said as well.
Now how did we menage to get from musicians borrowing from each other to journalists failing in doing a proper research? That phenomenon most be widely spread, even more than the songs that just sound alike.
2. “Ice Ice Baby”- Vanilla Ice = “Under Pressure”- Queen and David Bowie
You see I was not to put these two on the list at all, mainly because I consider “Ice Ice Baby”(1990) by Vanilla Ice to be the case of sampling the bass line of the Queen’s and David Bowie’s duet “Under Pressure”(1981). After all eventually Van Winkle, also known as Vanilla Ice, was forced to pay David Bowie and members of Queen, which resulted in giving them songwriting credits for the sample.
Alas, it seemed as Vanilla Ice wasn’t that jolly about giving the credits for the song to those who deserved it, at least not at first, which makes this pair perfect for this list. In a 1990 interview, Vanilla Ice claimed the two melodies were slightly different because he had added an additional note, an anacrusis, which he refered to as a pickup, between odd-numbered and subsequent even-numbered iterations of the “Under Pressure” sample.
Even though Ice did indeed changed his mind and admitted to sampling the song, something that was more than obvious, there is a moral to this story, or better yet a terrifying question. How many “artists” are willing to simply change one note of an already existing song and claim it as their own? The answer to thins question could be demoralizing.
3. “Dani California” – Red Hot Chili Peppers = “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Speaking of one note difference… Now both Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tom Petty are incredibly talented artists in their own way, but somehow Stadium Arcedium’s single “Dani California”(2006) and Petty’s “Marry Jane’s Last Dance” (1993) show startling similarities in chord, progression and key. Although the songs progression sound enormously alike, they do in fact differ in one note. While Petty’s track follows “Am, G, D, Am” (A Dorian mode), Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song follows “Am, G, Dm, Am” (A minor). The one-minute guitar solo at the end of “Dani California” also happens to be an adaptation of Jimi Hendrix’s intro to “Purple Haze”, with the effects kept very close to the original.
If by now you are not aware of the amount of Tom Petty’s influence on today’s music, just ask The Strokes, who openly admitted to using his riff for “American Girl” (1976) as the basis for their “Last Nite”.(2001) Not convinced, yet? Well, then ask Sam Smith.
4.”Stay with Me” – Sam Smith = “I Won’t Back Down” – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
According to Sam Smith, he had never heard Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” (1989) before writing “Stay with Me” (2014), nevertheless that didn’t stop these two songs’ chorus’ melodies to sound significantly alike. After listening to the song, Smith acknowledged the similarity, assigned it to coincidence and gave co-writing credits to Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne.
Tom Petty made sure to point out he never thought Sam Smith plagiarized him and, once again shown his greatness, just like in the case of the two previously mentioned songs inspired by Petty’s work, for which he never went for a lawsuit.
Talking about the incident with “I Won’t Back Down” and “Stay with Me” to the Rolling Stone last year, Petty said:
“All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen. Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by. Sam’s people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement. ”
There’s a moral to this story as well. If you’re going to steal, or, get inspired by someone while making music, make sure it’s Tom Petty.
5. “Already Gone” – Kelly Clarkson = “Halo – Beyoncé”
If you ever asked yourself what would have happen when a songwriter loses his inspiration, here’s one of the possible answers to your questions. OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder penned both Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone” (2009) and Beyoncé’s “Halo” (2008), which led to them “having the same vibe” as one of my friends described it. Tedder previously wrote “Already Gone”, when he moved on to “Halo”, but, alas for Clarkson, Miss Carter released her track before she did her, which led to her anti Ryan Tedder media campagne. With all due and well deserved respect to OneRepublic’s frontman, and although you can’t really plagiarise yourself, recycling your old ideas/repeating yourself is never that good of an idea.
Besides, is it that hard to write your own songs? If Freddie Mercury could write “Bohemian Rhapsody” all by himself, I’m pretty sure some of you singers out there could pen at least something by yourselves.
6. “Photograph” – Ed Sheeran = “Amazing” – Matt Cardle
The artists who write their own songs, huh? If any of you had read my previous post, the first one I ever wrote on this blog, you were to know how much even writing the title of this segment of the article hurts. Call me biased, but I am going to assume this is the exact same case like the Smith/Petty one and that Ed Sheeran had never heard Matt Cardle’s “Amazing” (2011) before penning his “Photograph” (2014).
Anyhow, Sheeran is being sued for $20 million for copyright infringement by the “Amazing” songwriters Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard. The duo is claiming there are 39 identical notes in the tracks. Their lawsuit states:
“Given the striking similarity between the chorus of Amazing and Photograph, (the) defendants knew when writing, publishing, recording, releasing, and distributing Photograph that they were infringing on a pre-existing musical composition.”
The “Amazing” singer Matt Cardle was fast to discharge his involvement in the case by
“Please read news articles closely. This is not my lawsuit. I think Ed Sheeran is a genius & 100% deserves all his success”.
Anyhow, the hearing date is yet to be settled. Fingers crossed for my man.
7. “Rockstar” – Hannah Montana = “Scotty Doesn’t Know” – Lustra = “Reptile” – The Church
Out of all of the songs on the list, these have to be my favorite ones, at least in the sounding-alike sence. Back in 2007, while Miley Cyrus was still the sweet-looking, innocent, young girl who wanted to get the best of both worlds, her, or her alter ego Hannah Montana, recorded a song “Rockstar”. If you were to listen to the track, which served as a soundtrack for Disney’s TV show, somewhere around the sixth second, you were to recognize the guitar riff, which was used for yet another soundtrack, the “EuroTrip” one, to put it more precisely. The movie was a hit among all of us who were teens in early 2000’s and the love for it transferred to its theme song “Scotty Doesn’t
Know” (2004) performed by Lustra. There wasn’t a single kid in my classroom who did not know the lyrics of this song. Of course at the time we weren’t aware of the fact that Matt Damon was just an actor, playing the part of the singer in the band, but that didn’t stop us from both singing the lyrics and humming the tune every time we would hear it, which was in fact every day, because someone always played its polyphonic version on their phones. Technology wasn’t on our side.
The riffs are almost identical, with “Rockstar’s” having electronic sound effects added to the “Scotty Doesn’t Know’s” rock theme. Ironically, in this song Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus sings about her originality by saying: “I’m unusual, Not so typical”.
Anyhow, Lustra accused Cyrus’ team of plagiarism, and that’s where things get a bit more complicated. It turned out that the guitar riff of my childhood sounded very much like the one from “Reptile” (1988) by The Church. Now, I’m not claiming Lustra intentionally copied The Church, but if you’re going to throw a shade at someone, shouldn’t you do you’re research first, and, also make sure you’re not guilty of the exact same thing?
8. “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” – The Offspring = “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” – The Beatles
Wanna complicate things a bit more?
A normal human being would think that no one would be that foolish and arrogant to copy from one of the best, most influential and biggest bends of all time. Yet, Sublime did it with their “What I Got” (1996) when they decided to take The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” (1968) and claim it as their own. The same thing happened with The Offspring.
pointed out that the melody sounded exactly like the The Beatles’ 1968 release from the White Album. When listening to The Offspring’s chorus, you can sing the “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da’s” lyrics with having the strange feeling of listening to The Beatles track.
This The Offspring tune was criticized for having the elements of Simon & Garfunkle’s “Cecilia” (1970). Speaking of that song, doesn’t Fun’s “Some Nights” (2012), particularly the “Oh-oh” part, reminds of the exact same lines in Simon & Garfunkle’s tune? Just skip to 2:15 of “Cecilia” and 00:38 of “Some Nights”, compare the two and tell me what you think.
9. “Best Song Ever” – One Direction = “Baba O’Riley” – The Who
This segment could pretty much be called just One Direction, due to the fact there are several extremely sounding alike songs this boy band had produced.
With their first single “What Makes You Beautiful” One Direction managed to, not only get compared to other boy bands and clichés which go along with this kind of group formation, but they also succeeded in dragging the attention to the similarity of their first hit and “Grease’s” “Summer Nights”.
Their debut album lists a song “Rock Me”, with an intro taken from Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, and their sophomore record’s single “Live While We’re Young’s” opening guitar riff bears similarities with The Clash’s 1982 single, “Should I Stay or Should I Go”. Now, I’m more likely to consider these resemblances as One Direction’s way of paying their homage to two of the greatest and most prominent bands in, not only the history of the British music, but music history in general, than some kind of rip-offs. First of all the similarities are two obvious, and second, no one is that dumb to steal from Queen and The Clash, right? Then again, I did say that for The Beatles as well…
There’s no doubt that the lads of One Direction did an incredible job and that they will in fact go down in history thanks to their accomplishments. God knows I will always be glad to hear some of their songs, mainly “Change Your Ticket”, which has this The 1975-ish sound. For some reason every time I hear it I start singing “Girls”.
Even though I can hear a lot of elements from other songs and strong influence from various musicians in One Direction’s music, there is this one particular song of theirs which made it to the headlines, thanks to the subject which is the main theme of this article. I’m talking about the similarity between One Direction’s “Best Song Ever” and The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” (1971).
The intro and the following 20 seconds of “Best Song Ever” are very likely to be an intentional homage to The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”. Click Music was among the firsts which reacted negatively to the song, giving it 1 and a half stars out of 5 in their review, describing it as “tiresome” and the representation of “the laziest, most mind-numbing trends in modern pop”. They called the song’s writers “creatively barren”, accusing them of plagiarism, and, before you One Direction fans freak out, none of the boys in the bend had anything to do with writing the song!
The Who’s Pete Townshend reacted to the debacle by saying that there are just too many chords, which makes it impossible to be sure of whether this is the case of plagiarism or not. He also added that the “majority of the songs just sound alike”.
The incident didn’t stop One Direction in topping the charts with this single and winning the award for Best Song of the Summer at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.
And that’s story of how “Best Song Ever” turned into the Best Rip-Off Ever.
10. “Brain Stew” – Green Day = “25 or 6 to 4” – Chicago.
Just as the previous segment could had been named after a band whose song was written first at the tittle, this part could easily be called simply Green Day. If any of you extremely devoted One Direction fans decides to start hating me for calling out your favorite band, please bear in mind I’m doing the same thing right now to one of the beloved bands of a my twelve-year-old self.
From “Warning” (2006), which’s intro sounds exactly like The Kinks’ “Picture Book” (1968), to “Brain Stew” (1995) with the main guitar riff which bears a striking resemblance to the beginning of Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” (1970). According to some critics, both of these songs sound much like Led Zeppelin’s “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” (1969). Listen for yourselves.
Diffuser even managed to find out 13 songs which sound like the Green Day ones.
So that’s it. Hopefully no one got this article wrong. It was never my intention to accuse anyone of plagiarism. There’s a much deeper meaning behind this post. When there are millions upon millions songs out there, how unique can every single one of them be? This doesn’t referer to the music industry in particular, but everything in general.
In the informational and maybe even post-informational society, in which we’re bombarded with information about everyone and everything on daily basis, how original can something or someone be? Just take this post, for instance. I’m pretty sure that if you or me, or anyone, were to type sound-alike songs in the Google search bar, we were to find tons of the articles about this topic. We all drew our inspiration from somewhere, don’t we?
Also, if you’re interested in this topic, by which I’m talking about the sound-alike songs, there’s this really cool website which helped me a lot during the process of my research. Here it is.
Hopefully, some of you got to the end of this post and actually liked it. 🙂