Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Similar songs

Since the infamous Blurred Lines case songwriters should be more aware of avoiding plagiarism. Still you can find that a big percentage of songs that are melodically resembling to other prior song. The sound-alike copying is widely and willfully used in the lower leagues of the pop-business, but also in the top songs.

Back then the Blurred Lines verdict (and recently Let's Get It On too) was supported by a couple of quotes by pop musicians or others feeling similarity between two songs. 

I'm having similar experiences all the time, quite a few. Probably more than others. Hereby I list 25 recent plus some older songs that show melodic (or sound) similarity with an other prior song. A part of these are commonly known, a big part of them are my own findings. 
Once someone points out the similarity, lay people are expected to recognise it too and say "wow, indeed!". Even small similarities or 4-5 coinciding notes are sufficient to creat an impression of similarity, even for first listen. Remember Stairway?
In plagiarism trials lay people jurors may also vote for "yes, these are similar indeed" unless they are not properly instructed. The majority of the findings in the list below are not close enough to take too seriously.

Clean Bandit: Symphony
Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke: Blurred Lines

Not a close one at all, but compared to the "substantial similarity" that was shown in the Blurred Lines vs Got To Give It Up trial, it is definitely in a higher class. The function of these passages also coincide.

1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 1 . 2 . 3
1 2 3 5 3 5 6 1 2   2 1   :  Symphony
  3 3 2 3 5 6 1 1   1     : Blurred Lines
    *   * * * *           : matching notes
  5 5 5 5 6 1 2     1 5 6 : GTGIU

Meghan Trainor: All About That Bass
Pharell Williams, Robin Thicke: Blurred Lines

A double arch motif. Many matching notes, but it was not instant finding. 

Enrique Iglesias: Duele El Corazon
A. L. Webber: Then We Are Decided

1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4
            1111 31         432 1 4 4
            111 3 1         433 2 3

Avicii: I'm Addicted To You
Beatles: While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Melody plus the combination of chord and descending inner line. Harmony vocals are also reminiscent of other Beatles song. Instantly recognised.

David Guetta ft. Zara Larsson: This One's For You
Queen:Who Wants To Live Forever
This is a case of parallelling melodies with almost identical special rhythm. It was another instant finding.

. 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 1 .  
 11      12      223             33      34#     445
 11      15      556             11      17      771'

Katy Perry: Fireworks
Erasure: Always
Regarding the length and speciality (rhythm and wide melodic leaps) this one is a relatively clear case of plagiarism.

. 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 .
5,1             5,2           1 2 3     1     6,

Sam Smith: Stay With Me
Tom Petty: It Won't Back Down
A well known, heavily discussed case.
The long melody and the very special rhythm makes it an easy to judge case.

Katy Perry: Chained To The Rhythm
Beatles: All You Need Is Love
The outro vocal of CTTR resonates with that of the AYNIL intro hook. Very far from plagiarism, but easy to recognise.

Pharell Williams, Robin Thicke: Blurred Lines
Double Trouble ft Rebel MC - Just Keep Rockin'
sound alike-
"copyed elements": backbeat chords on "Rhodes", "Hoo" vocals, rap, vocal percussion rhythm in JKR = cowbell rhythm in BL.
Plus: three gents (performers) and a biking lady on the video :).

Adele: Rolling In The Deep (opening melody)
Metallica: Orion (guitar solo fragment)
Five notes only.

Portugal.The Man: Feel It Still
Marvellets: Please Mr Postman
Obvious case. Even the Wikipedia article mentions this.

Major Lazer/Justin Bieber/MO: Cold Water
Eric Clapton: I Shot The Sheriff
The hooks are very close. Instantly found.

Justin Bieber: Love Yourself
Bee Gees: How Deep Is Your Love
That was another instant finding, but not plagiarism.

Jason Derulo: Swalla
Art Company: Susanna (I'm Crazy Loving You)
Mainly the rhythm phrasing (first two phrases). This was an instant finding too.

Willy William: Ego
Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto for two violins in A minor.
Just a short motif that is repeated:
1 2 3 4 1 : beats
3 3 3 212 :

Selena Gomez, Marshmellow: Wolves 
Police: Every Breath You Take
The hooks are similar and sound-alike. Instant finding.

Pink: U + Ur Hand
Marvin Gaye: Got To Give It Up
Fragmentary bass and cowbell.
The hook is much more reminscent of Papa Was A Rolling Stone (The Temptations).

  1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 
#71         33 7  1 : PWARS
 11         33 7 11 : UUR

The chorus also resebles to It's My Life (Bon Jovi)

Lady Gaga - Born This Way
Madonna: Express Yourself
Well discussed case.

Burak Yeter: Tuesday
Jean Michel Jarre: Equinoxe
The intros sound similar.

Jonas Blue (Tracy Chapman) - Fast Car
Beatles: Cry Baby Cry
Just a special syncopated rhythm.

Fifth Harmony, Kid Ink: Worth It
Jason Derulo: Talk Dirty
A well known, instantly recogniseable case.

Mike Posner: Cooler Than Me
Katy Perry: I Kissed The Girl
Sound alike.

OneRepublic: Counting Stars
Bloodhound Gang: The Bad Touch
Sound alike.

Ed Sheran: Perfect
Righteous Brothers: Unchained Melody
Far from plagiarism, still the verses are reminiscent.

Ed Sheran: Thinking Out Loud
Cee Lo Green: Forget You
Opening melodies. This one was not an instant finding at all, no wonder no one else (?) noticed it yet. But many notes coincidence.

26) Kwabs: Walk
Zanzibar: Nem Vagyok Tökéletes
The "complaining" work is a Hungarian song from 2001.
The choruses are very similar: eight notes per phrase.
There are three similar consecutive phrases.
On the other hand: these phrases are repeated (with minor changes).
Above points also coincide with the Photograph-Amazing case.
The shape of the melody (3-2-1-7-1) is very common. The access is unprobable.

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1
    333 2 1 1 71  : NVT 
    333 211 17711 : Walk (with slided notes)
    333 2 1 1 7 1 : Walk (without slided notes)

Robin Schulz: Unforgettable
Justin Bieber: Sorry

Older findings by me:

Tom Jones: Sexbomb
Merle Travis: 16 tons.
Third phrase of the chorus

Tom Jones: Delilah 
Consuelo Velazquez: Besame Mucho
Only the third phrases.

Beatles: Things We Said Today
Roy Orbison: Working For A Man
Sound alike.

Mamas And Papas: Dream A Little Dream Of Me
Beatles: Blackbird
Intro pick-up, 9 notes. Difference: shuffle beat / even beat.

Justine Timberlake: Can't Stop The Feeling
Spice Girls: Say youll be there
The bridges are reminiscent.

Whitney Houston: One Moment In Time
Freddie Mercury: There Must Be More To Life Than This

Third phrase of the chorus (Verse in TMBMTL) and chords.
1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4
  6 66 7     765    32 1     : TMB
6     787     5 5     321    : OMIT
4       5       1       6    : chords

Jason Crest: Waterloo Road
Queen: Killer Queen

 3     2     1     7     6  
.1 .2 .3 .4 .1 .2 .3 .4 .1 .2 .3 .4
.353  3232  2131  1727  56 12 13 : WR
 3 3  1212  71 1  1727  7666     : KQ
 * *   * *   * *  ****   *  
Except the fourth block only the descending notes are matching

Queen: We Will Rock You
Lee Dorsey: Working In A Coal Mine
The shape of the opening notes are close.

Build Me Up Buttercup
Abba: Waterloo
Paralelling melodies plus the piano motif.

Extreme: Midnight Express
Mike Oldfield: Taurus 3 (esp. "Good Morning Britain" performance)

Steam: Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Good Bye
Hans Zimmer: He Is A Pirat

Pirat is in 3/4, NaNa is in 4/4 meter:

4 1 2 3 4 1 2
561 1   123 3 

3 1 2 3 1 2
561 1 123 3

Beatles: Hey Jude
Jean Michel Jarre: Magnetic Fields part 5

parallelling melodies
4 1 2 3 4 1 
5 3    3562 : HJ
8 5    6783 : MF

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Thinking Out Loud - Let's Get It On

Ed Sheeran became lately a popular target of plagiarism complaints. To date he holds the world record for having been sued for 100 million dollars (and also 20 million dollars for another song). His hit song Thinking Out Loud is allegedly copying Marvin Gaye's 1973 hit song Let's Get It On. Plaintiff complaint with analysis is available here.

For now there are a couple of YT videos arguing (usually) why Sheeran's song is not a case of infringement. Summaririzng them: the backing tracks sound similar indeed, the chords are not identic but close enough, the tempo is also close enough, while melodies are different. The videos point out that chord progressions can't be copyrighted.

In my analysis I will go beyond this level, and examine the plaintiff points in detail.
The conclusion: this is not a case of infringement.

Friday, 20 April 2018

All About That Bass

Meghan Trainor's hit hong (more precisely its chorus) was accused to rip-off a korean song. They found that an even earlier Pfish song is also very similar to Trainor's melody. Then I found yet another similar tune, from even earlier.
It was a hungarian school-camp song that everybody knew over here in the mid-eighties, and possibly also 1-2 decades before. I reported on this finding in my Inspiration essay.
The similarity covers two full phrases, no less. The hungarian song (title: Napkrong Az Égről) is somewhat faster and sung in shuffle beat that is transcribed here in even beat view and compared with Trainor's chorus (second iteration).

  4   1   2   3   4   1   2   3   4   1   2   3   4   1   2   3   4  
5 6 7 1 1 7 7 6 6 5 3 4     3 2     5 7 7 6 6 5 5 4 2 3     6 5 : Napkorong
5 6 7 1 117 776 665 354    ~3 2...5 6 7 776 665 554 4 3     2~1 : All About...

Trainor's tune is longer with an extra bar in the middle.

Back then I could not locate a recording or a sheet music of this tune. The song is not registered in the hungarian copyright office either. Now I've found a YT video. Listen at 04:00!

If it is a mere coincidence indeed, then it's record long one for this class.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Love Is A Wonderful Thing

Isley Brothers vs. Michael Bolton

This case was originally based on five unprotectable elements. The most important of these was obviously the title phrase that is melodically similar, even if just moderately so. The matching of the words was surely a strong factor. And they added four other subtle similarities.
My analysis shows third party examples demonstrating how usual is the extent of the melodic similarity between Isley Brothers' and Michael Bolton's song. On the other hand I also show one subtle detail (a rhythmical variant) that was probably inspired by the Isley Brothers version directly. This subtle detail on the other hand it is just weakly amplifying the extrinsic similarity.
This case was a key reference during the Blurred Lines case too. 17 years after the Supreme Court ruling (24 after Federal Court ruling) I've found a prior art song that must have "inspired" the Isley Borthers. The similarity is striking both extrinsically and intrinsically. The key detail of the original case (the title phrase) is shown not to be original to Isley Brothers.
This blog entry is the first report of this finding.

My judgememt: no infringement. Even without considering the prior art example - but a close one. The direct inspiration is probable.
Third party prior song judgement: this is infringement, may be unconscious tough.

Stairway To Heaven

This is an interesting one. When you listen to Taurus then the first 3-4 guitar notes make you recognise the Stairway intro. Then the descending line keeps your feeling alive for 3-4 bars. The analysis makes it clear that the similarity between the two songs are based on commonplace details. More third party examples show you for how high extent these similarities are based on commonplaces. On the other hand an extrinsic test may surely jurors convince, they are similar. Even strikingly so for those 2-3 seconds. More details in my analysis.
My judgement: no infringement, not even inspiration.

Blurred Lines - Got To Give It Up

I still remember my impression when I first read about this case and listened to both song one after another. Even tough I thought I belived to have a strong skill to find similarities between songs this pair made me sweat. I listened to both songs again  and again, and asked myself where are the similar melodies? Then I obtained and read the related expert analyses. I've found so many points in these to criticize that I finally could not resist writing my own analysis. 
The analysis is completed with an appendix: a third party song example with a constellation of similarities with Blurred Lines - showing that a constellation without melodic similarity does not prove anything.
My judgement: no infringement, inspiration yes.

Inspiration or plagiarism?

In 2015 the Blurred Lines case inspired me to deal with musical plagiarism. Back then I browsed through some classic and new cases and developed my own methodology. In an essay I summerized my thoughts on plagiarism and inspiration.

Songs that were analysed in this paper, plus brief judgement by me:
Stairway To Heaven - no infringement,
Come As You Are - infringement,
Another One Bites The Dust - no infringement,
Blurred Lines - no infringement,
Sweet Child Of Mine - no infringement,
My Sweet Lord - infringement,
All About That Bass - no infringement,
Get Lucky - no infringement,
Viva La Vida - no infringement,

Sunday, 1 April 2018


This site was created for investigating music plagiarism in analytic form. This kind of analyses are prepared normally by forensic musicology experts (which I'm not) of the opponent parties in plagiarism cases. These analyses may differ much in findings and consequences depending on which side the expert support. Hereby I revise some plagiarism cases to obtain an independent "third party" judgement for those interested.