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 not infringement either, but melodically closer to that. See the similarity test result!

extra note:
Doesn't Santa Claus Is Coming To Town sound just like Da Doo Ron Ron?
The original version from 1934 was still different. For christmas of 1963 
(a few months after Da Doo Ron Ron) Phil Spector re-arranged Santa Claus and made a record with the Crystals. Its chorus melody was taken from Da Doo Ron Ron, and since then many cover versions use that variant. Michael Bolton too recorded it in 1995!

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 bass 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, inspiratrion yes.
+ point:
Got To Give It Up party experts testimoned about the rap/parlando section starting exactly in the 73rd bar in both song (not counting the intros). She opined that this is a "red flag" evidence that the Blurred songwriters used GTGIU as a template (regardless of the very different sequence of sections). She testimoned that this coincidence is something she had never seen anywhere else before (for 25 years). For the precise quotes read testimony here (page 51).  

My comment:
Mainstream pop music predominantly uses 8 / 16 bar sections. The percentage of this is over 99%. Starting a section in the 73rd bar is like starting that particular section in the 9th eight-bar block.
The rap section in BL is functionally similar to a traditional bridge in the so-called "one bridge modell". The parlando section in GTGIU too. The traditional placement of these non-returning bridge sections is roughly around the 2/3 of the song. The 73rd bar is probably one of the most probable starting point of Bridge section in a song using the one-bridge template and having a tempo around 120 BPM (100-140).
Note that since GTGIU is significantly longer, the timing in that song is closer to the middle.
I started a quest for the 73th bar. "Are You Lonesome Tonight" was the first song to check with its legendary parlando sectionn. It starts in the 37th bar (36 + 1). Then I started to browse among "singer feat. rapper" kind of songs. First of these was Dark Horse by Katy Perry: 77th bar. They used an extra 4-bar phrase... The second result was California Gurls (Katy Perry). The rap section starts *** drumroll *** exactly in the 73rd bar! I stopped the quest here. I think the "three attempt / 1 result" is closer to the truth than the "no other example else seen for 25 years". Unfortunately there was nobody in the courtroom to point this (and other similar points) out.

+ point:
An interesting topic of the above linked testimony was about the mash-up tests (page 172-182). Note how the GTGIU expert avoided to regret the shortage of the mash-up tests. Unfortunately again: there was no one in the courtroom to force out this admission.

+ point:
Check out another sound-alike song for BL:
Double Trouble ft Rebel Mc - Just Keep Rockin'
"The copyed elements":
- backbeat chords on "Rhodes"
- only two chords alternating,
- "hoo" vocals
- rap,
- the rhythm of cowbell in BL = the rhythm of vocal percussion in JKR.
- Melodic similarity: there is only one melodic hook in JKR. It accidentally shows
  a 3,04 similarity index with the "signature phrase" motif, higher than with GTGIU (2,83).
- On the video appears three gents as performers and a bicycling lady.

This is a constellation of elements that you won't find in any other songs.

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


Dear Visitors,

I'm D. Pinter, self taught musicologist from Hungary. I've been dealing with pop musicology since 2000, with plagiarism cases since 2014. Since 2000 I have analysed ca. 300 to 1500 songs depending on the level of details. These analyses gave me the insight to judge what is usual or unusual in music.

I started to deal with plagiarism cases when the Blurred Lines trial (federal court) came out. The verdict and the related expert analyses were so much against all that I learnt about music, that I could not resist investigating this topic. Having read many testimones and and analyses, I've found that many important points were left undiscovered or not pointed out. These inspiried me to write more and more articles.