***This article contains a lot of Youtube links, I would recommend loading them up on Youtube so you’re not loading many at once and slowing down your connection and computer. Maybe I just have a slow computer, I don’t know, but I thought I’d give you the head’s up. ~Sincerely, Rammfan518***
I don’t know if I’ve ever got into this on the blog, but I a fan of Lady Gaga. Not a huge fan, but about as big a fan a metalhead can get. While I am destined to get tons of shit for this from devout metallers and haters of “gay” music, you can’t deny that Gaga is a damn talented singer, songwriter, pianist, and stage performer. I mean, I think we can all appreciate her extravagant and complex live shows. And in an industry where popstars lip-sync songs that were written for them, it’s nice to see an artist who legitimately sings song she has written or co-written.
Alright, so now that my short little Gaga praise is over, let me get to the issue at hand. My friend sent me a link to Gaga’s newest song “Born this Way” a couple months ago. I like the song; it has a good dance beat, some fun singing part, and a nice little message for all those who feel lame. I had never heard Madonna’s “Express Yourself”, but he said “Born This Way” reminded him of it. The two songs are down below for your listening pleasure:
Born This Way:
Originally, I didn’t they sounded all too similar. I went back to my life of pasta cooking, scriptwriting, and wine drinking. While in line for a show’s studio audience, I was eavesdropping on some people talking about “Born this Way” and one said “I don’t like it, it sounds too much like ‘Express Yourself’”. After the taping, I came home and listened to the two songs again. It’s been a couple weeks since then and I can honestly say that I still don’t think they sound similar.
I mean, sure, they are similar. They’re both pop songs that might have similar tempo and song structure, but it’s absolutely daft to call “Born this Way” a rip-off. They don’t even sound the same!
Britney Spears was accused of stealing recently as well. In her new song “Hold it against me”, she uses the line “If I said I want your body now, would you hold it against me?” The Bellamy Brothers claimed this was a rip off of their 1979 song titled “If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body, Would You Hold It Against Me?” and went through all this stuff saying they felt a little ripped off. A little ripped off? I don’t know about you but I always heard this a cheesy pick up line: “Hey, if I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?” What do the Bellamy Brothers expect? Did they make up this pick-up line? Can you copyright a pick-up line? Can you blame someone for writing a song thirty-two years later that has the same pun?
While we’re on the subject of similar song titles, do you know how many freaking German bands have a song called “Ohne Dich” (which translates to the sorrowful “without you”)? Just on a quick Youtube search I found there are songs titled such from the following bands: Rammstein, Selig, Eisbrecher, Zeraphine, Blutengel, Staubkind, Daygun, Christina Stürmer, Hirbod ft. Cecco, and die Arzte. Looking up just a random song title “I miss you”, there’s a song from Blink 182, Aaliyah, Miley Cryrus, Basshunter, Incubus, Avril Lavigne, Klymaxx, Harold Melvin And The Bluenotes, Simple Plan, and Aaron Hall. (Rolling Stones decided to be original and title their song “Miss You”). So see?
Anyway, back to Gaga. Her next single “Judas” came under fire as well, mostly from Christian killjoys, but also from fans of the dance-pop singer Lori Lux, who claimed “Judas” is a huge rip-off of her song “Wannabe”. Here are the two songs below:
Loli Lux – Wannabe
Sure, both songs have that “doo-doo-do-do-dododo” thing going on, but can we really call Judas a rip-off? I guess Lori Lux was upset because “Judas” uses the same “hook” as her song. While the hooks are the same, NOTHING ELSE about them is similar in the slightest. I get it, but come on. “Judas” reminded me mostly of the songs from Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping” album, curiously enough and this song “Mary, Mary”:
Now that I think about it, “Wannabe” sounds a little “Mary, Mary” as well! Let’s not also forget that we can claim the techno-y bridge of “Judas” being similar to that club song at the beginning of the film “Blade.” It’s VERY similar, but if you say people can’t make “ripped off” music, then there can be no new music ever again.
Here is another example of Lady Gaga emulating another band’s style (yes, emulating).
Eh, Eh (Nothing Else to Say)
Ace of Base – Don’t turn around
For those of you who only think it’s pop music being emulated or “ripped off” around the world, take a look at some of these similar-sounding songs.
The Cure and Wir Sind Helden
If you don’t know who The Cure is, you have either never gone outside or made a break-up mixed tape. Wir Sind Helden is a German pop band. You can’t deny that these songs sound similar, but did Wir Sind Helden reißen The Cure auf?
The Cure – “Just Like Heaven”
Wir Sind Helden – “The Geek(Shall Inherit)”
Rammstein and Ruoska
Rammstein, in addition to being the best band in the world, is a German industrial metal band, who kind of paved the way for machiney-metal in the late nineties and have continued to be metal giants in the past decade. Ruoska is a small Finnish industrial band. These songs have similar riffs, but did Ruoska rip off Rammstein?
Ruoska – Alasin
Finntoll and Svartby
Finntroll just also happens to be one of the best bands in the world and is one of the big bands in the whole “folk metal” genre scene (if there is a scene). They have no doubt influenced an innumerable amount of other folk wanting to make metal with flutes and accordions. One such band from Russia, Svartby, is obviously highly influenced by Finntroll (even choosing to sing is Swedish), but did Svartby rip off Finntroll’s “Skogens Hämnd” with their song “Flygt Över Somnigt Land?”
Finntroll – Skogens Hämnd
Svartby – Flygt Över Somnigt Land
When does flattering imitation become rip-off? And where’s the cut off?
Tom Petty and Red Hot Chili Peppers and Blur:
Now let’s take a look at this one. Tom Petty is an old singer guitarist who, in 1993, came out with the catchy tune “Last Dance with Mary Jane”. Blur, the guys who sing the “woo hoo!” song, came out with their song “Country House” in 1995. In 2005, The Red Hot Chili Peppers released the album “Stadium Arcadium” (a name I’ve always hated for some reason) that featured the song “Dani California”. Listen to the openings of all three songs.
Tom Petty – Last Dance with Mary Jane
Blur – Country House
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dani California
See? This sort of thing happens a lot.
I definitely would not call myself a musician, but I have been known by some to make my own music. When I started messing around with Guitar Pro and a bright yellow and green children’s keyboard back in 2008, I didn’t know where to start. I don’t think anyone who starts something creative does. So what do you do? You imitate the bands you’re familiar with.
I’m not going to lie and say that some of my first songs weren’t desperate attempts to be someone else’s songs. Turisas’ “One More” opens with a minute-long violin intro, followed by a nice drum beat with some guitar. My song “Hei” tried to do the same thing. Yet this is “stealing”. When making little metal songs in my room, I would say “Oh, alright, this is how a Rammstein song is structured” and then observe, re-do, and eventually learn how music works. So yea, my song might have a riff, then a verse, then a riff like many of Rammstein’s early songs, but these songs of mine aren’t rip-offs, and even Rammstein and Turisas had to get inspiration from some other band to start them off.
It happens with everything creative. It’s no different than a movie director using a shot that they saw in someone else’s movie, or a writer writing in the same style as their favorite author. Why do you think so many young filmmakers make Star Wars fan films? And those kids that made a shot-for-shot remake of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”? Everyone borrows and steals from everyone else.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some instances when songs or song-parts are stolen (I’m looking at you, Vanilla Ice), but for the most part, there is no way in hell (the one we’re all going to after listening to Judas, apparently) you could monitor all this music and make sure it’s rip-off or influence-free. Everything, EVERYTHING, comes from something else. Star Wars was a mix of Flash Gordon and Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress”. The Lord of the Rings novels were a mix of Norse sagas and Tolkien’s own invented languages. And even Tolkien’s languages were based off Finnish and Welsh! “Lion King” borrows from “Hamlet”, which is believe to be inspired by earlier legends of kings and sons such as “Hrólfs saga kraka” and the story of Brutus.
For those of you who are still skeptical, just watch the video below to learn that there really is nothing new under the sun:
Thanks for reading and happy listening.