Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Does anybody make real shit anymore?"

I was listening to Radiohead songs on shuffle the other day when the Bends track "Sulk" came on.  I guess I never realized it before since the Bends is not a Radiohead album I play very often, but it quickly became apparent to me that four-note guitar riff that leads into the song is exactly the same as the beginning of the Foo Fighter's track "In Your Honor" off of the album of thesame name (which came after "Sulk").  Both songs repeat the riff several times at the intro.

Despite the obvious similarity, I'm not calling foul as much as just making an interesting observation.  I'm not really one to buy much into the hype around "plagiarism" in music.  As someone who writes music, I understand that sometimes something that starts out as an original idea can bear a resemblance to something already written.  I thought the hubbub (apparently that is the technical spelling of "hubbub") around the similarities between the RHCP's "Dani California" with Tom Petty's "Last Dance with Mary Jane" a few years ago was absurd.  It's 3-chords in a four chord progression, people, not an uncommon progression at that, and the cadence isn't even the same.  To be honest, it didn't even bother me when the Strokes admitted to ripping off Petty's "American Girl" on "Last Nite". 

In the modern era of music, where every other song you hear contains a sample or is a mash-up or a cover, it's just hard to be bothered when artistic freedom steps on the toes of creative licensing.  It used to annoy me when artists who I am really passionate about, typically ones who are not really that well known in the mainstream, were sampled/covered by huge artists whose "naive" fans (and I mean that as gently as possible) won't know the difference.  For example, when Coldplay took the main riff of Kraftwerk's "Computer World" for their song "Talk" on X&Y, or when Kanye West more famously sampled Daft Punk on "Stronger".  Inevitably I was able to reconcile those feelings though with the fact that a) those being sampled are (hopefully) making money off of royalties for those songs, and b) as people begin to discover that songs are sampled/covered it might inspire them to check out the original artists.  Obviously Daft Punk got absolutely huge exposure after "Stronger".  Yet, I still laugh every time I hear the hilarious Kanye (who I love) pointing the finger and asking "Does anybody make real shit anymore?" on a song whose entire backdrop was taken straight off someone elses album.