The first time I heard Robin Thicke and Pharrell William’s Blurred Lines I thought, “This sounds just like Got To Give It Up”. A lot of people thought the same thing… including Marvin Gaye’s heirs. A big, messy lawsuit ensued, which should wrap up any day now.
Blurred Lines (written mostly by Pharrell) evokes the feeling of Marvin Gaye’s classic and indelibly funky track so effectively that at first I thought they sounded the same, that one was a ripoff of the other. I was wrong.
Comparison of the two reveals that there are many more differences than similarities, and that very little in Thicke’s song is even close – compositionally – to Got To Give It Up (GTGIU).
The words are different, the melody is different, the chord progression is different, the tempo is different, the sounds are mostly different… do I have to go on?
What’s not different? Well, Blurred Lines has electric piano on upbeats, that cowbell (not the same pattern though), and the falsetto vocals – elements that are distinctive in GTGIU (but also used in thousands of other songs). They’re both funky. And, in my opinion, they’re both fantastic songs. That’s about it, other than ‘vibe’. And if you’re going to allow people to sue for ‘vibe’…
It’s an homage. Blurred Lines succeeds in evoking the spirit of the Marvin Gaye song. What’s wrong with that? The world would probably be a better place, musically and otherwise, if we evoked Marvin Gaye songs more often. But there are millions of songs that are closer – compositionally – to each other than these two are. Literally, millions.
I know that Thicke and Williams got themselves into trouble by telling conflicting stories about the creation of the song. They seemed to be hiding something. But acting weird and suspicious is not the same as guilt. Even if they lied… that’s not the same as plagiarism.
They started by trying, as many of us songwriters do, to emulate another song, in this case GTGIU. But what they ended up with was a product of their own considerable talents – which is where most of us hope to end up when we start a song by emulating one that already exists.
Just because a recording feels similar to another, or makes the listener feel similar, doesn’t constitute plagiarism. I’m not a lawyer but hey, that’s my opinion. You have to have the same sequence of notes and/or words. And in that respect these two songs are not even close.
Do you have an opinion on this?
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