Creativity, inspiration and plagiarism in music

So I was on VH1 the other day and they played the song Photograph by Ed Sheeran. And I suddenly remembered he had a lawsuit against him from the writers of a song called Amazing performed by someone called Matt Cardle. Apparently Ed Sheeran made a deal with the writers and they are now credited as co-writers to his song Photograph.

But this got me thinking about the 3 things in the title of this post. It’s been a few agitated years for artists such as Led Zeppelin, Pharell and Ed Sheeran, with all these guys having lawsuits filed against them for Stairway to Heaven, Blurred Lines and Photograph respectively. And I am totally for this lawsuits…when there is ACTUALLY SOMETHING COPIED in the songs.

Before you call me tone deaf, yes, I’ve listened to the song Amazing and it would have been really hard for Ed Sheeran to get out of it without having to give some credit to the original writers. The case should have been worded differently though. I don’t know all the details, but it refers to the chorus of the songs and how they found somewhere in the vicinity of 40 identical notes, which is quite impossible from a lawyer-y point of view since the songs are NOT IN THE SAME KEY, even though the chord succession is identical during the chorus and it’s pretty obvious that the voice line follows the same melodic line in both songs.

What I actually have a problem with is people wanting to get rich by filing lawsuits left and right when they don’t have a case to stand on. Pharell’s Blurred Lines song is an obvious tribute to a Marvin Gaye song (Got to Give It Up to be exact), but it’s not a note for note copy of the original song, even though it has the same general feel. The same goes for Stairway to Heaven. I don’t know what happened with Pharell, but I was glad that the Led Zeppelin one didn’t go through and the band didn’t have to pay a dime. I mean, the original members of the band Spirit didn’t really care that much about the whole thing, this only went nuts after the rights to their songs were passed on or something like that. And while the feel of Stairway to Heaven and Taurus is the same, this is caused by the fact that the two songs use the same chords in the same order.

And while eyebrows can be raised towards Led Zeppelin (they were touring with Spirit prior to releasing Stairway if I remember correctly), I don’t believe Ed Sheeran did this on purpose. There is a large time span between the two songs and to be fair, I’ve never heard of the Matt Cardle single before this fiasco. It’s quite possible that Ed Sheeran unconsciously wrote the same line after hearing the song in the background and not realizing it is the same. Or he could have blatantly copied it just as well, I don’t know the guy. When Shape of You came out, there were times when I expected Sia’s Cheap Thrills to play, so…

What I want is for this whole trend to stop. If someone blatantly copies a song note for note then yes, file a lawsuit if you must. But getting mad because a song kind of sounds the same to another one…I don’t know how pop artists or their writers can live with themselves.

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