Pop Singers Falsely Accused of Copying and Plagiarizing
Carly Rae Jepsen is being sued for plagiarism by a Ukrainian pop star named Aza. Aza insists that Jepsen's Call Me Maybe is a rip-off of her song Hunky Santa. Now if both songs have anything in common, I'm clearly missing it. I seriously doubt that the Canadian Jepsen and her co-writer Tavish Crowe were bopping to Hunky Santa before penning Call Me Maybe, which surprisingly was originally written as a folk song. Claims like this are often used as publicity stunts, not because the case is winnable.
Sometimes major artists do outright copy lessor known artists in the hope they can get away with it. Billboard magazine recently called out Beyonce for stealing "choreography, cinematography and costumes" from Belgian choreographer and dancer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker for her Countdown video. However, some people argue that Beyonce simply used De Keersmaeker's work as inspiration.
Similarities can be deliberate or unintentional. Sometimes similarities happen because of similar influences. This doesn't mean that ripping off or plagiarism actually occurred. Indie singers often accuse big name popstars of stealing either their music or their style. They claim they are the influences for major popstars and complain about not getting credit. But these claims can often amount to jealousy and their own frustrations at not making it to the big time.
Did Beyonce Copy? Decide for yourself
Thrift Shop Vs. Wut
Copying Claims Against New Artists
New artists who make it big are often most prone to copying allegations. They're known at the beginning for just one song, therefore any similarities to anyone else is easily seen as copying. With more material out, those comparisons can quickly evaporate.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis recently had a massive smash with Thrift Shop. Macklemore actually has a long history in music going back to 2000 but he is technically a new artist in terms of mainstream success. Some people have brought up similarities to an earlier song Wut by Le1f because the beats are similar. I'm not aware of Le1f making this complaint and there's a dispute about whether beats can even be copyrighted. However, some singers will send surrogates out to make their case for them or fans will take the opportunity to make spurious claims to draw attention to their largely unknown favorites.
Katy Perry was a victim of similar claims with I Kissed a Girl because Jill Sobule had a song with the same name. Sobule didn't seem happy with Perry using the same title for her song and seemed to think that Perry had stolen her idea. According to some surveys about half of all women will kiss another woman, so it's hardly unusual behavior.
It's hard to know if Perry had ever even heard the Sobule song. I hadn't. Songs often have the same titles. That's hardly evidence of copying. Plus the Sobule and Perry songs have nothing in common. Sobule's song is about friends who kiss. Perry's is about kissing an unknown girl in a club and has elements of religious guilt thrown in. Sobule's song is folksy, Perry's is pure pop rock.
Sometimes claims can get nasty as Ke$ha found out when she was accused of ripping off French based rapper Uffie when Tik Tok first became big. Uffie clearly thought Ke$ha was imitating her and indirectly made rude comments like this tweet:
Going to wipe the floor with a certain knock off the year…
Prior to Tik Tok, electro music was mainly part of the indie underground that Uffie was part of. Ke$ha is largely credited with bringing electro into mainstream pop. Uffie felt that Ke$ha had ripped her off and hadn't given her any credit. However when Ke$ha's Animal album was released about four months after Tik Tok, the comparisons didn't seem so strong anymore. Ke$ha said that French electro duo Daft Punk were big influences for Animal. Daft Punk was also a big influence for Uffie. But Ke$ha's use of the Daft Punk sound turned out to be very different than Uffie's. It's fair to say Ke$ha did give proper credit to the people who actually did influence her. Uffie simply wasn't one of those people.
Uffie and Ke$ha are white women who do sing-talk and rap. The comparison largely ends there. Uffie is a rapper and sing-talker but Ke$ha is mainly a singer who occasionally does songs that mix sing-talk and rap. Most of her songs are fully sung. Ke$ha had also circulated a demo CD prior to 2005 that had a rap track. Uffie appeared on the scene in 2005, so Ke$ha's rap interests preceded Uffie and most likely were inspired by those other white rappers The Beastie Boys.
Ke$ha's sophomore album Warrior has a mix of pop, country, rock and folk. Several tracks are devoid of vocal effects or electro music and two are mostly acoustic. Early comparisons based on a couple of songs were probably understandable but Ke$ha and Uffie clearly have almost nothing in common musically.
Lady Gaga and Style Copying
Lady Gaga is known for her unusual style choices. Her looks are as much of an art as her music. Gaga has understandably been a victim of copying claims. Kerli and Peaches are two singers who have accused Gaga of ripping off their style. When The Guardian Newspaper asked Peaches a question about Lady Gaga, she responded:
Don't even say the word. People should be asking her
The problem with these claims is that women have been dying their hair unusual colors and wearing outlandish outfits and make up for a long time. Gaga is likely pulling influences from all over the place rather than copying one or two particular singers.
Not only is Gaga often accused of copying, other female singers are often accused of copying her. Katy Perry is especially accused of this. But I don't really see much of a similarity. Perry likes to switch between normal clothing and hairstyles and more bizarre and interesting choices from time to time. This is true of Ke$ha as well who can look downright glamorous one day and completely odd the next.
But artists, male and female, have been doing this kind of thing for decades. Glam rock preceded Kerli, Peaches, Gaga, Perry and Ke$ha. Cyndi Lauper and Boy George were coloring their hair and making "interesting" clothing and make up choices in the 1980s. Swipes at Gaga are most likely made to garner media attention for the accusers rather than being serious claims.
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