I do the same thing whenever I hear two songs that sound exactly alike, trying to make everyone I know bear witness to how similar they are. And this week, Identical Song Twins had their day in court. Marvin Gaye’s estate just won a $7.3 million suit against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams based on the apparent similarities between Blurred Lines and Gotta Give It Up.
From my perspective as a person with legal training and working eardrums, I think this decision is hogwash. The overall vibe of Never Gonna Give You Up is there in Blurred Lines, sure, but those similarities will always occur in songs of the same genre. The riffs, chord progression, and song structure are all distinct. I still believe in Identical Song Twins, though. I just don’t think that all of them are straight-up rip-offs. Many of them – like Joey Tribbiani’s Identical Hand Twin – are just unrelated, random, identical coincidences. Do these sound alike to you?
That One Country Song From Last Year and Every Other Country Song From Last Year
You know those people who say that they listen to “everything but country?” Yeah, that isn’t us. We both really enjoy a good, laid-back summertime country song… drivin’ down that little ol’ dirt road… Sittin’ in my pickup… la la la something with blue jeans… you know, that song. We aren’t the only ones who noticed that all of these summer anthems are identical, as this mix illustrates.
You Raise Me Up and Danny Boy
The first thing I noticed when I heard You Raise Me Up is that it’s absolute drivel, like the musical version of one of those sappy stories that your one aunt always forwards, that always somehow relate to how things were better in the old days, or supporting our troops, or prayer in schools (I love the old days and our troops as much as the next gal, but you know the kind of sap I’m talking about). The second thing I noticed is that it’s Danny Boy, the song that Irish-Americans doggedly cling to even though it was the 19th century version of a pop song, written by an English guy no less. At first, nobody believed me when I said it, probably because they weren’t subjected to Danny Boy with as much regularity as I have been. Well within about a year, a “mashup” of the two appeared, or whatever you call a mashup when it’s something that my dad would listen to. Totally the same song.
Born This Way and Express Yourself
I guess this has turned into a feud between Lady Gaga and Madonna, but it doesn’t have to be like that. I remember one episode of Kids Incorporated where two of the incorporated kids wrote the same song, and they both claimed the other stole it, but they just both came up with it out of their own brains. That might be what happened here, except that Lady Gaga’s brain had spent about 20 years listening to Express Yourself, so maybe she was influenced without meaning to be. I don’t know, I guess I don’t have strong enough feelings about either Lady Gaga or Madonna to have a dog in this fight.
Anyway, here’s the Kids Incorporated thing, I’m not crazy:
Last Dance With Mary Jane and Dani California
Poor Tom Petty. These songs are different enough that they can be explained by the overlap in Tom Petty and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ style, but still. This sort of always happens to old Tom.
Won’t Back Down and Stay With Me
See? Petty and Sam Smith settled this one out of court, but hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Say what you will about the Heartbreakers, Tom Petty can write a really catchy melody.
Roar and Brave
I don’t see any stealing happening here, these just both sound like midtempo female pop songs from the 2010s… but they’re still song twins. Identical or fraternal? Jury’s still out.
California Gurls and Tik Tok
Katy Perry, at it again. Again, I don’t think this is a commentary on Katy Perry (/her “team”) stealing their tunes (this time from Ke$ha), but more on how a certain kind of pop song always sounds the same.
Best Song Ever and Baba O’Riley
I was late to the game with this one. By the time I heard Best Song Ever and thought “jeez, has nobody noticed that this is the long-lost song-twin of Baba O’Riley?” and went online to Google it, I discovered that I was wrong. Everybody had noticed. I have nothing against One Direction, they just aren’t my cup of tea, but if it gets a few more teens Youtubing The Who, that’s cool.
Sinner’s Sonnet and Landlocked Blues
Bright Eyes reminds me of 2005, when emo guys with feelings were the in thing and I was all about Conor Oberst. Admittedly, a lot of that mid-2000s Saddle Creek stuff has a certain sound to it. So a few years ago when I heard Sinner’s Sonnet it took me a minute to realize that it didn’t sound familiar because I had heard it before, it sounded familiar because it was song twins with Bright Eyes’ Landlocked Blues. Sinner’s Sonnet never got airplay or anything, but from my internet searching it looks like it popped up on Pandora for quite a few of us.
My Sweet Lord and He’s So Fine
It didn’t feel like I could make this list without including these identical song twins, but it also felt like stating the obvious — like putting Jesus on a list of People You May Not Have Noticed Were In The Bible or something. My Sweet Lord is one of George Harrison’s solo efforts, but this still shows why George’s songs are some of my favorite Beatles tunes. It’s because they’re basically identical to other, very good pop songs. If you can sing along to My Sweet Lord without inserting “doo-lang doo-lang doo-lang” into the chorus, you have a better ear than I do.