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Is the entertainment world losing its ability to be original? The question continues to grow as more and more artists and production companies are being called out for their lack of creativity. It seems these days that almost every movie is a remake, a live-action redo of a classic cartoon or a live production of every musical you've ever seen. TV shows are making spin-off after spin-off. It feels like we're watching the same things over and over again. Sometimes, we can't complain. Some of these productions are great. The new Mary Poppins is leaving grown adults in tears, and we're fine with it, and we'd be lying if we said we didn't want more Game of Thrones, in any capacity. This isn't the case for them all, though.
Movies and television are not where the problems stops - these days, just about everyone is feeling a little ripped off for something. The music industry is certainly part of the issue — and this isn't news. With Ariana Grande being the latest "culprit" for plagiarism, we have to ask — is there an infinite number of ways to make a melody or a song? And when does something turn from inspiration to copyright infringement? Plagiarism has been a problem as long as music has, and you'd be surprised to find that many of your favorite artists have faced the backlash at one point or another. Whether it's a mistake, an unconscious addition. or a purposely ignored lack of credit where credit it due — artists up and down the charts have paid the price (sometimes literally) for the music they've created. See if your favorite unfortunately falls on the list, and compare the songs for yourself.
After dropping her first song of the new year ahead of another upcoming album release slated for February 8, Ariana Grande faced backlash from rapper and songwriter Princess Nokia for plagiarism. The New York City-based artist claimed that the catchy Sound of Music bop sounded a little bit too similar to her 2018 song "Mine" and a little too culturally appropriated. Though there was no official apology made for the alleged copycatting, the "Thank U, Next" singer did address on Instagram some of the cultural issues dealing with buying hair and weaves, saying in a comment "Thanks for opening the conversation and like… to everyone for talking to me about it. It's never my intention to offend anybody."
The problematic 2013 hit, "Blurred Lines," was in headlines for the months after its release based on its visual and lyrical sexism, not to mention Robin Thicke's behavior. But the trouble wasn't over for the performer and fellow singer/producer Pharrell when they were accused by the Marvin Gaye estate of copyright infringement of the musical style of "Got to Give It Up." Following a very long, harrowing lawsuit that lasted through 2018, the pair were ordered to pay Gaye's estate $5.3 million dollars. Though the lawsuit has been settled, hundreds of artists - including Earth, Wind & Fire and Fall Out Boy - protested the decision by signing an appeal citing an "impact on creativity."
Vanilla Ice became a star when "Ice Ice Baby" became the first hip hop single to top the Billboard Top 100, but he soon found he'd have to share that success. The hit was, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, realized, a "blatant rip-off" of their song "Under Pressure" with David Bowie. The rapper originally claimed the melodies differed on the fourth beat - enough to apparently claim no infringement, but later admitted to sampling the song. There wasn't any hard feelings according to Mercury's website, though the band's manager Jim Beach did handle the situation, which ended with the rapper giving both credit and royalties. The beloved lead singer found the imitation flattering.
Almost as famous as the Abbey Road album it came from, "Come Together" has been a fan-favorite from The Beatles' discography for years. Its captivated minds not only because of its lyrical mystery, but also because of its lyrical and musical similarities with Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me." Though John Lennon and Paul McCartney insisted they changed the sound, Big Seven Music Corp. and owner Morris Levy sued, and they settled out of court with an agreement for the bespectacled guitarist to record more of their songs legally. Unfortunately, the "Imagine" singer was killed before his promise could be completed and his estate was sued, paying $6,795.
Lady Gaga's second-album hit "Born This Way" became one of the best-selling singles of all time after preaching acceptance to listeners of all races and sexual orientations, eventually lending a name to her foundation that focuses on mental wellness. However, the song suffered some bad press after being compared to Madonna's "Express Yourself." Originally, the Queen of Pop expressed that should found the song "familiar" and "reductive," and went on to add that it was "a wonderful way to redo my song." Shade. Mother Monster reacted to the criticism by saying, "the only similarities are the chord progression. It's the same one that has been in disco music for the last 50 years," apologizing only for being more creative than her fellow industry artists.
When Coldplay's second single off the album "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends," was released, it took the world by storm. It became the band's first number-one single in both the U.K. and the U.S. and won the Grammy for Song of the Year. They found trouble though when guitarist Joe Satriani filed a lawsuit for instrumental similarities with his song "If I Could Fly." The band denied any copyright allegations, and the court dismissed the lawsuit, though they would go on to face allegations from other artists. Frontman Chris Martin has brushed off any problems simply stating, "The successful songs seem to be the ones that are accused of being stolen."
Mark Ronson knows how to make a hit. His time with Amy Winehouse, Miley Cyrus, and the like has only produced gold, which is an understatement for the reception of Bruno Mars's Record of the Year "Uptown Funk." The song spent 14 consecutive weeks at number one Billboard Hot 100. However, Ronson was in hot water more than four different times for plagiarism. Ronson has been accused of copying "Oops Upside Your Head" by The Gap Band, "Young Girls" by Collage, "Funk You Up" by The Sequence and more. The Collage initially started a lawsuit but it was dropped a year later, so the bop continues to live on as a pop culture legend.
Avril Lavigne's departure from her more punk beginnings in hit "Girlfriend," was widely and happily received. The catchy tune went multi-platinum and made the "Top 100 Songs of 2007" list from Rolling Stones. The song even got the remix treatment with help from Lil Mama. Unfortunately, the "Sk8er Boi" belter and her labels were sued in May that year by James Gangwer and Tommy Dunbar, who had written a similar song "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" for The Rubinoos in 1979. A musicologist determined there were no similarities between the two tunes, and a settlement was reached a year later with the two lyricists absolving Lavigne of any wrongdoing.
Grammy-nominated "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by British rock band The Verve is a tune that most people can recognize just from the few opening notes. This can be said for The Rolling Stones, whose song "The Last Time" was sampled on the song. The sample came from the Andrew Oldham Orchestra's cover of said Stones song and was originally signed off on. However, after the song's release, Stones manager Allen Klein claimed the band used a larger portion than allowed. After a lawsuit and settling out of court, all royalties were relinquished to Klein and credits were rewritten to include Mick Jagger, Richard Ashcroft and Keith Richards. Verve bassist, Simon Jones, believes they only asked for money after seeing the song's success, but we'll let you be the judge.
Ed Sheeran has many talents outside what he shows on his own stage — including writing and producing for other artists. His song "The Rest of Our Life," was made for country couple Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Talk about goals. Not on the list of why we obsess over any of the three artists is the lawsuit they faced together. Sean Carey and Beau Golden sued for "blatant copying" of their song "When I Found You," performed by Jasmine Rae and released two years prior. The "Perfect" crooner agreed to settle the lawsuit, but has faced a number of similar allegations in the past. Will this be his last?
Lana Del Rey, released her album Lust for Life in July of 2017. It didn't take long for comparisons to be drawn between her track "Get Free" and Radiohead's popular tune "Creep." Not shortly after, the queen of melancholy announced that the band was demanding 100% of the publishing rights. She insisted that song inspiration did not come from the 1992 song, but that she was willing to give them 40% regardless. Months later, the whole lawsuit was refuted by Radiohead's publisher, stating they only wished to have discussions about credits. Whether or not inspiration should count towards accreditation is one of the biggest struggles that artists face today.
Sam Smith found joy in pain after winning two Grammys for his hit "Stay With Me." He also narrowly escaped adding on to that pain after Tom Petty discovered that the song mirrored his hit "I Won't Back Down." The leader of the Heartbreakers felt this was an easy fix and asked for he and Jeff Lynne to receive 12.5% songwriting credit. "All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen. Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by ... we easily came to an agreement," he said. And our Grammy winner didn't have any hard feelings either, acknowledging that though he'd never even heard the song, there were definitely some similarities.
Whether its because of a powerful solo via Adam Scott in Step Brothers, a college basketball intro video or just great taste in old music, almost everyone has heard the strong, soulful sounds of "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns 'N' Roses. But in 2015, Australian TV music channel MAX called out the classic rock band for plagiarizing the song "Unpublished Critics" by Australian Crawl. The story went viral quickly, and Duff McKagan, former bassist for the band whose tenure included the creation of the song in question, quickly shut rumors down. No further action was taken, but the rumors still plague YouTube with comparison and controversy videos.
When Ghostbusters came out, they knew they'd need a catchy theme song. Ray Parker Jr. provided just that, writing a song of the same name that would be sung on Halloween for decades to come. The seemingly goofy tune didn't always play to ears with positive connotations though. Huey Lewis sued Columbia Pictures as well as the singer for infringement on his song "I Want a New Drug." The issues was settled out of court, but Lewis got into some trouble of his own after discussing the matter on VH1's Behind the Music, resulting in the singer-songwriter suing him back.
When The Beatles broke up, each of them went on to explore a solo career. George Harrison's first attempt and single was "My Sweet Lord," and it was taken incredibly well. It was the first number-one single by a Beatle as well as the biggest selling single in the U.K. in 1971. Years later though he would be subject to a lawsuit for copying "He's So Fine," a song written by Ronnie Mack for The Chiffons. Having admitted that he'd heard the track, the ex-Beatle was found guilty of "subconsciously copying." With the lawsuit not being resolved until 1998, it was one of the longest-running legal battles in the U.S., ending with the rights of the copied song being questionably bought and transferred as well as a payment of over $500,000.