Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Calling all trained musicians. Answer this question, please.

Over on some of the Prince fan sites, they've worn this topic out, going back and forth saying "Alicia Keys is always stealing from Prince" as though that means she's not talented all by herself. In particular they debate (I've only lurked and not joined a forum) that Keys's song "Like You'll Never See Me Again" sounds like a Prince song. Many of them say they're not sure which one. Could be "Purple Rain," or "Diamonds & Pearls" or "Adore," they say.

The first time I heard "Like You'll Never See Me Again" last year, I immediately thought of "Adore" by Prince. If you are trained in music theory and come across this post, please tell me what's going on between the two songs. I think there's a musical term for it, and so I've cut samples from each song for your evaluation.

I'm not a musician, but are these songs in the same key, and if so, what's Alicia doing, playing the inverse of Adore in sections. I don't know at all, and that's why I want a musician to solve this mystery for me.

See clips below. Just press play and listen to each of the samples, please. And if you don't know the answer, but know someone who may be able to answer, please pass on the link.


Vérité Parlant said...

I've received two answers by email already. One from a BlogHer CE saying the songs are in the same key and are similar enough to be played over each other.

The other person, a musician from North Carolina said Alicia's sampled Prince: ... the "likeness" we hear is the (xylophone) i think at the very beginning of prince's song in alicia's. that's mostly what i can tell anyway...couldn't figure out how to post it on the website so i just replied here. also, it's not exactly the same, which is a way to get around having to pay prince royalties on the track. she just uses the run and repeats it throughout the entire piece. i've always felt like i heard this somewhere before, too and i swear there's another sample involved...

SarahChantel said...

Alicia is in fact NOT stealing from Prince. There is such thing as being influenced by a certain artist, and that's what I think she's done on this song. From what I remember, she actually called Prince with approval of this song and he loved it. Theft is acknowledging what's been taken. Alicia has in fact stated that the song is inspired by Prince and that she is such a fan of "Adore". I think this may be the only song she's done this with, HCYDCM was a remake that just got big.

Vérité Parlant said...

Thank you, Sarah. I suppose by using the word "not" in all caps as "NOT," you're shouting your message to the people from the Prince fan sites who say Alicia steals from Prince because I've never said that, as you can read on an older post when I mentioned Alicia and Prince once before.

I know what it means to be inspired by an artist and the musical theme she uses is not a duplication but an allusion, which is what it would be called in literary terms (I'm a poet/writer not a musician.) I don't know if that's the term for music as well, but great poets allude to other poets they admire all the time. It's like an homage in code. :-) And the more prominent the allusion without actually duplicating another writer's work the more talented the poet or writer who does it is considered to be.

In fact there's a funny quote about the practice: "Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright." (quote from Sorkin) But he doesn't mean "steal" as in plagiarize." He means to take from the other writer and truly make the new piece that comes from it your own while people can hear or see the influence of the writer who inspired you. I think that's what Alicia does and I think it proves she's not only a gifted musician but also a highly educated musician, which we know she is.

Still, I keep thinking there is a musical term for it, particularly how she uses the notes she's playing on what sounds like an electronic xylophone or something that we also hear in Prince's "Adore." It's like she's playing the same notes but inside out.

I'm not sure its "sampling" as one musician told me because to sample is usually to use the exact notes not a variation in the same key.

And that's what's bugging me the most. I'm a word person so I want to know "What's the musical term for it or is there a word from the music dictionary for it?"

Thank you. You can see why I've never joined a Prince fan forum because no one would want to talk about the musical term. They'd just want to keep saying Alicia is a thief and I disagree. :-)

Jimmy said...

Yeah, the xylophone line is the same and the beat is essentially the same. Both singers are also at the top of their range with chorus voices cutting in and commenting. The structures of the two songs are very similar. There does seem to be imitation going on in Alicia's piece.

Vérité Parlant said...

Thanks, Jim. I took a look at the Garvey blog. WOWSERS! What a family of writers and great people.

Be well.