Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Yes, Pharrell, subconscious plagiarism is a thing (Video)

My better post the "Blurred Lines" case is this one: "Borrowed Grooves: Electric Guest, the Clash, Katrina & the Waves all did what Robin Thicke over-did," but Google keeps sending folks to my old post about Pharrell Williams's hit "Happy." That post answers whether "Happy" sounds like another song, but I also mention "Blurred Lines" in it.

I realized my blog had a bump in hits this morning and figured the rise in visits was due to yesterday's ruling against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. The judge decided that the duo's big hit of last summer copies from Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give it Up," and awarded Gaye's family nearly $7.4 million. The judge was right, but anyone who's read my old posts knows that I've said that since I first heard "Blurred Lines."

In my post on "Happy," I said that mega hit from the movie Despicable Me 2 sounds familiar because Pharrell captured one of the sounds of an era, the 1960s. I applaud him for that because he did it well. However, he and Thicke continue to claim that "Blurred Lines" merely captures the sound of the late 1970s. They claim among other things that it's a tribute to Marvin Gaye, but they are wrong, wrong, wrong there. Perhaps they are even lying to themselves.

Unlike some people who think Pharrell knowingly copied Marvin (meaning he didn't change the main groove of "Blurred Lines" enough from "Got to Give It Up"), I allow for the possibility that Pharrell fell to subconscious plagiarism. In other words, he didn't realize how much "Blurred Lines" sounded like "Got to Give It Up."

Pharrell actually wrote "Blurred Lines" (Thicke gets a courtesy credit that pays him cash). But I'm annoyed that Pharrell seems not to even consider the possibility that he plagiarized subconsciously or at least that he borrowed too much of Marvin's hit. I guess his ego is much larger than he'd like to think it is with his namasté  bowing and the talk of humility he affects on The Voice

However, the judge ruled against Pharell and Thicke not only because of the similarities between the two songs but also because of the various stories the duo's told about how the song came about. Thicke probably did the most harm there.

In my old post, I wrote:

Thicke admitted that he wanted "that [specific] groove" from that specific song. Anyone who's old enough to remember Marvin Gaye's musical evolution knows that the Motown singer later veered away from the standard Motown beat to do his own thing. As one of his later releases, "Got to Give It Up" was very different from other songs we listened to on the radio in the late 1970s, and even though it was the disco era, "Got to Give It Up" didn't feel like common disco.

All Thicke had to do was pay the copyright holders of "Got to Give It Up" for sampling Marvin's "groove" before he released the song, and he would have been legally covered, but he didn't.

They didn't just pay up; they did a preemptive strike against Marvin's family and sued them in advance. How tacky can you get? And Karma really wasn't having that tackiness. So, as someone punned on my Facebook page, now they have to "give it up." (Sam Smith settled with Tom Petty, and Smith really probably never heard Petty's "Won't Back Down." It's unbelievable that Pharrell would keep claiming "Blurred Lines" is 100 percent his genius when we all know he's probably listened to "Got to Give It Up" a lot.)

All the so-called professional songwriters and producers up in arms over this ruling, declaring it sets a bad precedent, need to give it up, too, give it up and have their ears checked.

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