“Entities should not be multiplied without necessity!!”
That’s Occam’s Razor. Or, as an old friend of mine used to lazily put it, “don’t hurt yourself looking for a more elaborate explanation when a simpler one will do.”
This really will only take three minutes.
Katy Perry is in court as I’m typing this, defending her hit Dark Horse against an infringement claim by the creators of Joyful Noise, and against what I consider VERY elaborate explanations for why they sound similar. Before I show you a better and simpler one, here are the two tracks…
Sure, they are similar, but to make the quick leap to “copied!” you’d need to believe all sorts of relatively unlikely things happened. At trial we’ve got the plaintiff’s expert arguing that “5 or 6 points of similarity” is a whole lot when it really isn’t. It’s like saying a fruit loop is a lot of food because it’s got five or six ingredients. And Perry’s expert (an especially formidable fellow btw, as you’d expect) is evidently saying that both songs are more relatable to “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” “Merrily We Roll Along,” and “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” or something like that. I’m inclined to imagine he has a point, maybe, sorta — he’s fairly brilliant — but honestly I don’t see it, and either way, this argument is neither the simplest nor the best available one.
That was a lot of introduction but I’ve got a couple minutes left. And that’s all I need. I’ve got a simpler line of reasoning. It’s more likely the truth of the matter, and here it is. Start the clock.
First, Dark Horse’s chorus includes this melody.
And when they went into production on Dark Horse, that melody was probably the basis for this next figure which appears at the very beginning of the song as its intro, and also throughout the piece as an accompaniment. (It’s the accompaniment to the chorus, for example.) Goes like…
It’s just the same four notes over and over. Those four notes are Db, C, Bb, and F.
Then, perhaps inspired by a way more famous tune, “Moments In Love” by Art of Noise, characterized largely by its breathy synthesizer melody sample which has appeared, according to WhoSampled.com, in a quadrillion other songs! and is therefore WAY more plausibly their inspiration, they took the four notes from their own chorus and accompaniment and introduction — Db, C, Bb and F — and used them as “Moments In Love” style pulsing quarter-notes. This is the figure Perry’s getting sued over and it sounds like this…
And it looks like this…
It’s the same four pitches — Db, C, Bb, and F; can you see it? It’s these same four notes in that order from the chorus, from the intro, and from the accompaniment that occurs through out the piece.
And in case you’ve no idea what “Moments In Love” is, here’s that…
The synth sound itself in Dark Horse (as well as the musical device of repeating strident quarter notes) is clearly reminiscent not of Joyous Noise, but of this super famous track and its synthesizer sound that is so historically significant that it took me only 30 seconds to find it in my studio so I could make those audio examples for you.
And not for nothing, but the pitches used in Joyful Noise’s own ostinato are a different four pitches than Dark Horse and are, wait for it, TAKEN FROM ITS OWN CHORUS and probably came about in exactly the same fashion.
That’s it. That’s what the synth part from Dark Horse is. It’s the song’s chorus, turned into an accompaniment, turned into a pop drop.
The 5 or 6 points of similarity don’t matter, and neither does Mary Had A Little Lamb.
There’s no way a jury doesn’t absorb that in the same two or three minutes it took you. Tell me I’m wrong.
They are substantially similar. Your comparisons are not valid.
You make good points, but these days it has become much more common to start with an instrumental and to add topline on top of it than to start with the melody and build an instrumental around the melody. And if you listen to the instrumental only, you can hear that not only is the verse synth line almost identifical but so is the bass drum pattern. That said it is a VERY simple synth line and not a very original one, so this could easily have been an co-incidence, and still only a small part of what the song is, nothing in the melody or lyrics is from “Joyful Noise”.
You’re wrong. She lost
I appreciate you’re telling me I’m wrong, as I asked everybody to do. 🙂 But tell me one thing I was wrong about.
How did that work out? Oh, you were wrong by the way.
It worked out badly. But how was I wrong?
Unfortunately, you are wrong. At least about eh jury part.
Nah, the line of reasoning I suggested wasn’t shown to the jury, afaik.
Jury seemed to think you are wrong
I listened to both songs expecting to hear a real rip off. I heard nothing of the sort. Katy Perry’s song is way more rich and developed. She sings, Flame does not. My guess is that the jury has zero musical sensibilities and / or they are probably all born again which is why the jury decided it was infringement. I see Dr Luke was involved as well, and he has been in the news before so maybe they wanted to nail him too. I can think of many songs that rip each other off in more significant ways than this. While we are on it, can Hollywood be sued for lifting from other movies? I can think of a ton. The jury sounds like a bunch of weasels.
That Dark Horse is more complex isn’t really the point though. If I believed that Joyful Noise became even a small part of Dark Horse, Flame would deserve that measure of it. Thanks for your comments.
OMG!! Yesss! I don’t know I could think of the other song that this sounds more familiar from. I think at least Art of Noise should be suing them. Haha!
Can’t believe Katy lost the case and may have to pay up to 20 million to this guy….
There is only a little line from the background of a small part of Dark Horse that is the same as part of Joyful Noise; otherwise the two songs have nothing in common. That line is not the main melody or fundamental basis of Dark Horse, though it is of Joyful Noise. It’s also a simple enough figure – a descending scale (8-7-6-3) with each note repeated four times, played on an electronic keyboard – that it could plausibly have been come up with independently, or it’s also quite likely that both might have been lifted from or inspired by a common source. Or that they had heard Joyful Noise and subconsciously or inadvertently recreated it later. Or that they heard it and liked it and lifted it consciously. Who knows.
On the other hand, cribbing bits of other music like that is extremely common – PARTICULARLY IN RAP MUSIC – but also goes back hundreds of years.
Also, I wonder how this played out: did it start off with a straight up lawsuit being served with no warning? (In which case, Perry would have been advised to admit nothing, make no comments, and let her lawyers handle it.) Or did it start off with the creator of Joyful Noise politely saying “hey, did you realize that part of your song is exactly the same as on of ours?” In which case, Perry could have said “we didn’t realize it, but these guys had this same idea first, props to them” (huge free publicity for an obscure Christian rapper), and maybe negotiate some kind of modest payment too. Or maybe in which case Perry was a bitch about it, who knows. For me, I think this backstory would matter, though I don’t know if it came up at trial or what that backstory was.
Thanks for this. I thought it explained things quite well. I think it’s also worth noting that Perry’s version has a two-bar phrase while Flame’s has a four-bar phrase. To me, that is another significant difference. And then you can get into the articulation, where Flame slides into the notes while Perry hits them straight on. And the timber is quite different with Flame’s tone being sharp and mechanical while Perry’s is airy and gentle.
Even if it could be argued that if you changed the key and tempo, moved a couple of notes around etc so that the similar passage was practically identical albiet with a different although similar sounding bass line and beat, this would normally resemble a case where an artist has sampled part of another artists song and they would get royalties for that part, not the whole thing.
If that was the case, how did Vanilla Ice get away with Ice Ice baby just by adding a bass note to the beginning of the phrase?
I agree that this lawsuit was frivolous & the outcome was very surprising, BUT… Your argument that the similar melodic elements in each song were both just the Melody from their respective chorus & played as as a quarter note accompanying figure just strengthens the Plaintiff’s case.. Not only are the melodic parts similar & played with a similar sound & style, but they are also both derived from the chorus of the song.. This is just one more “point of similarity” in the Jury’s eyes. Your point isn’t wrong, but it definitely does not clear “Dark Horse” of Plagiarism.
I don’t follow. You’re saying a common technique like theme and variation can be one more “point of similarity?” No. You can’t argue that I shouldn’t stretch my own chorus material to derive intros and accompanying parts and solos because you did it also. You used yours. I used mine. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
Assume the judgement will be thrown out on appeal… it’s clearly a terrible decision.
Too bad you didn’t work with her lawyers. I can see similarities, but not enough to say she ripped off the song. I think the jury found her guilty because they both start off with the line “what it is?” Even if the melody is not shown to be the same, the average person hears that, combined with four pulses + four pulses in a descending octave, sees the connection and its a wrap. Your explanation shows how the songs are clearly different. Especially the part about the pulse-like pitches being taken from the songs own chorus.
I’m so curious about your thoughts on Ariana Grande’s 7 Rings vs. Princess Nokia’s “Bundles”….an ongoing discussion among my friends.
Personally, I believe you are absolutely correct. I think the Jury either got it wrong or wasn’t provided the evidence to make an informed decision. There is simply no way to see that she “ripped off” their song. A couple (3 notes) does not a song make. Your explanation shows how the songs are clearly different. You should have been a witness in the trial!
Well, there you go. https://apnews.com/c1f74039c73ea11888fe7ef8451491cc
She won in the end.
She did. But wow, a bumpy road.