Friday, March 13, 2015

Did Robin Thicke & Pharrell Williams REALLY steal ‘Blurred Lines’ from Marvin Gaye?

A great piece published by music writer Jon Bennett:

The case has now been resolved, and the jury found in the Gayes’ favour, despite the copying not being exact and the musical elements dissimilar, as my original February 2014 post (below) argues. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Richard Busch, the Gaye family lawyer, describes how the Thicke side’s hubris and inconsistency contributed to the jury verdict going against them – but insists that the case was successful because of the characteristics of the music itself. For those who have said that this sets a dangerous precedent for creators (including me – see this MTV news interview), this may be so in terms of discouraging musical homage in arrangements. But in (US) legal terms, a jury ruling is different from a court ruling, so each case is judged on its merits and on the specific evidence presented. Therefore this settlement does not represent ‘case law’ (as attorney Brian D Caplan points out in the same MTV feature) but it has certainly made some creators rather uncertain about their future songwriting and producing practices… [JB]

The allegations were that Thicke (with co-writers Pharrell Williams and Cliff Harris Jr)

  • Copied the bass line of Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up’.
  • Copied the ‘defining funk’ of the cowbell accents.

Here are the facts:

  • Blurred Lines is 120 beats per minute.
  • Got To Give It Up is 122 beats per minute.
  • Both songs feature a syncopated cowbell part and an electric piano (Gaye’s bassline is actually played on a 1976 RMI harmonic synthesiser).
  • The vocal melodies and lyrics of the songs are very obviously different from one another.
  • The songs have different chord patterns from each other.
  • The recordings are in different keys; ‘Blurred Lines’ is in G; ‘Got To Give It Up’ is in A.

The two basslines are transcribed [above]. I’ve transposed ‘Blurred Lines’ into the same key as ‘Got To Give It Up’ here for ease of comparison, and notated them in A minor (no sharps or flats) partly for simplicity and partly because both basslines are built on notes of the home key’s minor pentatonic scale. This ‘normalisation’ is intended to highlight any similarities that might otherwise be disguised by transcribing ‘Blurred Lines’ in the original key – that is, I’m giving Gaye’s side the best possible chance of proving their assertion that the bassline has been copied.

Click here to read more.