Ed Sheerean is being sued for allegedly plagiarizing a song originally recorded by Marvin Gaye. According to Bloomberg*, Sheeran’s song “Thinking Outloud” sounds too much like the soul classic “Let’s Get It On.”
If this news sounds familiar, it’s because Marvin Gaye’s estate also sued Robin Thicke for song plagiarism as well. They claimed that Thicke’s “Blured Lines” sounds the same as “Got to Give it Up.” Same lawsuit, different artist.
After the lawsuit against Robin Thicke, Digital Music News compiled a list of songs that sound more similar than the ones involved in the lawsuit. These include:
Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” vs. Queen/David Bowie’s “Under Pressure”
Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” vs. Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down”
The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA” vs. Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”
Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” Vs. Joe Satriani’s “If I Could Fly”
Radiohead’s “Creep” Vs. The Hollies “The Air That I Breathe”
The Strokes’ “Last Night” Vs. Tom Petty’s “American Girl”
Of course it’s also worth noting that Natasha Bedingfield has a “pocketful of sunshine” while Justin Timberlake just has “sunshine in my pocket.” And hello, what about Adele totally stealing Lionel Richie’s Hello? Lionel Richie retaliated with a funny video. He didn’t sue, claiming Adele plagiarized him with her Hello song. (Lionel Richie apparently didn’t have the foresight or possibly the legal ability to copyright the word hello.)
On one hand, recording artists should be able to protect their artwork. If they create original word and sound combinations, they should get paid if anyone else use the same lyrical and musical combinations. But in these cases, either the words are similar or the sounds are similar, but not both.
Song writers and musical artists should absolutely be protected, the same way visual artists are. But I guess where the blurred lines are is when songwriters try to claim everything sounds like their music.
There are only so many beats and rhythms the world can create. Every day I hear a song that reminds me of another song. Especially when playing drums, all songs start to sound exactly alike.
When does song plagiarism start? Cribbing starts in the crib, literally. For example, take these nursery rhyme songs:
- Hot Cross Buns – Totally a remake of Hickory Dickory Dock
- Little Bo Peep Vs. Little Miss Muffet? – Same beat and lyrics are a ‘little’ similar.
- London Bridge is Falling Down and Mary Had a Little Lamb are the exact same song. Sing them now, change out the words. You’ll realize they’re “The exact same song, exact same song. The exact same song! London Bridge is the exact same song. It’s fleece was white as snow.”
See? Even Mary and her plagiarizing little lamb admit to fleecing London and it’s bridge! And the fleece was white as snow. Just a pure little innocent fleecing. Mary never planned to hurt anyone.
Instead of lawsuits and threats, maybe recording artists should be thrilled that they created something with such a profound impact that it invades people’s subconscious and never leaves. Maybe Ed Sheeran got Marvin Gaye’s song stuck in his head. And no matter how hard he tried to write other songs, there is was, a dark little thought ninja, lurking in his subconscious, manipulating his music.
According to Karen Blumberg’s 6th grade student during a discussion of the Mona Lisa’s image entitlement, “No one should own the art, as Art is an exression of love and should be shared as a gift to the world.”
Vinnie Van Gogh didn’t lay claim to all paintings of nights with stars. Leo Da Vinci didn’t demand that no other artist paint photos of calculating women. After Michaelangelo finished The Creation of Adam, he didn’t proclaim that no one else paint naked men with miniature penises. Georgia O’Keieffe didn’t claim ownership of all flower paintings and George Rodrigue doesn’t own the color blue.
Maybe Marvin Gaye’s family should take Marvin’s original 1973 advice and “give it up.” Ed Sheeran even says in the song that he is just ‘thinking out loud.’ Give him a break. Besides, but how can someone sue this adorable face?
*I am referring the Bloomberg, the media company here, not Michael Bloomberg. Although I’m pretty sure Michael Bloomberg himself would be on Ed Sheeran’s side of the argument.