We love songs that sound like nothing you've ever heard before, but we also love songs that sound like other songs.
Sometimes we love them before we know they sound like another song — for instance it was a Popjustice reader who brought to our attention the fact that Rixton's 'Me And My Broken Heart' sounded quite a lot like Rob Thomas' 'Lonely No More'.
But sometimes, we love songs that very obviously set out to reference other songs. Mark Ronson happily admits that 'Uptown Funk', for instance, was influenced by Quincy Jones. But that's partly what makes it amazing. It's kind of the whole point. It doesn't plagiarise and it's still something new. Last year, La Roux's 'Uptight Downtown' gave a nod to David Bowie's 'Let's Dance', but again it didn't plagiarise and it was still a brilliant creation in its own right. (We originally thought 'Born This Way' appearing to gently homage 'Express Yourself' was an example of that but things didn't pan out very well when we put it to Lady Gaga, who hasn't spoken to us since. Well done everyone.)
In the case of Rixton the two songs sounded so alike that Rixton quickly gave Rob Thomas a writing credit on the song. Chatting to Popjustice before Christmas, Jake from Rixton joked that Rod was "probably really happy about it sitting on his yacht", explaining that "we spoke to Rob when the song first came around and he’s very close with Benny [Blanco], our producer, so we just got the okay from him."
Crisis averted, then — but that's an instance of a song being directly influenced by both the sound and the melody of another song, and it's a bit different to what happened yesterday with 'Blurred Lines' and Marvin Gayes' 'Got To Give It Up'.
'Blurred Lines' might sound similar to 'Got To Give It Up' in the sense that you could make a YouTube mashup out of the two, but these are, very clearly, different songs. 'Blurred Lines' might not have been as big a hit without the bits that sound like Marvin Gaye, but nor would it have been a hit without the bits that don't sound like Marvin Gaye. You might say that yesterday's decision is great news because now people will make more original songs. Actually, that's nonsense, because songs that sound like other songs are incredible, and yesterday's verdict lifts the manhole to a whole river of shit.
IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT THIS.
Maybe the 'Blurred Lines' verdict is right. Maybe the sound of a song should be more closely protected — as much effort goes into making a song sonically distinctive as goes into writing a unique topline, and you only need to look at the songs Radio 1 playlist to see that the way a song sounds is often more important than the melody, vocal or lyrics.
But if producers and songwriters now feel the need to steer clear of anything and everything that's come before in case they get landed with a $7M bill somewhere down the line, just think of all the amazing songs that just won't exist from this moment forwards. Right or wrong, unless it's overturned, yesterday's decision will change the course of pop. And we'll never know what the next 'Uptown Funk' might have been.