The Songs Coldplay Didn't Write?

from the simple-coincidences dept

The What Is Fair Use? blog points us to a fascinating story, suggesting that one of the popular songs from the new Coldplay album has a nearly identical melody to a song by another band. This was brought to the world’s attention by that other band, who put together this great YouTube video cheekily comparing the two:

There are a few ironies here, including the fact that the original song, by the band Creaky Boards, is called “The Songs I Didn’t Write.” The band also points out that the Coldplay version is being used in an iTunes commercial — even though it’s about the Crusades. The Creaky Boards version is about listening to music in your room — which, indeed, seems like it would make for a better iTunes commercial.

Still, the good news is that this doesn’t appear to be descending into legal threats or anything of that nature. Instead, the video concludes with a rather cheeky: “I wish Coldplay the best of luck. If they ever want to collaborate, I’ve got some microphones we could use in my bedroom.” Coldplay, for its part, “totally refutes” the claims of the band, noting that the song was written well before the Creaky Boards performance in New York where the band thinks Coldplay’s front man, Chris Martin, attended (the band also notes Martin was in London that night). It also notes the differences in the songs, and suggests that it’s a “simple coincidence” that the songs sound similar.

Indeed, the guy from Creaky Boards later not only retracted his accusation, but suggested that perhaps both bands were actually “inspired” by the “Fairy Theme” in the Legends of Zelda. In a world of strict copyright, of course, that might make both songs “illegal,” though I doubt anyone would think that would be the optimal outcome.

Of course, Martin also once admitted: “We’re definitely good, but I don’t think you can say we’re that original. I regard us as being incredibly good plagiarists.” The thing is, part of the point we keep trying to make around here is that, for the most part, that’s true of just about everyone. It’s the overly aggressive use of copyright law that prevents that sort of “goodness” from showing up. Oh, and it’s also worth mentioning, that this little story has definitely increased the profile of The Creaky Boards — proving one of the points we recently made about plagiarism. Even if the plagiarist is “bigger” than you, the original creator can use that to their advantage as well.

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Comments on “The Songs Coldplay Didn't Write?”

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38 Comments
jason m vale says:

vaguely similar, that's all...

It has a similar rhythm to it, but unless you’re tone deaf, those aren’t the same notes. The chorus isn’t really even close.
The fact is if any two song writers have listened to the same songs over time, it’s entirely possible that they are going to come up with something similar. It makes you wonder how often a band comes up with a new song and then somebody walks in and says, “Hey, that sounds just like U2!”. Then they change some notes here and there and the rhythm a little and a new song is made.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 More plagarism....

Being a pioneer doesn’t mean your even slightly good. I’m not much of a fan of Coldplay but permission is permission, who gives a flying fuck on the details? They got it and gave credit, end of story.

I have found great music (not either of these groups) by seeing credits before on liner notes and certainly Coldplay’s name is out there much more than Kraftwerk, it can only be a benefit like it is for this group.

James Yu (user link) says:

Lots of Songs Sound the Same

Anyone that understands even a little western music theory will know that the combinations of melodies that are most likely to appear in modern pop and rock music are very limited. If you break down the melodies into chord progressions for mainstream music, there are a handful of progressions that appear again and again.

For example, the progression used by the famous Ave Maria aria are used tirelessly in pop music. I highly doubt Coldplay lifted anything from the Creaky Boards. If they did, that would be *quite* an honor.

Copyright has absolutely no place with melodies in this respect. Even great composers like Mozart and Beethoven “plagiarized” melodies. They mostly did this out of respect and admiration of the original composer.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Lots of Songs Sound the Same

Lots of songs do sound the same…like every last one of Whitney Houston’s hits in the early 80’s. A local radio station made a parody called “Don’t All My Songs Sound the Same” to the tune of “Greatest Love of All”/that other song that sounded EXACTLY like GLoA. They pointed out what I had heard for about a week: lack of originality on Houston’s part.

Jason Bentley (profile) says:

We all stand on shoulders

This is as silly as George Harrison stealing “My Sweet Lord” from the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine”, or Smashing Pumpkins stealing “Disarm” from Lou Reed’s “Sword of Damocles”, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers stealing “Dani California” from Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, or the Verve stealing “Bittersweet Symphony” from the Rolling Stones, or the Rolling Stones stealing “Anybody Seen My Baby” from k.d.lang’s “Constant Craving”, or…

DieLaughing (user link) says:

Yea? So what are you goint to do about it?

I read these comments and it seems, while emotions ride high, that all you idiots can’t do anything about it. It doesn’t matter how you feel. You can’t stop the machine. It will plow right over you. Copied it, didn’t copy it. Doesn’t matter because there is NOTHING you can do about it. Buy the music, don’t buy the music. Bitch, don’t bitch. You’re still as impotent as you were five minutes ago. Your opinion, right or wrong, is meaningless. But, by all means, scream into the void.

Hank (user link) says:

Under Pressure leads to Ice Ice Baby, which leads to a bad dance routine in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which leads to my kid wanting me to make him a turtle costume for Halloween because he thinks its cool to dance like a turtle.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the article, I just like remembering my 4 year old son dancing as a turtle. Aren’t kids great?!

Oh yeah, I’ve said this before, anyone that thinks they are original is full of crap. Billions of people have come before us and there is bound to be at least one of them that had the same idea as you.
You’re not a snowflake, get over it.

Archer says:

No offense to anyone involved, and yes there is quite a similarity, but what is so surprising about two people coming up with approximately the same melody when the melody in question is as simple and perhaps even as assinine as an obnoxious nusery rhyme?

What puzzles me is what would attract any of them to this meolody to begin with.

Oh well, they know what they like, I guess.

jakehohsfield (profile) says:

Yes, the songs sound very familiar.
For one, the rhythm of the melody has the same basic foundation. They both begin with a pickup one beat before the measure – one eighth followed by two quarter notes. This alone wouldn’t be too great a similarity, however the reason they ring so familiarly is because both melodies begin on the seventh degree of the scale.
More significantly, the chord progressions are nearly identical. In the verses, “Viva la Vida” follows a IV V Im7 vii pattern strictly. In “The Songs I Didn’t Write,” we see a similar foundation of ii V I vi pattern, with the occasional V/vii chord in place of a V chord during the chorus (resolves to V/iii, which resolves back to the ii again to begin the next verse).
However, the similarity of these songs doesn’t mean that Coldplay is guilty of anything. Listen to “The Foreigner” by Cat Stevens and “If I could Fly” by Joe Satriani. Music repeats itself over and over and over again. Consequently, being an ‘incredibly good plagiarist’ is a pretty useful skill, don’t you think?

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