June 19, 2008

Creaky Boards' Andrew Hoepfner takes the viral video route to making an accusation of Coldplagiarism.

The Independent explains it:
In a video posted on the video-sharing website YouTube, Andrew Hoepfner, Creaky Boards' singer and songwriter, claimed that the melody of Coldplay's song, "Viva La Vida", is pinched from a track he wrote last year called, ironically, "The Songs I Didn't Write". ... Coldplay responded with a vigorous denial. "We totally refute their claims, and there are two facts that make it easy to disprove them," said the band's spokesman Murray Chalmers. "First, on the night in October when the band say Chris Martin was watching them, he was actually working at the Air Studio in London, and we can prove that. Second, even if he had been at the gig, "Viva la Vida" was written and demoed seven months before the night in question, so it couldn't possibly have been copied." Sources close to the band said they were unlikely to pursue legal action against Creaky Boards, since it would "look bad" to start a David versus Goliath lawsuit against a group of young musicians. They are, however, pushing for them to publicly withdraw the allegations of plagiarism. The two tracks have different lyrics, say the Coldplay camp. Although certain elements of their melody sound remarkably similar, the band say this is due to simple coincidence rather than a case of artistic theft. Either way, the trite nature of Mr Hoepfner's video clip has succeeded in gaining a new following for his band, and was driving traffic to their MySpace page.
I've watched the video and think it's pretty amusing, but as for that melody — the only thing Hoepfner accuses Chris Martin of stealing — it sounds like the sort of singsong melody you'd come up with if you were called upon to start singing a made-up song on the spot. So I'm buying the "coincidence" argument. Should Coldplay be able to force Hoepfner to take down his accusatory video and apologize, or do we think it's a nice resolution of the controversy for Coldplay to escape unsued and for Hoepfner to have his viral video to leverage his band to whatever degree of fame it can get out of this amusing little artistic squabble?
***
By the way, I created the word "Coldplagiarism," so be sure to link to this post if you use it! I admit that on Googling to make sure that I'm first I found somebody on some obscure European message board once said it. But I hadn't seen that before I concocted my dazzling word play. What if musicians could Google their tunes to see if anyone had ever used them before? Would they find that anything halfway melodic had already been used thousands of times?

37 comments:

Bissage said...

BEST!!!

ALTHOUSE!!!

PORTRAIT!!!

EVAAARRR!!!1!!1


* sits down *

* catches breath *

rhhardin said...

What if musicians could Google their tunes to see if anyone had ever used them before?

There's the Dictionary of Musical Themes, a constant reference at my house.

Ann Althouse said...

"There's the Dictionary of Musical Themes, a constant reference at my house."

Is that inane Creaky Coldplay in there or is it too bland to warrant a mention?

rhhardin said...

It seems to be online here.

Can you hum a few notes? It has to be before about 1960.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spread Eagle said...

it sounds like the sort of singsong melody you'd come up with if you were called upon to start singing a made-up song on the spot. So I'm buying the "coincidence" argument.

Did you read the Independent piece?

"Hoepfner... blamed Chris Martin for the alleged artistic theft, saying that Coldplay's frontman attended a Creaky Boards concert in New York last year. "We were flattered when we thought we saw Chris Martin in the crowd," said Mr Hoepfner. 'He seemed pretty into it... Maybe TOO into it?'"

Kinda deflates the coincidence angle.

rhhardin said...

Coldplagiarism is both one of the rare ldp words, like baldpate; and one of the rare dpl words, like swordplay.

Pogo said...

Ruth Anne, that was magnificent.

I love the denial best; classic legal crapola. We totally refute their claims, and there are two facts that make it easy to disprove them"
which merely plagiarizes an old lawyer joke.

"I couldn't have been there but even if I was there, I still couldn't have done it.

Hilarious.

Meade said...

Hilarious.

Oops... Pogo already said that.

Ann Althouse said...

"Did you read the Independent piece? "Hoepfner... blamed Chris Martin for the alleged artistic theft, saying that Coldplay's frontman attended a Creaky Boards concert in New York last year. "We were flattered when we thought we saw Chris Martin in the crowd," said Mr Hoepfner. 'He seemed pretty into it... Maybe TOO into it?'" Kinda deflates the coincidence angle."

Uh, yeah, did you? I mean like you know the whole thing.

bearbee said...

I blame Pachelbel.

Very funny.

re: Creaky Boards, it is so nondescript why would anyone want to plagiarize...or claim ownership?

Pogo said...

George Harrison famously lost a stupid battle over "My Sweet Lord", a shaggy dog legal tale that took decades to solve. My take on that one was "These two are alike? Well, if you say so."

Most of these plagiarism cases end up being only "Well, I suppose they're pretty similar'" at best. Most are instances of "Separated at birth?" events, rather than actual twins, much less anything involving crib theft.

As for Creaky Boards' claim, one can only respond:
Gosh, pasty white guys playing shoegazer stuff in 2007 sure write simlar treacly elevator music.

It's like the Beatles suing the Monkees, the Byrds, and everyone else that followed them. "Hey, you guys sound just like us." That they did.

knoxwhirled said...

I hate Coldplay. They're always bitching about how shareholders are evil and they can't wait to get out from under the corporate machine... now that they've made their millions off of it.

Spread Eagle said...

Uh, yeah, did you?

Uh, okay. If you say so. And yeah, I did, before you even posted this item. Suffice it to say my conclusions are very different from yours.

gophermomeh said...

yeah, that happens a lot around here.

El Presidente said...

Good to see coldplay stealing from someone other than the Beatles. Or do they get it second had by stealing from Oasis?

And, I don't think they understand the whole David v. Goliath thing either. "it would "look bad" to start a David versus Goliath lawsuit against a group of young musicians."

downtownlad said...

The Coldplay song is a gazillion times better.

Lots of people love to hate Coldplay. But it's a great song.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

My local morning news (Good Day LA) ran the banner "Coldplagiarism?" this morning at around 7:40 am when the did the story. I don't know if any of the producers at the station read Althouse, so who knows.

I love the song and don't believe they copied it for a second. There are some similar notes, but it's not a copy. Coldplay have better things to do than steal from lame indie bands. It's pop music...these melodies have been recycled and tweaked for years.

On a bright note...Viva La Vida is Coldplay's first #1 single (in the US) in their entire career! Their album will debut at #1 next week with over 700k sold, too. I love them and am not apologizing for it.

Pogo said...

I liked their first album quite alot. Somewhat less their second.

After that, it appears Chris Martin has caught Bono's Disease, that odious form of megalomania peculiar to rock bands. The first phase of infection is heralded by the Bombastic Delivery, Hand Waving and Overwrought But Brief Crouching Sign (as seen in the "Viva La Vida" video.

This is soon followed by Laughably Large Sunglasses In Inappropriate Places and, closely behind that, by the Solipsistic Weeping for the Masses Sign.

Poor man.

John Stodder said...

After that, it appears Chris Martin has caught Bono's Disease, that odious form of megalomania peculiar to rock bands.

And don't forget, hiring Eno to produce their "major statement" album.

Want a great rock album released in 2008 by artists born after 1970? Listen to "Consolers of the Lonely" by the Raconteurs. I can't stop playing it.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

I'm not concerned with how egomaniacal they are or how much they want to save the world...I just like the way the music sounds and how it makes me feel.

Hey...kind of like Obama!

Christopher Althouse Cohen said...

Actually, it's not stolen from the Creaky Boards song at all, cause it's stolen from a song by Joe Satriani.

It's a pretty generic melody. A lot of verses sound the same to me. Actually the chorus for the Creaky Boards song was better than the verses for either song or the Colplay chorus.

Pogo said...

CAC,
Woah. That's hilarious.

knoxwhirled said...

On a bright note...Viva La Vida is Coldplay's first #1 single (in the US) in their entire career! Their album will debut at #1 next week with over 700k sold, too. I love them and am not apologizing for it.

That's great cause otherwise I'd think so much less of you.

blake said...

Would they find that anything halfway melodic had already been used thousands of times?

Yes. Yes, they would.

Pogo, "My Sweet Lord" is "He's So Fine", musically speaking, except around the bridge. Nonetheless, that lawsuit was effed up. And Allen Klein broke up the Beatles.

Ruth Anne, that Pachelbel thing--that's a really good example of what all music students do while studying music history. (You have to go back pre-Bach to find chord progressions that aren't common any more.) It's actually really annoying. Heh.

The funniest thing about that, though? "Canon in D" is a dead rip-off of a piece written a 80-100 years earlier by Giovanni Gabrielli or one of the Corellis. I can't remember the name of the piece, unfortunately, or I'd link to it.

Patrick said...

I assume Ann's comment requesting credit for "inventing" the term was a bit tongue-in-cheek. Coldplagiarism is such an obvious play on words that it seems inevitable that different people or other journalists could come up with it for a catchy headline, as the LA Beat apparently did.

Patrick said...

Sorry, I misquoted Althouse. She "created" the term, not "invented" it.

This attribution stuff is tough.

Joe said...

Occam's razor time.

Artists are often inspired by what goes on around them. Musicians are no different. They hear a sound or collection of sounds and it sinks into their brain. They start writing and out it pops. They may even think it's completely original.

(Seems totally obvious, though, that Coldplay totally ripped off Joe Satriani.)

For other blatant copying, listen to the chord progressions in "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Werewolves of London" (Kid Rock mashed it up for you in "All Summer Long.")

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

Poking around on the web a little more and it appears that Coldplay has plagiarized other songs--they just changed the key and lyrics.

Jeremy said...

Considering how few chords most modern rock songs use, it's hardly surprising a lot of songs sound a like.

Still, given that Huey Lewis successfully sued over "Ghostbusters" and The Smiths over the song "Hippie Chick", I think they could have a case. The melody is something thing you can't steal (unlike the bass line)

happy tic said...

@Ruth Anne Adams:

True, Pachebel is everywhere, but melodies and harmonies are just tools/vehicles for artistic expression. Like so.

blake said...

A common trope among musicians (at least the ones I have hung out with) is: "What great song did you write?"

I wrote "House of the Rising Sun" once.

The first time you do something like that, there's a thrill, like you've written something really, really great. And then you realize, it's just really, really familiar.

I remember Harrison saying he thought both "Here Comes The Sun" and "Blow Away" were both really "obvious". I imagine he was more nervous about that with the latter than with the former.

There was an episode of the old "Star Trek" show where an insane woman ("Whom Gods Destroy"--great title) says she composed a sonnet, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"

Someone argues, "Shakespeare wrote that!"

Her rebuttal: "Which doesn't change the fact that I wrote it again this morning!"

Indeed.

Schorsch said...

Coldplay is cold awful. No, cold sucks. No, cold as talentless ice.

Chris Martin can't write music worth a darn, but I don't buy the plagiarism story. That song sounds like 50 songs written by 50 different talentless hacks in 50 cities. Coldplay is just the talentless band with the record contract and the celebrity wife. And no talent.

Robert said...

What the dude above said.

I'd like to say I care about all this, but if Coldplay could write something that was even halfway decent (in other words, not lifeless, boring and tepid) and Chris Martin could learn how to carry a freakin' note (seriously, sounding like your balls are just starting to drop is not singing) then maybe I'd be outraged. If I were the guy that got ripped off I'd just settle for the fact that by this time next year no one will give two tugs of a dead dogs cock about Coldplay and Chris Martin will be another washed up has-been after Gwyneth Paltrow kicks him to the curb.

Oh, and that new pic of Mrs. Althouse is hot.

Mike said...

You want some irrefutable coldplagiarism? Listen to their song 'Clocks':

http://youtube.com/watch?v=c9j_RZDqYc4

Then listen to 'Breath of Life' by Erasure:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=V0YiGjQk6zg

The main melodies are identical – Coldplay just changed the beat. Case closed. If they haven't sued Martin's smug ass, I don't know why.

Incidentally I think Erasure's song is much better, and not just for being original. It's fun, infectious, mildly melodramatic pop, while Coldplay's rip-off is infused with the pomposity and pseudo-epic bull**** that makes them so unbearable.

I'm surprised Obama hasn't signed them up, or that they didn't put his picture on the album cover. They're made for each other.

Ann Althouse said...

Mike, thanks. I agree about the similarity, but again, I think we're talking about such a sing-song, nothing melody that its reappearance seems like a mere coincidence. As with the Creaky Boards tune, I think it sounds like the way anybody might sing if asked to make up a melody on the spot.