Songs That Sound Like Other Songs

June 24, 2009 § 3 Comments

Have you ever listened to a song and A. think it was a different song initially or B. found yourself having déjà-vue?

You’re not alone. In fact, I would say a large percentage of pop and rock songs do this. There’s the classic joke of a chord chart showing D, G and C, followed by the line “Now go start a band”, which is a pretty accurate reflection of most pop music… and that’s not bad, necessarily. What’s more difficult is when you enter genres like hip-hop with rampant sampling, however, my knowledge of hip-hop isn’t strong enough to approach that subject.

Just now I was watching an Oasis concert on the TV and it struck me; “Cigarettes & Alcohol” uses nearly the same guitar riff as T.Rex’s “Get It On (Bang A Gong)”. I’m sure I’m not the first to think so, afterall the song is about 15 years old. You can’t begin to understand the sense of relief I’m having for finally figuring that one out. It’s been bothering me for years.

Remember a couple of years ago when Goldfrapp released the popular song, “Ooh La La”? Well, even my mother enjoyed that one. It then occurred to me that the popularity of the tune probably had to do with that subconsciously familiar bassline, which is pretty much the exact same as “Spirit in the Sky” by  Norman Greenbaum. So my mother was basically listening to a cooler version of “Spirit in the Sky”.

Elastica’s biggest hit, “Connection” is a blatant ripoff of Wire’s “Three Girl Rhumba”. It’s not even a subtle one like Goldfrapp borrowing a bassline, no actually it’s nearly the entire song that Elastica ripped off. Even so, I definitely prefer “Connection”.

Evidence of how similar songs can be is exemplified in mash-ups. A famous one is Party Ben’s mash-up using Green Day, Travis, Oasis and Aerosmith, called “Boulevard of Broken Songs”. The irony for me is that in the Travis song, “Writing to Reach You”, singer, Fran Healy asks “and what’s a Wonderwall anyway?” as if to assert in a tongue-in-cheek manner the band’s own originality in comparison to Oasis. By throwing Travis’ song in the same mash-up as “Wonderwall” it becomes evident that they’re all the same anyway, despite the minor differences.

I’m a firm believer that people like what they already know. This probably has to do with the locomotive-like persistency of the status quo, always being perpetuated. Popular music, despite being the best selling and most listened to music in the Western world, hasn’t changed a whole lot. There have been exceptions, as there are with all movements, but for the most part the format is the same, 3 minute song, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. Perhaps this is a silly argument, as part of the construct of a genre is the similarities one things bears in comparison with a whole group. Often though, the definition of specific genres change, but in the case of pop music, it has remained the same and any new directions fall under different sub-categories, rather than being called “pop”, they are “rock” or “punk” or “new wave” and so on. In other words, the music definitions have been fracturing.

Just accept it, you like pop music, guys.

I’ll see if I can think of any other similar sounding songs. I avoided some of the obvious examples like The Killing Joke and Nirvana.

Other possible tangents: cover songs, sampling, remixes, and how everyone has somehow, at some point ripped off The Beatles and David Bowie… I will maybe approach these later.

For your keen ears to decide

Oasis and T.Rex (Listen to the opening riff of Oasis and the main riff for T.Rex)

Goldfrapp and Norman Greenbaum (Pay attention to the groove and bassline, and the Norman Greenbaum link is especially awesome for the middle aged women line-dancing factor.)

Elastica and Wire (Frankly, the whole song’s structure and guitar)

Update: It looks as though Elastica may have “borrowed” from Wire a number of times and one person decided to make a side by side comparison. Both are great bands regardless.


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