Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lady Gaga is a Brilliant Musical Synthesist/Plagiarizing Strumpet

News flash! Some pop songs sound like other pop songs!


Buzzfeed is circulating a mashup of Ace of Base's "Don't Turn Around" and Lady Gaga's "Alejandro" which reveals striking similarities between the early '90s Swedish pop staple and the probable "Song of the Summer" 2010. Same chord progression, similar melody, etc.

The thing I'm wondering is, why is this news? Aside from the fact that just about every song on top 40 radio sounds at least marginally like every other song on top 40 radio, a ton of them are explicit ripoffs.

That hot Kanye/Ne-Yo/Keri Hilson track from last summer? Sounds just like a forgotten would-be hit from 2008 by Caribbean R&B duo Rock City.

What about the newest Jason Derulo hit, "In My Head?" A dead ringer for Gaga's "Just Dance."

And while we're discussing Lady Gaga songs that sound like other songs, can we talk about how every Lady Gaga song sounds like every other Lady Gaga song anyway? I always thought "Bad Romance," "Poker Face," and "Just Dance" were pretty much interchangeable: nonsense words sung at a rhythmic stutter, stabbing synth riffs, and a monstrous hook to anchor the chorus. That the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" has been mashed up with both "Poker Face" and "Just Dance" is further evidence.

Thing is, even when vague musical similarities (or outright plagiarism) is revealed, people don't seem to care. We're more concerned about great hooks than we are about originality, and we don't seem to have a great musical memory as a society. Plus, if you have even the most basic knowledge of music theory, you know that certain chord progressions just sound good to people. There's only so much chordal innovation you can inject before you end up with Usher and Rihanna doing jazz fusion.

More than expose the sinister machinations of America's pop starlets, mashups like this one turn a seeming negative (pop songwriting is hackneyed crap) into a positive ("this sounds neat!").

And I don't know about you, but I think "Don't Turn Around, Alejandro" sounds neat as hell.