If there’s one thing that’s going to kill music and the music industry, it’s going to be baseless copyright lawsuits. We’ve been seeing more and more of these pop up over the last handful of years. While some of those lawsuits may have a bit more merit than others, the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit definitely seems to hold less water.
Pharrell says his “feelings were hurt” over the Blurred Lines lawsuit that concluded in 2018 with Pharrell, who produced and co-wrote the song with Robin Thicke, paying Marvin Gaye’s family $5 million. In an interview with iconic producer, Rick Rubin, Pharrell says “you can’t copyright a feeling.” Rubin agreed that the outcome of the lawsuit is “bad for music” because what makes a song is now in question. “…it would be the chords, the melody, and the words…And your chords, your melody, and your words — none of them had anything to do [with the Gaye song] … It leaves us as music-makers in a really uncomfortable place making things because we don’t know what you can do,” says Rubin. Although Pharrell says he would “never take anything from anyone” and says the lawsuit “set me back.”
When I talked with my music theory professor over the weekend, he brought back a good point I learned in music school: New art is created on the back of old art. This is why you see shows like Stranger Things become popular. They are borrowing elements from an era with which many relate back. Music is the same way. While Stranger Things may fit the vibe of the era, it’s a story of it’s own merit. When you look at Blurred Lines on paper, it is a completely different song that borrows elements from another time. I don’t even like Blurred Lines, but this is setting an unsettling precedent in the music industry.
Do you agree with Pharrell that “Blurred Lines” evokes the same feeling as Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up?” Do you think the songs share the same chords, melody or words?