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20 Years Old, from Doncaster but live in Leeds. Music listener, creator, player, blogger

Monday, 20 April 2015

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Blurred Lines - News

R’n’B musicians Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams have been ordered to pay over $7million to the family of the late soul artist Marvin Gaye, after ruling that their Grammy nominated hit single ‘Blurred Lines’ copied one of Gaye’s tracks.

The family of Marvin Gaye, who died in 1984, have been awarded $7.3m (£4.8m) in damages, after the court ruled that there were too many similarities between ‘Blurred Lines’ and Gaye’s 1977 hit ‘Got to Give It Up’.

After his death, Gaye left the copyright to his music to his three children, Frankie, Nona, and Marvin. Along with the Gaye family lawyer Richard Busch, they have recently tried to stop all distribution of ‘Blurred Lines’ until an agreement about how the royalties will be shared in the future was met. Busch said that “We'll be asking the court to enter an injunction prohibiting the further sale and distribution of Blurred Lines unless and until we can reach an agreement with those guys on the other side about how future monies that are received will be shared.” 

Marvin Gaye’s wife Janis spoke of the trial, claiming that it was a very emotional time leading to the verdict being read, claiming that her “heart started pounding”, but that she ‘still had faith that the verdict was going to go [her] way”.

Gaye family lawyer Busch called Williams and Thicke liars, before accusing them of outright copying ‘Got to Give It Up’. Williams has admitted that he grew up listening to the music of Gaye, and has acknowledged that there is a likeness between the two songs - but maintains that he simply drew influence when he wrote the song, stating that he was trying “to channel that late 70’s feeling”, and denied copying the hit. Thicke stated he had minimal input into the writing of the song.

Thicke and Williams are thought to have earned around $5m (£3m) each from the hit, which was the highest earning song of 2013.

The duo’s lawyer, Howard E King, was extremely unhappy with the decision. “While we respect the judicial process, we are extremely disappointed in the ruling made today”, he said, before adding that the decision “sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward”, and that it would have a “chilling effect on musicians who were trying to pay homage to another artist’s sound”.

King said that he and his clients are “reviewing the decision and considering [their] options”. It is thought that Williams and Robin Thicke will appeal against the verdict. 

Blurred Lines - Opinion

Earlier this week R’n’B stars Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were ordered by a jury to pay over $7m to the family of Marvin Gaye, after it was ruled that their single ‘Blurred Lines’ was a copy of Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up’. 

Having listened to both songs one after the other, I can admit that there are similarities between the two. However, to me it seems ridiculous to say that it was a blatant copy. Marvin Gaye and Pharrell Williams aren’t the only two people to have used a similar groove and drum beat - which is where the similarities between the two songs in question ends. Pharrell has made no secret of the fact that he grew up listening to Marvin Gaye, and there are plenty of videos online of him admitting that he took influence from ‘Got to Give It Up’. Pharrell has produced plenty of chart topping songs over the years, and since ‘Blurred Lines’ was released he has produced more - ‘Happy’ is permanently on the radio somewhere - so it’s not like he even needs to plagiarise to create a hit.

Pop artists in the charts today will take influence from artists they grew up listening to, and may want to pay homage to the music that inspires them. But when does it become plagiarism? Bruno Mars’ recent hit ‘Uptown Funk’ has a similar drum groove and guitar part to countless Funk classics, but to suggest that it has copied any song is ludicrous - this style of playing is a key characteristic in the genre. Plenty of other music in the charts now is heavily influenced from old music as well - Meghan Trainor’s singles are essentially Doo-Wop classics repackaged for the modern listener - but it’s hardly plagiarism. 

It baffles me how ‘Blurred Lines’ has been deemed a rip-off, when the similarities are only minor, yet over the years there have been genuine copies in the charts that have just been allowed to happen. The introduction to One Direction’s ‘Best Song Ever’ is undeniably the exact same intro as The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’, and the intro to One Direction’s ‘Live While Were Young’ is completely interchangeable with The Clash’s ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’, down to the muted guitar strums. 

There are other cases in recent memory not unlike the ‘Blurred Lines’ case. Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ is strikingly similar to Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’. Lady Gaga has herself even admitted that one of her biggest influences in music is Madonna, and that is all that’s been said about it - and rightly so. Pharrell has too been open about his love for Marvin Gaye, so why has his case been deemed plagiarism, rather than just an artist taking influence from the artists that inspire them?

I’ve read interviews with Marvin Gaye’s children in relation to the court case, and to me it seems that they are just greedy people, trying to milk this case for all that it’s worth. Nona Gaye, Marvin’s only daughter, claimed that she “Felt free.. free from Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke's chains and what they tried to keep from us and the lies that were told.” I feel for Pharrell and Robin - these claims are absurd and it is clear to me that they have decided to honour a musician they felt inspired by, and have been made to suffer because of the greed of his children. Reports are circulating that they are to target Pharrell’s summer hit ‘Happy’ next - is the $7million they’ve already won not enough?

I am on Robin Thicke and Pharrell’s lawyer’s side for this one - after the verdict was given, he said that it “sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward”, which is absolutely true. Now that this case has been ruled as plagiarism, over the next few years more and more similar cases will crop up. Soon, the 12-bar blues won’t even be safe, and most modern rock and pop music will be labelled as ripped-off. If it carries on this path, the next generation of musicians might be too scared to pay tribute to their favourite artists, in fear of a lawsuit. I worry for the future of the industry if this is the way that it’s heading.

I believe the case of Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams is a turning point in the music industry - the ears of all the families of deceased music stars from past years probably pricked up upon hearing this verdict, and i’m sure this will be the first of many  plagiarism cases. Very little music is truly original these days, and many popular artists are clearly influenced from older music - which is totally fine - but I fear that newer artists creativity will be stunted, and they will no longer feel safe to honour their idols. Where exactly is the boundary between showing appreciation to your influences and outright stealing their sound? I guess the lines are blurred.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Interview - Quentin's Basement

Leeds is a city known for it’s music scene - there is a vast array of music venues across the city, from little jazz clubs and indie bars, to the brand new First Direct arena. As well as there being hundreds of local bands that frequently play across Leeds, the city has produced many big-name artists over the years, including indie rockers The Pigeon Detectives and The Kaiser Chiefs. Another local band on the same path as these bands are Quentin’s Basement. The indie-rock four piece burst onto the scene in 2010, and have been making a name for themselves across the county ever since, including endorsement from fellow Yorkshireman Matt Bowman of the Pigeon Detectives, as well as both headline and support slots at the city’s most loved and now defunct rock venue, The Cockpit.

Quentin’s Basement are no strangers to the Leeds music scene. “I reckon since we started, we’ve played between 150 and 200 gigs.. I’d say we’ve played in maybe thirty venues, ranging from places that hold about fifty people, to the O2 Academy in Leeds”, Quentin’s Basement’s drummer Tom Hawran tells me. Having formed five years ago, they’ve already got a massive amount of shows under their belt, with plenty of stories to tell, both good and bad. “We supported bands like The View, The Strypes and General Fiasco.. but we played the O2 Academy which was a much bigger crowd, and we even played before the match at the Bradford Bulls stadium to thousands of people! There was probably about seven or eight thousand people there.. the nerves were kicking in beforehand, but luckily it all went well and was a good laugh!

Not all gigs go as smoothly as that though - most bands have a disaster story to tell, and Quentin’s Basement are no different. Hawran tells of one gig that didn’t quite go to plan at Oporto. “Soundcheck went well, and we were ready to play, but as soon as we hit the first note, Ollie’s fuse went on his amp, and my cymbal was loose and falling over.. it was pretty annoying, but you just have to get on with it!

Quentin’s Basement play Oporto once again next week, to promote their first new single in close to a year ‘Remiges’, which will be available to buy on CD at the gig on 22nd of April. (Let’s hope it goes better than last time..) Also on the CD will be another new track, ‘Fluoxetine’, as well as a range of new merchandise. Hawran hints that we could be hearing the Leeds indie-rockers moving in a new musical direction, away from their current sound. “I think we’ve got a slight bit heavier since this time last year. I think it’s down to Callum, who writes the songs.. He’s a fan of Drenge and similar bands like that, and I think it really reflects in our music.”  Anyone who has heard Drenge’s music will know that their signature noisy, grungy, punk sound is a whole world away from that of Quentin’s Basement, so it’s interesting to see what the new songs will sound like.

For those fans who prefer Quentin’s Basement’s older, laddish indie rock sound however, there’s still something for you. Also available to buy at the Oporto show is another CD, featuring an alternative recording of their single ‘Good Books’ (which Hawran admits is probably better than the original), and a few demo’s of previously unrecorded songs only ever heard at live shows, including ‘Wish I Did’ and ‘You’d be a Fool’.

Quentin’s Basement are definitely the kind of band you want to see in concert. From the minute they step on stage they have the room in the palm of their hands, bantering with the audience before launching into a set packed with plenty of anthemic songs. As lively as their tracks seem on CD, they are nothing compared to the live performances. Hawran’s energetic rhythms along with frontman Callum Talbot’s roaring vocals, Ollie Grubb’s sleek guitar riffage and Martyn Alderman’s groovy bass lines always promise a real knee’s up.

For anyone unsure about their show next week, Hawran promises a great night. “We’ve been away from the Leeds music scene for a while now, working on our set and getting some new tunes together! We’ve got new songs, new CDs and new t-shirts.. it’s gonna be a top night.. and what else is there better to do on a Wednesday night anyway?!” He has a point. There’s not much better to do on a weeknight then have a few drinks and a dance at one of the cities best venues, listening to one of Yorkshire’s hottest bands, so why not get yourselves down to what is sure to be a brilliant night. Tickets are available from the band themselves, who are contactable on their Facebook page.

The future looks bright for Quentin’s Basement. Tickets are flying for the single release show, and their music will soon be available on music streaming services Spotify and iTunes. Hawran also mentions possible plans for a tour of the country in the coming year, as well as there being “a few exciting things in the pipeline”. Exactly what this means is unclear - a new album, another show, or something even bigger - but it certainly suggests that the band have a very exciting future.

Twitter: @Quentbasement
Facebook: facebook.com/quentinsbasement
Instagram: @quentinsbasement
Email: Quentins_basement@hotmail.co.uk