Friday, February 6, 2009

Satriani vs. Coldplay (music nerd alert, long post)

Did I mention the Grammys are Sunday night???? I"m a little excited. . see former post.

Anyway, one of the controversies is Joe Satriani's pending lawsuit against Coldplay for copying a song of his for their hit, "Viva la Vida".
Apparently, Satriani is "rooting" for "his" song to win. Coldplay responded to the accusations a while ago.

I'll post the youtube link here for you to listen for yourself.

My opinion:

You cannot copyright Chord Progressions. . . . .anyone who plays music knows that we're all using the same chords :) and sometimes, in the same order. At any rate, the harmonic structure of a song is never really unique only to that song. . .we're all ripping off Bach.

Now, you can copyright a "melody" or tune that you came up with (even though it's likely not unique either. . . which is what seems to have happened to Coldplay).
Melodies are unique to their songs, and the speed and key with which they are played, etc. . . are property of the artist.

After listening to the clips, the melody of the verse is the same between the two songs (although, allegedly in a different key. . . . the youtube guy might have been messing with the keys :) ) .

But, the coldplay song goes to a few different places after the main verse riff. Most notably, THE CHORUS :) "I hear Jerusalem bells. . "etc. . . So, the verse of the song is similar, but not the chorus, or instrumentals.

Actually, the phrasing in "Viva" is totally different because the vocal note goes up after repeating the phrase twice in the verses. Satriania does not do this with his guitar part.

All in all, I don't think Satriani has a case. Melodic fragments are shared between many, many songs. Do we need to talk about all of the songs that use some form of Pachabel's Canon? This is a coincidence, and all parties need to just walk away and get over it. This is a far cry from Vanilla Ice adding one note to David Bowie's "under pressure", copying the entire groove and selling a zillion records with "ice, ice baby". Coldplay doesn't lift anything like that from Joe Satriani.

ps: if you're interested in a discussion of this kind of thing,. . check this out here


Jeff said...

i don't think satriani has a case either. i hear the similarities - but come on - really?

Scott said...

I always liked the comparison of Boston's "More Than a Feeling" and Green Day's "When I Come Around."