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Album: Pablo Honey
Label: Parlophone / Capitol
Writer: Thom Yorke, Mike Hazlewood, Albert Hammond
The controversy surrounding the supposed lawsuit between the band Radiohead and Lana Dal Rey over their 1992 hit song Creep goes to show us that you just can’t write something brand new. No matter how much anyone tries to deny it, every song you hear is a variation of other songs and themes. It’s all been done or approximately done. Although Radiohead says they never sued Del Rey and just wanted writing credit, etc. and the beef seems to be long over, many still wonder about the supposed theft.
You can’t deny the similarities between Lan Del Rey’s song Get Free and Radiohead’s song Creep. However, it was with unmitigated gall that Radiohead accused her of copyright infringement when they had already been sued for stealing The Hollie’s The Air That I Breathe by songwriter Albert Hammond. Who stole what?
All three songs have the same chord pattern of I, III, IV, iv which is nothing revolutionary and unheard of. In the case of creep, the chords are G, B, C, and cm.
To my ear, Lan Del Rey’s song sounds more like Creep than Creep sounds like The Air That I Breathe but they are all very similar, although in different keys. Here is a simple fact: This chord progression will tend to lead to similar-sounding melodies, and that is all there is to it.
We often forget that when a singer chooses a melody for a song, it’s almost always just singing the notes of the chords. If I had never heard any of these songs and sat down and started strumming this chord progression, I’d likely hum something that reminded you of one of these, or any number of other songs.
And yes, in fact, there are many other songs that sound like these! It’s as simple as searching for songs with the same chord progression and listening. You can find many of them on YouTube compiled into one video by Lucia Cerra. It’s hard not to hear similarities in all of them, although none of them are carbon copies. When the same tones are used, sooner or later, similar melodies will arise and it happens often enough that we can’t help hearing ‘Creep,’ in this case.
Del Rey’s song does sound more alike to Creep than Creep sounds to The Air That I Breathe, but it is beyond me why such a huge band needed to make a big case out of someone’s song that probably cost them nothing. Del Rey denied being inspired by or copying Creep. Is it possible that her song arose independently?