From The Mailbag April ’12

I recently received this email from Joel Patterson (link to his website below), who describes himself as “the enfant terrible of the recording website Gearslutz”.  I’ll let you read his email and my response is below:

Hi Irene,

Great site! Glad you’re so willing to help out the neophytes out here.

I’ve got a question, it goes like this: every so often I will hear a familiar phrase in a “new” song, I guess the latest was in the Enrico Iglesias “I Like How It Feels.” This may be an ancient song… I’m not too exposed to the current scene… anyway, he weaves the phrase “ticket to ride” into his lyric.

Or, whoever wrote the song did, is Enrico a talented guy? A front man for a larger organization? Isn’t he descended from Julio Iglesias, some kind of star of a previous era? So many questions, so much I don’t know…

“Ticket to ride” is obviously a quotation from the Beatles‘ tune “Ticket to ride.” I am on the fence between thinking this is a heavy-handed, blatantly obvious, cheesy play, and thinking it’s cool and hip.

If I were to work the phrase “rolling in the deep” into a new, original song, in a way that worked within the song and had a completely different melody from the Adele hit, I’m just wondering how that would strike you, overall? Cheesy? Hip? What’s your take?

Thanks!

Joel Patterson
www.joelpatterson.us

“Hi Joel,

“This is a great question!  First of all, I think timing is everything.  If you encompassed “rolling in the deep” into a song in the very near future, I would consider it tacky because it would APPEAR to be the use of a phrase in order to draw attention to your own song.  You have no idea how many people hit my website using that phrase just because I did a bit of a critique on Adele’s song!  So people out there looking for that song lyric, or a discussion or critique of it, would also potentially find any other song containing that lyrical phrase if it was posted on the web.

“As far as Iglesias’ song, either he is trying to be cute or paying homage, or the potential exists (although I doubt it) that he doesn’t know who that phrase “belongs” to.  Whatever the case may be, he’s risking the perception of stealing to some ears.  I’ll have to listen to the song so I can put that phrase in context for myself.  The fact is, though, that a lot of younger listeners would have no idea that the Beatles had a song with the same name.  I think he has a rather large, young and female audience.  I checked out some info on the song and it looks like there were 7 writers (some with some pretty odd names!);  Enrique Iglesias, Nadir Khayat, Armando Pérez, Alex Papaconstantinou, Adam Baptiste, Björn Djupström, and Bilal The Chef.  By the way, I looked through the lyrics and couldn’t find that phrase, so perhaps it is sung in the background?  If that’s the case, that’s even more interesting.   And yes, his father was Julio Iglesias who was a huge star himself.

“But I didn’t give you my personal opinion on the use of a phrase that is so identifiable with another song.  And that is, whether they are copyrighted or not, they should be left alone, no matter what their intention.  It’s not that a phrase can be owned, it can’t, and neither can a title, but in a song so famous, it more or less has been spoken for.  Pun intended :-).

“Not that it’s entirely related, but I once wanted to use the phrase “Harlequin Romance” in a song, and decided against it in the long run…it would have worked perfectly, but I figured I wouldn’t want to take the chance if the song ever got beyond my small community of listeners to have some kind of lawsuit to deal with.  Which hasn’t been a worry so far!

Irene”

As a small postscript to those of you reading this blog, remember I mentioned in my reply to Joel that I couldn’t see that phrase “ticket to ride” from Enrique Iglesias’ song in any of the lyrics people had posted online?  I went to have a listen to the song on YouTube to see if perhaps that line was a background vocal or something, but found that it was in fact in the first verse.  However…it looks like the people who posted the lyrics DIDN’T HEAR IT correctly! The phrase that they heard most commonly was “I gotta take it to right” :-).  Well, that phrase makes no sense at all, but there you go.

So whether or not it’s an issue for me, obviously the line doesn’t stand out enough for the young crowd (or whoever is posting lyrics to the more popular lyric websites), for them to even hear it.

And now that you’ve read my answer to Joel’s question, readers, do you agree?
What’s your take?  You can place your comments below 🙂

IJ

 

 

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One thoughtful comment

  1. At some point, some lines are not necessarily creative/original enough to warrant them for copyright. However, in this case, i guess its unimportant since the line doesnt stand out to constitute and important part of the song. Then there are cases where we all think alike and i may not have heard the line in any song but somewhere else.

    My biggest challenge though, is that the memory takes pictures that are not vivid enough to remember, and these may manifest as new ideas a couple of years later when one is pressed to write, naturally. I sometimes feel that way and wonder how to get around because i would hate to be surprised by the fact that the words already existed in some not so popular song that i heard years ago!

    VM

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