A Brief History of Songs That Sound Like Other Songs

Yes, the world of pop is a homogenous melting pot of different ideas, melodies and lyrics all bound up in one meta-genre that pulls parts from all kinds of places, sees what sticks and turns them into bops.

That being said, sometimes you can’t help making a song that sounds a little bit *too* much like one that has gone before, and this merry bunch (although it has to be said, bangers one and all) demonstrate that brilliantly.

Shout Out To My Ex // Little Mix + Ugly Heart // G.R.L

Last week saw Little Mix score their 4th UK number one with their insta-iconic kiss-off to exes everywhere (in a particular, a certain ex-boyband member) but we weren’t the only ones to notice the initial similarities to G.R.Ls underrated 2014 bop, Ugly Heart.

For those of you not well versed in girl-group lore, G.R.L were initially launched as a new itineration of the Pussycat Dolls without the honestly quite blatant lead singer. Then, they signed to Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records and, honestly, made one of the greatest girl band single’s in years with the country-pop kitsch of Ugly Heart, which was the final song released by the band before member Simone Battle sadly passed away.

Domino // Jessie J + Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F) // Katy Perry

Given that both of these songs were produced by uber-producer Max Martin, perhaps the fact that Katy Perry’s fifth (!) number one single from Teenage Dream and Jessie J’s actual best song sound remarkaby alike.

To be fair though, Domino does sound like a glorious romp through the entire sonic amalgamation of Teenage Dream and it’s one of the greatest pop songs of all time – Jessie J or no Jessie J.

Roar // Katy Perry + Brave // Sara Bareilles

K-Pez again, this time with the first taste of her third album, PRISM. With its plucky piano-led beats, insatiable chorus and general ‘love yourself, fuck everyone else’ message, people were very quick to point out the song sounded exactly like Sara Bareilles’ (she of Love Song fame) Brave, which had been released and quickly forgotten about earlier that year.

The nice thing about this though, is the way Bareilles responding, saying that, actually her and Perry knew each other quite well, she was well aware of Roar and they both fully supported each other.

But, if we’re being honest here; Brave – written by Bareilles and Jack Antonoff about the struggles one of her close friends had with coming out to his family – is much more emotionally evocative than the (quite bland) Roar and the lyric ‘why don’t you tell them the truth?’ still makes our stomachs flip.

Style // Taylor Swift + Perfect // One Direction

It’s an accepted fact that Taylor Swift wrote ‘Style’ – the third and best single from 1989 – about her short-lived romance with Harry Styles, so it was her own fault really when the next year One Direction released ‘Perfect,’ which can be read as both a retort to Swift and also a complete unabashed attempt to nick the chorus of ‘Style’ which, to be fair, is perfect.

But, there’s only one winner here. ‘Style’ is, to these ears at least, Swift’s crowning glory; the most elegant and refined use of her and Max Martin’s considerable talents and, yes, probably the greatest pop song released this decade. Sorry Hazza, better luck next time.

Born This Way // Lady Gaga + Express Yourself // Madonna

Oof. This one opens a can of worms.

The year is 2011 and Lady Gaga is riding high on the crests of her Imperial Phase, fresh from the biggest hit of her career, Bad Romance.

Cracks started to show, however, when the title track from her second album was released as Gaga’s big comeback track and almost immediately people started to notice the song sounded remarkably similar to Madonna’s Express Yourself. Madonna had always been a huge influence on Gaga’s visual and sonic style – even if she didn’t admit as much – but this seemed to tip things over the edge, Madonna herself even commenting on it, calling Gaga’s song ‘reductive’ whilst (literally) sipping a cup of tea.

And, really, these shenanigans have never really left Gaga’s narrative as a popstar; they even resurfaced recently in promotion for Gaga’s new record, Joanne. Zane Lowe compared Gaga and Madonna’s upbringings and paths to stardom, which lead Gaga to insist that her and Madonna were ‘completely different artists.’

So Good // Louisa Johnson + Here // Alessia Cara

Hot off the press here; last year’s X Factor victor Louisa Johnson un-veiled her first proper debut single as a solo artist this weekend with ( the surprisingly good) So Good. It’s a cracker of a single; all swagger and soul and a pop/soul chorus that somewhat recalls Pixie Lott’s Mama Do.

The only problem? It creeped on us today that the reason we enjoy So Good so much is that because we also enjoyed it a lot last year, when it was released under the name Here by Alessia Cara.

Sure, Syco may have switched out Cara’s anti-social pessimist for Johnson’s self-destructive party girl, but apart from that the songs sound…quite alarmingly similar, really.

Words // George Griffiths