August 13, 2013 7:00am PT by Chris Willman
Katy Perry, Sara Bareilles Songs: Separated at Birth?
Did Katy Perry get a little too bold in ripping off Sara Bareilles’ “Brave?” That’s the contention of a lot of pop fans who’ve taken to social media to decry similarities between Bareilles’ 4-month-old single and Perry’s just released “Roar,” which raced to the top of the iTunes chart immediately upon release.
Listening to the opening bars of Perry’s new tune is definite cause for déjà vu for anyone who’s heard the Bareilles track, an inspirational song co-written by Jack Antonoff of fun. that's already being hailed as an LGBT anthem, though opinions differ sharply over how much more the tracks have in common after that. Still, one of the hotter web memes of the moment is a mash-up which has Perry’s new hit “layered over” Bareilles’ lesser known single, which peaked at No. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 11 on the Adult Pop Songs chart.
Curious fans have made hay over the fact that Perry tweeted her love for the earlier song back on May 15, saying “I heart you @Sarabareilles” and even including a link to the YouTube video of “Brave” for her 41 million Twitter followers.
Both artists have been officially silent on the controversy. But Bareilles seemed to obliquely refer to it on Aug. 10, the day that “Roar” was released to radio and the reaction got underway, by tweeting, “All love, everybody. All love. ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤”
But some of the notables responding to her tweet were less magnanimous. YouTube favorite Shane Dawson tweeted to Bareilles in front of his 1.3 million followers: “Ugh, stop being so classy!”
And hit-making producer Butch Walker had a much more pointed reaction for his 589,000 followers. “The new KP song: Chorus is @SaraBareilles, verse jumped on the ‘Hey’ train, and the teaser vid rips off Fall Out Boy. 3 counts of murder.” But, he added in a subsequent tweet directed to Bareilles, “At least if you ripped someone off ever, you wouldn't have to blame some ‘track guy’ for it. :-)”
The “track guys” in question on “Roar” are producers Dr. Luke and Max Martin, whom some would surmise might bear more responsibility for the familiarity of the basic rhythmic track than Perry.
Although you probably wouldn’t want to invite Walker and Dr. Luke to the same party right now, they both worked on Avril Lavigne’s 2007 album The Best Damn Thing… separately. Dr, Luke was sued in that instance by two members of The Rubinoos, who asserted that Lavigne’s “Girlfriend” single plagiarized from one of their old songs. The suit was settled out of court.
Perry has been accused of being a copycat before herself, with some saying her “California Gurls” had some of the same elements as Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok.” In that case, lawsuits were highly unlikely, since Dr. Luke co-wrote and co-produced both songs. Perry also bore some criticism for a breakthrough hit that had the same title and concept as Jill Sobule’s “I Kissed a Girl.”
As has historically happened, most comparison shoppers on the web are insisting they like the original better than the alleged remake, with many citing Bareilles’ superior vocal range and higher-flying hook -- although no one doubts Perry will have about 100 times the hit. “Brave,” however, did move back up to No. 25 on the iTunes chart Monday night as a result of the hoopla.
If Bareilles is taking the high road on this one, maybe it’s because she’s admitted to her own minor borrowings. When she performed a solo show at the El Rey in May, she pointed out that her song “Let Me Rain” has some of “the same chords” as Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me,” and even preceded her song with several bars of Swift’s, to the crowd’s delight.
To some industry observers, the controversy is much ado about nothing.
Music-biz veteran Jay Frank, author of the book FutureHit DNA, took to Facebook to dismiss the plagiarism cries as “not exactly accurate. Songs are basically lyric and melody, of which both tracks have basically no similarity. So it's the production that may be too close for comfort, meaning the true analogy would be that Dr. Luke may have cribbed from Mark Endert (Bareilles’ producer). But truthfully, if every song with a similar beat and sung in the same key was considered a rip-off … heck, I could probably make country mashups all day.”
Eighties pop-meister Richard Marx weighed in, alluding to the empowerment theme both songs share. “Love @katyperry's and @SaraBareilles's music, plus I adore SB as a person, so in honor of all that I'm writing a song called ‘Repressed.’”
That kind of pragmatism won’t dampen the media firestorm, of course. “Guys, I'm such a hipster I've been listening to Katy Perry's new song since Sara Bareilles released it back in May,” went a typical tweet, from @VladChituc. Jezebel.com ran with the snarkiest possible headline: “Katy Perry Records Same Song as Sara Bareilles; Internet Laughs Ass Off.” Dlisted.com sniffed at how Lady Gaga has been compelled to rush-release her new single, “Applause,” a week early “since Katy Perry’s cover of Sara Bareilles’ ‘Brave’ leaked out of pop music’s [rear end] a day early and is already #1 on iTunes.”
As Bareilles would say: All love, diva dishers. All love. ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤
Meanwhile, yet to weigh in so far is Helen “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar” Reddy, who might have a bigger claim on influencing Perry’s lyrics than Bareilles.