Adam Levine defends Olivia Rodrigo against plagiarism charge: ‘More of a gray area’

Adam Levine attends the Vanity Fair Oscar Party at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts i...

As soon as Olivia Rodrigo’s album Sour came out, people have been talking about whether Olivia was homage-ing too hard with certain songs. Meaning, accusations of songwriting plagiarism have been widely circulated on social media. Rodrigo is credited as a co-writer of every song on the album, but because of a YouTube fan video, she ended up adding Paramore’s Hayley Williams and Joshua Farro to the songwriting credits for “good 4 u” because it apparently sounds so much like Paramore’s “Misery Business.” This kind of thing has become more and more common as average people with any kind of musical background can create side-by-side audios and videos pointing out how artists borrowed this hook or that bridge or what have you. Adam Levine stepped up and defended Olivia recently:

Maroon 5’s Adam Levine believes Olivia Rodrigo deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to accusations she copied other artists while making her chart-topping debut album, “Sour.” Levine, a seasoned songwriter with three Grammys under his belt, explained that writing music is “tricky” and artists sometimes “rip something off inadvertently.”

“It’s a natural thing for it to happen, and sometimes it gets ugly and sometimes it’s warranted that people take legal action,” the 42-year-old Maroon 5 frontman explained on his Instagram Story on Friday. “Sometimes it’s not warranted that people take legal action. And I think there’s definitely become more of a gray area that’s reared its ugly head these days.”

“The Voice” alum’s defense of Rodrigo, 18, came one day after it was revealed that Paramore’s Hayley Williams and Joshua Farro were retroactively added to the writing credits of her hit single “Good 4 U.” The decision came after fan-made mashups of Paramore’s “Misery Business” and Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U” went viral on social media because of how eerily similar the songs are. Levine went on to refer to Robin Thicke and Pharrell’s “Blurred Lines” lawsuit from 2015, in which Marvin Gaye’s family won a $7.3 million settlement when a jury agreed that the hit song plagiarized Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up.”

“Without giving an opinion on what I think as far as how that one turned out, I do think that we should probably meet this with a little more compassion and understanding and try to find a way,” Levine said, adding, “All this calling out, it’s like, music is a creative thing and I just hate to see it crushed.”

In June, Courtney Love slammed Rodrigo for the similarities between the “Sour” album cover and Hole’s 1994 album cover for “Live Through This.”

“Spot the difference! #twinning!” the Hole singer wrote on social media alongside a side-by-side of the prom-themed album covers. The 57-year-old went on to call Rodrigo “rude.”

Meanwhile, Elvis Costello dismissed accusations on Twitter that Rodrigo’s “Brutal” ripped off his 1978 song “Pump It Up” — while also admitting he’s done the same thing in the past. “It’s how rock and roll works,” Costello, 67, responded to a fan’s tweet about the similarities between the two songs. “You take the broken pieces of another thrill and make a brand new toy. That’s what I did #subterreaneanhomesickblues #toomuchmonkeybusiness.”

[From Page Six]

Just going from memory, not all of these situations end with lawsuits like the “Blurred Lines” issue. Sam Smith ended up paying Tom Petty rather quietly when Petty brought a similar issue to Sam (Petty even defended Sam). Kelly Clarkson was accused (by some fans) of copying Jimmy Eat World, only Jimmy Eat World shrugged it off and didn’t make it into any kind of thing. Personally, I don’t think Olivia has been consciously plagiarizing other artists, but it is something that her producers should have picked up on.

Olivia Rodrigo speaks during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room with Jen Psaki

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

18 Responses to “Adam Levine defends Olivia Rodrigo against plagiarism charge: ‘More of a gray area’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Eleonora says:

    Didn’t she also need to credit Taylor Swift for a song afterwards? I don’t think this is the first case.

    I feel sorry for her as she is quite young, but I do think she/her team should have checked better.

    • AEvaJohnson says:

      No, Olivia interpolated the piano portion of Taylor’s song “New Year’s Eve” on her song “1 step forward, 3 steps back” but she’d received permission from Taylor before doing so and both Taylor and Jack Antonoff were always listed in the writing credits for the song.

      You’re still correct that her team could have done more in terms of making sure other songs properly gave credit or checked in with other artists preemptively to avoid controversy, though.

  2. Amy Bee says:

    Ed Sheeran got caught in this too. He had to give credit to Kandi from Real Housewives of Atlanta for one of his songs having the same melody as “No Scrubs”.

  3. Wiglet Watcher says:

    Her production team/label are suppose to clear all the songs. The writers just write.

    Yes, songs can sound similar. And yeah, you can take snippets and build your own “new toy”, but you still have to credit the original unless it’s public domain.
    OR is taking recent history and using it. Or not really her, but the people who wrote and build her songs are.

  4. Daphne says:

    How did Olivia get dinged but Taylor didn’t for August sounding like Donna Lewis I love you always forever? Same rhythm and chords.

  5. Leducduswaz says:

    Sometimes when I’m noodling around on my guitar, I start playing something that sounds good, and it’s only ten minutes later that I realise that I’ve been playing a song I heard semi-recently. It’s not beyond the realms of imagination that someone copied something unintentionally.

  6. LBB says:

    I think I am the only one who does not think those two songs sound alike.

  7. Chimney says:

    Her music seems really derivative and focused grouped. You’d think one of her dozens of suits would have caught this. Or at least tried to less blatant?

    Not gonna take Elvis Costello’s opinion on anything. He’s whole gimmick is ripping off Buddy Holly and being insufferable and unlistenable. Nothing he does is original

  8. K.T says:

    In terms of pop punk every girl or woman who sings that way gets, reviving the nineties/naughts gets compared to Hayley Williams. I think there’s probably some sexism in the comparison too.
    I’ve just played both songs now and while chords are similar (yet we only have a few chords on pop music) but the arrangement and melody make it less of a direct copy and more of an influence.

  9. line says:

    Musically, today the music industry is very uninspired. Most producers offer artists to use the tempo, melody or rhythm of an already existing song very famous because unconsciously if you hear a song whose melody reminds you of a famous song which you appreciate you will pay more attention to the song.Ed sheeran does this constantly in his work, Thinking Out Loud You Hear the melody of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On, Shape of You / TLC -No Scrubs. Normani in Wild Side uses Aaliyah’s One in a Million melody produced by Timbaland. For me it’s plagiarism, but some artists don’t care others don’t tolerate. For example Sting earns $ 730,000 per year – $ 2,000 per day in royalties for a single song, “Every Breath You Take” because Puff Daddy never asked Sting for permission for the sample in I’ll Be Missing. You, which would probably have allowed him to pay only 25% of the publishing royalties. Instead, due to copyright law, Sting was able to claim 100 percent of them.

    In the case of Olivia Rodrigo it’s bad because her team sold as the best songwriter of her generation, insist on the fact that she wrote and actively participate in the production but when you listen to her album you have the impression that she pays homage to the pop rock of the end of the years 90s and early 2000s.

    It is important to point out this type of methods because most of the time it does not affect the singers because they do not write all their own songs they call on songwriters who do not collect the massif sums of money. Then sometimes they have to split the credit with singers who really want to be considered songwriters.

  10. Sof says:

    Don’t forget about Bitter Sweet Symphony!
    Recently I read Keith Richard’s autobiography and he talks about this happening to them (mostly Jagger). They had a record coming out, he played a song to his daughter and a friend and they instantly started singing other lyrics. He had to call immediatly their record company to add the credits to the original song writters.

  11. Case says:

    Good 4 U and Misery Business are pop punk songs. I love that subgenre but many of these songs sound similar — not plagiarism, it’s just what theses songs sound like lol. It’s not like Paramore is the first band to make music that sounds like this. The whole controversy is absurd.

  12. eggcentric1 says:

    To me, Brutal sounds VERY similar to Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl”. I like Sour but a lot of the songs are pretty derivative of alt girl groups from the 90’s/00’s.

  13. K says:

    Maroon 5’s their label plaigiarised a song of mine. Search Kileza ‘What Lovers Do’. The label in Germany wouldn’t sign me because I’m black. I wrote to Celebitchy. Black women are never believed.

  14. Veronica S. says:

    I think you have to be careful with this sometimes because there’s so much out there now that inevitably certain things will overlap to some extent. And honestly…as long as you give credit, I don’t see the problem of reusing things. That’s just how human creativity works; we build off each other. Retroactively adding credit is where I think it look shady, IMO.

  15. jferber says:

    Jimmy Paige notoriously stole from other bands and always got away with it because of highly paid lawyers. Even their most famous song, Stairway to Heaven, ripped off a band they had played with at music events, Spirit. Unfortunately, the writer of the original song is dead and his family lost the case. I would swear on a stack of Bibles Jimmy plagiarized. This is the same Jimmy Paige who had a 14 year old girl in Los Angeles kidnapped and sexually abused her repeatedly for 2 years until he got tired of her. Now, in his 80’s, he has a 26 year old girlfriend. Scum for so many reasons and he got away with it all.