Blurred Lines – Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke vs. Gaye Estate in the Splice DNA Player

Today Pharrell Williams made a public statement for the first time since the ruling in his case with Robin Thicke vs. the Gaye Estate. Despite the musical parts and phrases in ‘Blurred Lines’ not being exact in addition to elements themselves not being similar, a jury ruled in favor of the Gayes’ and awarded $7.4 million in damages for “lifting” parts for the creation of ‘Blurred Lines.’ The Gaye’s own lawyer cites other non-musical contributing factors as working against Thicke in the case.

“The verdict handicaps any creator out there who is making something that might be inspired by something else,” Williams told The Financial Times. “This applies to fashion, music, design… anything. If we lose our freedom to be inspired, we’re going to look up one day and the entertainment industry as we know it will be frozen in litigation. This is about protecting the intellectual rights of people who have ideas.”

Writer and musicologist Joe Bennett wrote a great article recently that explains some of this backstory and serves as inspiration for our own musical analysis. Here are the facts according to Joe:

  • ‘Blurred Lines’ is 120 beats per minute
  • ‘Got to Give it Up’ is 122 beats per minute
  • Both songs feature a syncopated cowbell part and an electric piano (Gaye’s bassline is actually played on a 1976 RMI harmonic synthesizer)
  • The vocal melodies and lyrics of the songs are very obviously different from one another
  • The songs have different chord patterns from each other
  • The recordings are in different keys; ‘Blurred Lines’ is in G; ‘Got to Give it Up’ is in A

For the purposes of hearing the differences in the parts, we’ve followed Joe Bennet’s lead and transposed ‘Blurred Lines’ into the same key as ‘Got to Give it Up’ in A minor partly for simplicity. We have also selected one tempo to use for both songs. Bennet states that “this ‘normalization’ is intended to highlight any similarities that might otherwise be disguised by transcribing ‘Blurred Lines’ in the original key – that is, I’m giving Gaye’s side the best possible chance of proving their assertion that the bassline has been copied.”

To hear some of the specific musical differences, we’ve analyzed the songs in our own DNA Player. You can sign up for Splice to download the project and explore the variations in parts between the two songs. Tell us what you think in the comments!

March 19, 2015