This Thing Sounds Like That Thing: Katy Perry, Sara Bareilles, and Other Famous Pop Music Ripoffs


Four months ago, Sara Bareilles, underrated princess of empowerment rock, released “Brave,” a heartwarming, foot-stomping song all about, well, being fearless. People dug it, including Katy Perry, who tweeted at Bareilles her approval after the track was released.

So you can imagine that people are a bit surprised that Perry’s new single, “Roar,” released online yesterday, sounds a lottttt like “Brave”:

But plagiarism — even unintentional plagiarism — is quite common in the world of pop music. Here are just a few other examples of a pretty frequent practice because, after all, there are only so many original tunes.

Huey Lewis and the News’ song “I Want a New Drug” predated their big breakthrough with “The Power of Love,” which was included in Back to the Future. But producers could tell they had soundtrack-ready flair a year earlier, and Huey Lewis and his band were approached to write a song for Ghostbusters. They turned it down, but the film’s producers basically used their music anyway without their permission, both in the film and as a musical basis for the record-breaking title song sung by Ray Parker, Jr.

Pop-country trio Lady Antebellum really struck a nerve when they released “Need You Know,” their PG-rated ode to the drunken booty call. Of course, it also sounds distinctly similar to British prog-rockers The Alan Parsons Project’s “Eye in the Sky.”

It didn’t take me long to recognize the soothing tones of Cat Stevens’ lovely ballad “Father and Son” when I heard “Fight Test” by Flaming Lips for the first time. Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, sued for royalties, and Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne admitted that they knew about the similarities to “Father and Son” while they were recording it. Apparently they didn’t try hard enough to write something new.

The infamous “Ice Ice Baby” contains what appears to be a sample of the stellar “Under Pressure” recorded by Queen and David Bowie. When Bowie and the members of Queen were not paid royalties or given songwriting credits, Vanilla Ice rationalized that it’s not an exact copy of the bass line from “Under Pressure;” instead, he claimed a slight difference proved it wasn’t a sample. Alas, he ended up paying money to Bowie and Queen (and they got the songwriting credit, too).

Although Train’s 2012 single “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” is basically a less clever rewrite of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” I can’t stop hearing the melody from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera.” Admit it, you can hear it!