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Olivia Rodrigo comments on rip-off accusations: “Nothing in music is ever new”

By | Published on Wednesday 6 October 2021

Olivia Rodrigo

Olivia Rodrigo has been one of this year’s biggest pop successes. She’s also been followed around by accusations that she rips off other people’s music. This has resulted in acts like Paramore and Taylor Swift receiving credits on some of her songs, despite having no direct part in writing them.

That formal crediting of an artist who wrote a song that has heavily influenced the writing of a new song isn’t new, but is arguably becoming much more common, possibly in reaction to some high profile song-theft legal battles in the US courts, and in particular the ‘Blurred Lines’ case.

However, it’s all still part of the classic “when does inspiration become infringement?” debate. The music community generally seems pretty divided on when artists should get a credit – and possibly a share of the copyright – in a new song that sounds rather like one of their old songs.

While Rodrigo has often spoken quite openly about other artists who have inspired her, she says in a new interview with Teen Vogue that most of the criticism she’s received over her songs sounding like other songs has been unfair.

“I think it’s disappointing to see people take things out of context and discredit any young woman’s work”, she says. “But at the end of the day, I’m just really proud and happy to say that my job is being a songwriter. All music is inspired by each other. Obviously, I write all of my lyrics from my heart and my life first. I came up with the lyrics and the melody for ‘Good 4 U’ one morning in the shower”.

‘Good 4 U’ is now co-credited to Hayley Williams and her former Paramore bandmate Josh Farro, due to its (debatable) similarity to their song ‘Misery Business’. Although their credit was added to Rodrigo’s hit after it came out, according to the Teen Vogue article, conversations about formally acknowledging Williams and Farro started before it was released.

Rodrigo continues: “What’s so beautiful about music is that it can be so inspired by music that’s come out in the past. Every single artist is inspired by artists who have come before them. It’s sort of a fun, beautiful sharing process. Nothing in music is ever new. There’s four chords in every song. That’s the fun part – trying to make that your own”.

She found one supporter in particular in this domain earlier this year in the form of Elvis Costello, after similarities between her song ‘Brutal’ and his ‘Pump It Up’ were pointed out. “This is fine by me”, he tweeted. “It’s how rock and roll works. You take the broken pieces of another thrill and make a brand new toy. That’s what I did”.

For a deeper examination of the claims against Rodrigo – and why songwriters are increasingly being credited on songs they didn’t actually write – listen to this recent episode of The Verge’s Decoder podcast.