Subtly, in an Instagram story posted to Warner Chappell Music’s account, it was announced that Paramore’s Hayley Williams and Josh Farro have been added as co-writers on Olivia Rodrigo’s hit single, “good 4 u.”
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The announcement comes as the single—off the 18-year-old’s massively popular debut album, Sour—hits No. 1 on the Billboard charts. This achievement gives the Disney star the distinction of being the first artist to get two No. 1s from a debut album. It also comes as comparisons to Paramore’s iconic early-2000s hit, “Misery Business” have been going viral on YouTube and TikTok. And, listening to both songs, there’s certainly a lot of merit to the connection being made.
For starters, both songs embrace a pop-punk ethos (with an emphasis on pop), marrying driving guitar arrangements with radio-ready melodies and youthful lyrical sentiments. Both songs have a similar dynamic roadmap as well, with borderline-spoken vocals on the verses, which explode into an anthemic hook. On a more specific level, there’s an almost exact correlation between the choruses. The semantics of the notes might be a bit different, but the timing (and the catharsis) is the same. If you removed the vocal, it would sound almost entirely identical. Check out some of the mash-ups below.
Without any formal announcement, the reasoning behind the addition of Williams and Farro as writers is unclear (as is the timeline for when that happened). However, in recent years, it’s become more popular for artists to give additional writing credit after claims of interpolation have been made. Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” was an early example of the modern phenomenon. In 2015, a settlement was reached and Smith shared 12.5% of the song’s royalties with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne due to its similarity to their classic, “Won’t Back Down.” Mark Ronson, Katy Perry, Kanye West, Ed Sheeran, and more have all been in similar situations.
Yet Rodrigo is a somewhat unique case—with only one album under her belt, she’s already racked up a slew of allegations. She has given other artists writing credits on the album release — namely, Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff both received non-collaborative writing credits for “1 step forward, 3 steps back” and “deja vu.” The latter song also gave another retroactive official nod to Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent.
Beyond music, Rodrigo has been accused of copying other things, like the album art for Hole’s 1994 album, Live Through This. In an online post, Courtney Love said, “It was rude of her and Geffen not to ask myself or Ellen von Unwerth [for permission]. It’s happened my whole career so I don’t care. But manners is manners.”
On the flip side of the spectrum, it’s been pointed out that the guitar riff on Rodrigo’s song “brutal” is almost identical to the guitar riff on Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up.” Listening to the two songs, the overlap is obvious.
But Costello has defended Rodrigo, tweeting: “This is fine by me. 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. #subterreaneanhomesickblues #toomuchmonkeybusiness”
Costello makes a strong point. “Copying” songs has been a practice for as long as music has existed. In fact, the concept of “writing” an original “song” that you can own as a piece of intellectual property is a fairly new concept compared to the thousands of years of music that came prior. Would Bob Dylan or The Beatles exist without “copying” earlier artists? No, absolutely not. Dylan was almost a Woody Guthrie cover act for a period of time, and The Beatles’ name came as a nod to Buddy Holly’s Crickets.
Now, is that to say that Rodrigo is synthesizing her various influences into a brilliant new form of art as those earlier examples did? No, she’s not really doing that either. With a much stronger undertone of commercialism and palpably purposeful marketing strategies, Rodrigo is more like a hi-def remake of a classic film (like that gritty Tim Burton Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reboot). Nevertheless, if the music she’s making is resonating in the hearts of millions—like her’s currently is—then what does it really matter?