A Word on Denmark’s 2011 Entry
Every year, one or two entries at the ESC stir up a bit of controversy due to claims of plagiarism by fans. This year, Denmark’s entry New Tomorrow by A Friend in London is the center of the controversy. So, in lieu of my typical review of Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, I want to use my annual post about the Danish entry to discuss this situation.
To set the stage for this post, I will recap my thoughts about this year’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix. I was vastly disappointed in this year’s DMGP. The production, the staging, the songs, the outcome – no where as good as the last two years were. Not to mention the whole thing was a sham; New Tomorrow was slated to win from its announcement as a contender and it destroyed the competition. With that said, I strongly disliked the song, and already know that 2011 will be the first Contest since 2008 in which I will have to suffer through having to listen to an entry – unfortunately that entry comes from my own Denmark. New Tomorrow is corny, generic song with lyrics better fit for a classroom of four year olds than the stage of a major international song competition.
After A Friend in London’s victory, fans around Europe screamed in outrage, claiming that the song was plagiarized. There are allegedly four songs from which the band has “borrowed”: Face 2 Face by Future Trance United, Shine by Take That, Yasashii Uta by Mucc, and Sing For Me by Andreas Johnson. Despite the fact that I love Shine, I will admit that all of these songs are horribly generic and they all have an eerily similar refrains to one another. Undoubtedly, all four songs share a similar progression throughout the melody in question. The questions is: do these notes progress exactly the same between New Tomorrow and any of these (or other) songs?
I think the Eurovision Times blog best describes the process for musical plagiarism to be determined. “We have to remember that one can not accuse a song of being plagiarism if it just resembles another song. Plagiarism
is not a sentiment of ‘Déjà vu’ and there are clear rules to determine whether something is plagiarism or not. First a complaint by the other song’s authors has to be filed. Then the song will be analysed. For a song to be plagiarism it has to have a sequence of eight notes that are exactly identical with the other song.” As a musician, I have a better ear for this kind of stuff than the average person, but I am still no expert. I think the strongest case comes in the form of Andreas Johnson’s Sing for Me (though, there is also a strong resemblance to Mucc’s Yasashii Uta). The key, I think, lies in melody when the lyrics are: “In this crazy, crazy world” – it is at this point that New Tomorrow (and the other songs) separate from each other. A Friend in London follows this progression in their song (the words in parenthesis indicates the direction the pitch moves between syllables): “In (up) this (up) cra- (same) -zy (same) cra- (same) -zy (down) world.” Andreas Johnson: “sing (up) for (up) joy (same) sing (same) for (same) eve- (up) -ry (down) man (same) wo- (same) man (same) boy (same) and (same) girl.” Notice the slight difference. Due to my lack of knowledge of the Japanese language, I can’t do a similar thing for the Yasashii Uta, but I can tell that around where “crazy, crazy world” occurs in New Tomorrow, instead of going downward pitch, Yasashii Uta goes upward. Again, I am no expert in these things, but that’s how I hear it. Shine and Face 2 Face deviate enough in the second half of their refrains that there is less ambiguity regarding those cases.
My verdict: New Tomorrow is unoriginal and generic, but in the end, does not meet the requirements for plagiarism as there is no way to prove (or disprove) whether A Friend in London heard these other songs and were influenced by them. If anything, all of these songs were influenced by Kitarō’s Silk Road Suite (1979). If you agree or disagree with my opinion, leave a (civil) comment and check out this video on YouTube, where someone has spliced together the similar melodies from Silk Road, Yasashii Uta, Sing for Me, and New Tomorrow so that listeners can judge for themselves whether there is plagiarism afoot. Obviously, the video’s creator’s opinion is incredibly self-evident (you can see it in the title alone) but I suggest you close your eyes, give the video a few listens, and reach your own conclusion.