Thicke and Co., Got To Give It Up To Marvin

Wow, another case of a White dude stealing Black music. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. This is where sample culture goes wrong and morphs into entitlement culture. I don’t know how the “composers” of Blurred Lines are even suing Gaye’s estate and insisting they didn’t do an exact rip of Marvin’s tune. I’m down with writing a piece that is influenced by another cat’s style, changing certain key elements and ultimately making it your own, but this is just wrong.

And their whole defense that the song is in tribute to an era or genre, not a specific song, is wack. First off, Gaye’s Got To Give It Up doesn’t really sound like anything else from that era. It contains a certain musical artifact that is uniquely its own—which is why it’s such an iconic sound. The song is an era within itself. Not even Marvin created anything exactly like it again. Its elements are a cultural interpolation of blues, funk, good disco, cha-cha-cha and other Caribbean elements.

Let’s break it down in specific musical terms:

1.) The sparse square wave sounding bass line is almost identical in its function to both songs. The motif is that the bass line drops beat 1 of each bar or every other bar, leaves some space, then ad libs a little bit. This is a recurring theme throughout. Blurred Lines does exactly that, except they change a couple of the chords. Maybe that’s what they mean by “Blurred Lines.”

2.) The use of the cowbell is also a central part of both songs. The only difference in the songs—and in general—is whereas Gaye’s piece is more fluid and less pattern-based, Thicke’s interpretation is rhythmically static and doesn’t really go anywhere.

3.) They didn’t even try to change the keyboard. The upbeat chord stabs that give the song a slight Reggae feel (or should I say, ReGaye) is central to the character of the tune.

4.) They even codified that background chatter atmosphere Gaye frequently employed in his songs during this period of his work. How you gon’ turn organic party sounds into a cliché?

5.) The drums are the same: 4-on-the-floor with a snare backbeat on 2 and 4 with the occasional accent on a half-closed sock cymbal.

In short, they dumbed down the hipness of the original and turned Gaye’s classic opus into a fake, Macarena-esque, line dance, limbo party type club anthem.

How low can you go?

This is symptomatic of the lack of respect younger cats have for The Masters. The nerve of this even having to be an argument is ridiculous.

The funny part to me is that Gaye had to foresight to call it Got To Give It Up, almost like he knew 35-some-odd-years ago that some young punks would try to steal his shit.

Dudes: Give it up to the master—and most importantly—give up them royalties to Gaye’s estate.

ARTISTS: (if I can even call you that) Please write some original material. I’m tired of turning on the radio and thinking I’m about to hear Marvin Gaye’s Got To Give It Up, The Commodores’ Night Shift, or Mtume’s Juicy Fruit, and hearing your thievin’ behinds.

It’s tantamount to getting your tastebuds ready for some Kool-Aid and opening the fridge to find out somebody’s selfish ass done almost drank it all and ain’t left but a swallow!


– Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop

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