G-Dragon & plagiarism + my thoughts on derivation in general
I will go ahead and say for the record that I don’t like G-Dragon as a performer. I dislike the way he raps, and I think he puts up too much of an annoying persona when he performs on stage. I don’t have a thing against YG or YG’s rappers, because I obviously don’t dislike TOP, Teddy, Jinusean, & rest of co. But I also don’t think that disliking G-Dragon as an artist is mutually exclusive to disliking him as a person because as just Kwon Ji Yong going on variety shows and what not, I think he’s incredibly funny, witty, and bubbly. I don’t know him personally so I can only tell based on the shows I’ve seen him on and I do like him outside of performing.
However, I think G-Dragon gets too much credit for a lot of what he presents to the Korean entertainment biz.
He is no doubt leagues ahead of other idol boys by the sole fact that he makes so much of his group’s music, and now his own solo work. But a lot of the work he comes up for himself is derivative. He does get a little sample happy. Yes, you can say that hip-hop centers a lot around sampling, remixing, and reworking some beats with your own flavor. But this is why for me, as a personal preference, I don’t gravitate towards songs that takes elements from other songs. On a side-note, this is one of the reasons why I felt nothing towards Kanye West’s music from his first album to his third. His fourth album, 808s and Heartbreak is probably the only album of his that is 95% sample-free and I LOVED that album. Most of the people I’ve talked to about this album felt like had gone soft and that he’s not him anymore in the album. Yeah I could’ve done without the hideous wannabe singing and the beat-to-death use of autotune, but at the end of the day, I liked that everything off that album is fresh and contained sounds that he came up with. As much as I love “Stronger,” that song would have been nothing without Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.”
So back to G-Dragon. Here are all the songs that have been accused of plagiarism:
After listening to these side by side and then listening to the two songs mixed, I can’t say that G-Dragon is innocent at all. The underlying beat in G-Dragon’s “Heartbreaker” is a lot louder, a lot more assertive, whereas the one in Flo Rida’s is sort of like a low mumble. G-Dragon’s rapping is also a lot more punctuated whereas Flo Rida’s is less enunciated. But all in all, the beats are very similar and anyone who is not listening carefully to either one can get the feeling that the songs are like each other.
I didn’t even know that “Butterfly” was accused of plagiarism but after listening to the songs side by side…COME ON. Haters, fans, anyone with EARS should be able to tell the striking similarities. But because these previews are so short, maybe it was only that specific verse that was similar. With “Boys,” I’m not so sure about the accusations. The beat in Katharine McPhee’s is pretty generic so we can’t pin the blame yet on G-Dragon/YG.
If all these songs turn out to be great, that’s fine. G-Dragon will still be a hero to Kpop. But call an ace an ace; the thing that annoyed me most about this whole thing is what YG put out as an official statement: that the songs were touched only by G-Dragon/YG, and then a few days later, they back track and say that the songs were created hand-in-hand with Swedish producers. And who knows if they were originally going to be crediting the artists that these songs sound familiar to? Maybe they have to now.
As much as I’m not a fan of sampling, if someone is straight up with their work and acknowledge certain factors that were included in their work, it’s easier to be receptive of it, kind of like how I knew from the start that G-Dragon’s “This Love” is essentially him singing over Maroon 5′s song of the same name. It was a bad PR move on YG’s part to imply that the accusers are the ones in the wrong, because once the original song and GD’s songs are compared side by side, people are going to see the differences/similarities and not only does it makes YG look dishonest, their credibility for all this supposed “originality” also takes a huge blow.