Saturday, October 1, 2011

Top 10 Musicians Who Make Their Living Ripping Off Other Musicians

It’s tough to be completely original in music; we get that.  There are so many bands and so many styles that virtually everybody is going to end up sounding like somebody else at one point or another.
Some people though, take that excuse to the extreme, and basically make their fortune off other people’s sounds.  The “best” of the bunch rip off several bands in the span of one damn album, and sometimes within the same song.

10. Skillet

A fairly new band to the mainstream crowd, these guys come roaring out of the gate quickly with two singles that are basically somebody else’s.  It probably took the average radio fan several listens before realizing Monster wasn’t just Three Days Grace writing a sequel to Animal I Have Become.  But since they’re almost exactly the same song, from the beat to the heavy sound to the theme to the way the guy sings, then the listener can be forgiven.
Things got even more confusing when they released their next single, Awake And Alive, featuring synths, violins, and pretty female vocals designed to make us forget about the ugly male vocals immediately preceding them.  And yet we were supposed to be shocked when we found out it wasn’t Evanescence.
We were shocked however, to find out they are a Christian band.  Pretty sure shamelessly aping several bands in one shot falls under the “thou shalt not covet” thing that God was so against.

9. Union Underground

union underground
This early 2000’s metal band had a couple radio singles get frequent play, though you’d swear it was two other, better, bands if you didn’t catch the DJ beforehand.  Their first single, Turn Me On Mr. Deadman, was little more than a Powerman 5000 outtake, right down to the creepy spoken-word verses and screaming choruses.  Their next single, Killing The Fly, slowed things down and added oddly-familiar harmonic vocals.  Coincidentally, it couldn’t have been more Alice In Chains if Layne Staley himself had written the damn thing.
In addition, they loved The Beatles and wanted to let you know it.  “Mr. Deadman” was supposedly a saying that was revealed by playing the Beatles song Revolution 9 backwards, and another song of theirs, Revolution Man, was about Lennon himself.  The only thing they didn’t do in tribute to Lennon was create original and interesting songs.

8. Natalie Imbruglia

You hate to bag on someone as adorable as Natalie, but she sadly doesn’t have an original musical bone in her body.  Her biggest hit, Torn, was a watered-down cover of an Ednaswap song, and the rest of her debut album alternated between being an Alanis Morrisette tribute and a beginners guide to Portishead-style trip-hop.
Her Alanis phase was never more prevalent than in the song Intuition, which features a chorus that sounds EXACTLY like the chorus to Alanis’s Hand In My Pocket. Though she came close to topping that with another song, Big Mistake, which combined slow trip-hop verses with an angsty-rock-chick chorus, complete with Alanis-style yelps to end each line.  Natalie had a few more hits, but never came close her initial success ever again; perhaps her approach was a Big Mistake after all.

7. Jet

Approximately 25,381,726,349,738,482,374 bands rip off AC/DC; few get a multi-record deal and make millions while doing it.  Jet is one of those bands, shamelessly aping AC/DC’s guitar sound, riffs, even their knack for NOT playing their instruments for several bars, just to make us wet in anticipation for the next riff.  We’re looking at YOU, Cold Hard Bitch.
Adding to their Angus Young fetish is their love for the White Stripes or, more accurately, how Jack White sings the typical White Stripes song.  Listen to Are You Gonna Be My Girl and try to tell yourself that isn’t exactly how Jack sings 95% of his songs.  You can’t.

6. Puddle Of Mudd

puddle of mudd
Bands like this could easily be re-named “Intro To Grunge 101,” as they basically ape anything that made the genre great, only they do it less great.
From Alice In Chains’ slow grind, to Pearls Jam’s vocal growl, to Creed’s far-inferior version of Pearl Jam’s vocal growl, Puddle Of Mudd specializes in taking the best of grunge angst and summarizing it all up as “Ah love the way you smack my aaaaaaaaasssssssssssss”.
But lest you think all they do is rip off the grunge they so love, fear not: they also love to rip off the musicals they so love!  The verse in their hit single She Hates Me features a bouncy guitar and lyrics sung in almost the exact same way as Grease’s Summer Lovin’. Unlike the original, however, he doesn’t have to tell us more, tell us more: since the girl in Mudd’s song f’ing hates him after only a week of dating, we can only assume he didn’t “get very far”.

5. Godsmack

Lead vocalist Sully has one Hell of a Boston accent, but he sadly has not put it to use during his songs, preferring instead to take the path traveled by every band he liked growing up.  For the most part, Godsmack sounds like Alice In Chains, complete with the occasional dual vocal harmony, mixed with Metallica’s power and overall guitar sound.  Hell, even their name is a rip-off, as God Smack is an obscure AiC tune from 1992.
But wait, there’s more!  Sully is a Wiccan who’s very much into spiritual spookiness, so the band occasionally channels Tool and other mystical rock bands, with tunes like Voodoo, Spiral, and Sully’s entire solo album. But the Voodoo video did have a naked tribal woman in it, so they have that much going for them at least.

4. Wolfmother

Tons of garage bands out there take the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, among others, and make them their own.  Luckily, nobody hears them unless they literally walk past the garage at the wrong time.  Not so with Wolfmother, who have taken their fascination with the heavier side of classic rock to the umpteenth degree.
Literally every note out of their repertoire is lifted from a classic 70’s band, whether it be Led Zeppelin’s wailing vocals, Black Sabbath’s fascination with fantasy and the occult, or Deep Purple’s simple, yet irresistibly catchy lyrics.  Even their look (gigantic afros, psychedelic videos, trippy concert posters), is copied straight from bands that did it better thirty years ago.
Listening to Wolfmother’s Woman or New Moon Rising is only useful if you want to immerse yourself in the greatest bands of the ‘70s, but just don’t have the time to listen to them all.

3. Sum 41

sum 41
Sum 41 is just amazing.  In just a few short years, they have managed to rip off not one, not two, but THREE completely different genres of music.  If that weren’t pathetic, they’d probably deserve some kind of medal.
When they first appeared, they gave us songs like Fat Lip and In Too Deep.  Here, they either copied the frat boy hip-hop of early Beastie Boys, or somehow managed to water down Blink 182’s pop-punk even more so than it already was.  Later on, they took a line from Fat Lip that mentioned how much they love bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, and decided to rip off 80’s metal as well.  Each successive album got slightly more metal, and when the band tours, they are known to open up for themselves as an 80’s metal band called “Pain For Pleasure.”  They even “let” PFP record songs on Sum 41 records, which just goes to prove a point: if you’re going to rip off multiple bands over multiple genres, you might as well be clever and meta about the whole thing.

2. Lenny Kravitz

lenny kravitz
When you think “shameless rip-off artist,” one of the first names that come to mind is Lenny Kravitz.  From his debut in the late 80’s to, well, today, Kravitz has made a name for himself by doing basically what Jimi Hendrix did, only on a much, much smaller and far less interesting scale.  So naturally, Jimi checked out after four years, and Lenny has hung around for over twenty.
When he’s not creating entire songs like Are You Gonna Go My Way or Fly Away, which are entirely based on one slightly Hendrix-y riff that Hendrix would have almost certainly tossed out for being too boring, Lenny is also ripping off the very essence of Prince.  But no matter how many instruments Lenny plays by himself, or how often he attempts to create Prince-style sexy slow jams like You Belong To Me, and no matter how many girly shirts he wears even though they’re two sizes too tight, Lenny Kravitz is very not Prince.  Now, if he starts using more U’s, UR’s, and 2’s in his song titles, then he might have an argument.

1. Kid Rock

kid rock
The ultimate rip-off artist, Kid Rock has been pretending to be every genre ever heard of since the late-90’s.  He alternates between being a poor man’s Bob Seger, a poor man’s Lynyrd Skynyrd, a poor man’s Johnny Cash, a poor man’s Metallica, and a poor man’s Grandmaster Flash, among countless others.  Bottom line, if you are a classic rock, southern rock, hard rock, or old-school hip-hop artist, Kid Rock probably sounded like you at one point or another.
Kid Rock’s magnum opus when it comes to ripping off artists more original than he would have to be 2008’s All Summer Long, where he sings about listening to Sweet Home Alabama, just in case we’ve forgotten what a good song sounds like.  He does this by ripping off that EXACT song in the chorus, while producing a completely Xeroxed copy of Warren Zevon’s Werewolves Of London and passing that off as his own.
For his crimes and outright plagiarism, Kid Rock received the ultimate punishment: one of the biggest hits of the year and millions of dollars in his bank account.  Life isn’t fair at all.