Welcome to the debut of Spot the Similarity, where we take two songs and, well, do we really need to explain the purpose of the column?
Pop songwriting is hard. There are only a handful of chords, and underneath that, there are only a handful of chord progressions that will register as pleasing to the ears, so it comes as no surprise that sometimes a band looks as if they were caught peeking at someone else’s paper during the final exam, even if they weren’t. It could be a riff, or a vocal melody, or a certain rhythm.
Or, in this case, it could be several things.
Now, let’s just state for the record that we do not believe for a second that Linkin Park were trying to steal from anyone. They take their music much too seriously to do such a thing. But, for the sake of argument, take a listen to “Robot Boy,” from their impressive new album A Thousand Suns.
Sweet little tune, right? Now, if you please, check out “She’s Got My Number,” from Semisonic’s 2001 album All About Chemistry.
Wowzers. Peas in a pod, these two songs. Lots of piano, eerily similar drum tracks, big swells towards the end. The chord progressions are different, no question, but not terribly different. Was Linkin Park aware of the existence of “She’s Got My Number”? Doubtful. The only link between the two bands is Rick Rubin, who produced Semisonic singer and principal songwriter Dan Wilson’s 2007 solo album Free Life as well as Linkin Park’s last two albums. But since Rubin didn’t get involved with Wilson until well after Chemistry was released, it’s safe to say that he’s never heard “She’s Got My Number,” which means Linkin Park probably hadn’t either, since they were still doing the angsty nu-metal thing at the time.
We have not reached out to anyone in Linkin Park for comment – because really, that would look like we’re accusing them of plagiarism, and we’re not – but we did send “Robot Boy” to Dan Wilson, and he told us this: “I usually don’t hear it when people tell me something sounds like a track of mine, but I totally hear it with this. Thanks for the note, it reminds me how much I like ‘She’s Got My Number.’ And now I like ‘Robot Boy.'” Awww, how cute is that? We love a happy ending.