Spot the Similarity: Linkin Park’s “Robot Boy” vs. Semisonic’s “She’s Got My Number”

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.

Click to buy Linkin Park’s A Thousand Suns from Amazon
Click to buy Semisonic’s All About Chemistry from Amazon

  

Dan Wilson: Live at the Pantages


RIYL: Semisonic, Better Than Ezra, Gabe Dixon

It may not hit you all at once, but the more you listen to and read about singer/songwriter Dan Wilson, the more you realize just how many cool friends and colleagues the guy has. It’s not that he co-founded rock band Semisonic and had some overnight success with “Closing Time,” or that he won a Grammy when co-writing some tracks from the Dixie Chicks’ 2006 album Taking the Long Way. Wilson has written with or is slated to write with the likes of Josh Groban, Adele, the Bravery, Keith Urban, Jason Mraz and KT Tunstall. But he is as riveting a solo performer as you’ll ever see and hear, based on his timeless songs and instantly recognizable voice.

While he’s between studio albums, fans of Wilson can enjoy the digitally-released Live at the Pantages, recorded in Wilson’s hometown of Minneapolis and featuring songs from his acclaimed Free Life album from 2007, as well as a few of the old Semisonic stand-bys. He begins with a solo acoustic set on guitar and piano and then comes back with a full band set, both with his voice and the songs front and center. You won’t find a live album anywhere this clean, sonically. And the songs are bordering on stunning – in particular when Wilson plays “Honey Please” from Free Life, or “Secret Smile” from the landmark Semisonic album, Feeling Strangely Fine. But here is what separates Wilson from any other singer/songwriter – the two brilliant co-writes her performs here—“All Will Be Well,” with Nashville roots rocker Gabe Dixon, and “One True Love,” written along with the great Carole King and first appearing on Semisonic’s All About Chemistry. If you don’t have goose bumps now, you will when hear Wilson sing the latter. In all, Live at the Pantages is a truly awesome storytelling effort. (Ballroom Music 2010)

Dan Wilson MySpace Page

  

Pilot Speed: Wooden Bones

Imagine Semisonic’s Dan Wilson fronting U2 at its most earnest, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Wooden Bones, the Wind-Up debut from Canada’s Pilot Speed, sounds like. Stacked with widescreen atmospherics and pleasantly bombastic arrangements – not to mention lines like “It’s time to rise up from your knees” and “Today I feel sure it’s them or me” – it’s the musical equivalent of a movie montage that ends with the main character standing on top of a mountain at sunset, arms outstretched toward the heavens. The overall effect is not at all unpleasant, nor as painfully self-important as you might expect from a band formerly named Pilate; in fact, if it weren’t for a couple of songs that drain the record’s momentum, Bones would be a must-hear album for anyone who misses the days when everyone from Simple Minds to the BoDeans was using the Joshua Tree formula. Still, even if it doesn’t quite succeed as a whole, this album offers a decent assortment of tracks worth plucking off Amazon’s mp3 store, particularly “Today I Feel Sure,” which makes good use of its martial drumbeat and siren-like guitars, and “Ain’t No Life,” which melds hooks with bombast as successfully as anything in the post-grunge era. “Our focus is feeling,” croons lead singer Todd Clark in “Where Does it Begin?” – and although his band could use more consistent material, it’s that focus that may just pull them through. (Wind-Up 2009)

Pilot Speed MySpace page

  

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