Frank Ocean’s “American Wedding” has caused some ruckus in the music world recently. According to MTV News, Don Henley, an Eagles member and the original writer of “Hotel California,” has asked Frank Ocean to stop performing the song live. “American Wedding” is a good song, only problem is that it’s not original. Ocean creates original lyrics, but uses the whole instrumentation of “Hotel California” and at times uses the same vocal melody. Keep reading to see why Frank Ocean is in some hot water.
What makes things more interesting, is that Frank Ocean’s album Nostalgia, Ultra is a available for free download on his label’s site. Odd Future Records and Frank Ocean are not making any money off the track’s sales. However, they are making a lot of money on tour dates, merch, appearances, etc. So, when Frank says, “I didn’t make a dime off that song. I released it for free. If anything I’m paying homage,” he is right, but he didn’t think about the aforementioned revenue streams – which is where The Eagles camp is coming from.
I understand both sides of this argument. First, Frank Ocean is not paying homage at all. Taking a whole song and doing absolutely nothing to it, except changing the lyrics, and sometimes vocal melody, is not an original song, it’s a cover. Now if he took a sample of that song, with permission from The Eagles, and created something from that, there would be no problem, but he didn’t.
(Sampling is not something new. Composers in the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic Periods of Western Classical Music, would often take motifs, melodies, leads, chord progressions, etc of their favorite composer and use it in their works. Did these composers, who would listen to these compositions, get offended? Hell no! In fact, it was considered an honor that another composer would use their work to create something new.)
But, in Frank Ocean’s defense. The album was free, he is not making anything off it, monetarily. Also, The Eagles should think of it this way, they are getting a whole new exposure to a crowd they would never have been able to touch. If you haven’t heard of Odd Future or Frank Ocean take a look at this live video from a performance at South By Southwest last year (NSFW):
This kind of crowd usually wouldn’t go out of their way to buy music from The Eagles or are in line to get tickets to next reunion tour. But with a young flag bearer, they get a sense of what good music The Eagles have.
In the end, Frank will probably keep playing the song the way it is and will most likely be sued. It is one of his more popular songs. This is the way of the industry now. Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling” is basically a remix of Avicii’s “Levels”. The difference between releases are months and “Levels” has an Etta James sample.
To me, it almost seems like there is little hope for true, original music to shine through the mediocre, duplicates we have to sift through today. Most artists or DJs are putting there stuff out there and hoping that blogs will pick up the buzz. Eventually, if there is enough buzz, they get management/booking agent. Then the label comes in and then it’s a fork in the road. Do they continue into superstar status, or go by the way side with devout followers?
The worst part about this, is that it moves so fast most of the acts don’t make it past putting their stuff online. But if you get enough buzz and people start listening, then you get a good management team and booking agent. Get signed to a label and then write a song that could potentially have you being sued by an artist that has sold over 120 million albums worldwide, things may lead to you making a lot of money by selling out clubs nationwide.
(Source: MTV News)
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