Monday, July 16, 2007

Avril Lavigne vs The Rubinoos - Who is really at fault?

As you may know, pop star Avril Lavigne is being sued by 70's band The Rubinoos for allegedly lifting her latest song "Girlfriend" from their 1979 song "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend."

The pop culture community is up in arms. It's the "Ice Ice Baby" drama all over again. People haven't felt this betrayed since Milli Vanilli's tape started skipping. A lot of people seem absolutely convinced of her guilt.

I, however, remain skeptical. People are so quick to point fingers and assign blame that they don't seem to really have taken a close look at the evidence. Let's examine the lyrics of these two songs a bit more closely.

"Girlfriend"                                            "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend"

Hey! Hey! You! You!                           
Sitting here so close, together
I don't like your girlfriend!                
So far we're just friends, but I'm wondering whether
No way No way!                                    
I, am I just imagining
I think you need a new one                   
You, or do you really have a thing for me
Hey! Hey! You! You!                         
Like I think I see when I see you smile
I could be your girlfriend                    
And the smile's for me, I wanna tell you...

Hey! Hey! You! You!                      
Hey, You, I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
I know that you like me                   
Trying to say I wanna be your number one
No way! No way!                               
Hey, You, I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
No it's not a secret                            
Gonna make you love me before I'm done
Hey! Hey! You! You!                     
I want to be your girlfriend                      
Late at night when I, when I can't sleep
                                                   Picture in my mind, I see you and me
You're so fine                                        
I, I'm telling you what I wanna be
I want you mine                                  You, you're saying you're in love with me
You're so delicious                                  And oh, it feels so good in a dream
I think about you all the time                  That I know in life it's just got to be
You're so addictive                                  I wanna tell you...

Don't you know what I could do to make you feel alright?
Don't pretend I think you know I'm damn precious
And hell yeah
I'm the mother f**king princess
I can tell you like me too and you know I'm right

Even a quick skim of these lyrics clearly reveals that other than the first line of the chorus, the songs are completely different. Even though the one line is verbatim, it isn't the world's most original line. Any idiot with a basic understanding of the English language could have come up with that on their own. The music, on the other hand, bears mild similarities at best. It is therefore my humble opinion that while "Girlfriend" might have been mildly inspired by the Rubinoos' song, it certainly does not have enough similarities to win a court case. Personally, I think the Rubinoos heard Avril's song and were so upset that her lyrically-challenged piece was vastly more popular than their work that they decided to sue for a little piece of the spotlight. Frankly, if the people who wrote "Girlfriend" were inspired by the 1979 song, the Rubinoos should be thanking their lucky stars that there is actually a human on this earth who has heard it.

The facts in this case are clear: The Rubinoos are desperate for a tiny slice of the limelight and Avril's lyrics are hopelessly unoriginal. My official forecast is that the Rubinoos don't stand a chance in court. It's pretty pathetic all around.

Case dismissed.



Tommy said...

The songs are mostly different, but I think the choruses are a little too close for comfort. It's not a blatant cover, but something referred to as a "derivative work." They'd be idiots NOT to sue.Quite a few people have heard the song by the Rubinoos, Rhino has included that song in both their Poptopia and D.I.Y. collections. Chances are, if you own a few hundred albums and enjoy power pop, you are familiar with it.


I don't really know that band, but I agree! They are desperate for a tiny slice of the limelight

Jonathan said...

case dismissed?

the fact is that avril's song is TOTALLY dependant upon that one plaigarized chorus hook. nobody's going around asking if you've heard the new avril song, "you know the one that goes 'Don't pretend I think you know I'm damn precious'"; it is that hook that is selling the records. the rest of the song is just filler anyway.

regardless of whether or not you or avril has heard of the rubinoos before that doesn't mean nobody has. they're a legend in power pop circles and they have several albums' worth of classic tunes that they actually took the time to write themselves!!!

Jim said...

I really think this lawsuit is a stretch, although though the hook bears some resemblance, I will lose all faith in the legal system if the Robinoo’s were to win this case.

Check this out:

“Hey hey / You you / I don’t like your girlfriend / Hey hey / you you / I think you need a new one” (Girlfriend)

sounded suspiciously similar to their 1979 single:

“Hey, you, I wanna be your boyfriend / trying to say I wanna be your number one / Hey, you, I wanna be your boyfriend / Gonna make you love me before I’m done” (The Rubinoos, I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend).

The dust-up reminded me that the Rubinoos song also has a kinship with:

“Hey, little girl / I wanna be your boyfriend / Sweet little girl / I wanna be your boyfriend” (Ramones, I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend, 1980).

And hey, remember the flap in the late ’80s surrounding:

“I said hey (hey!) / You (you!) / Get into my car” (Billy Ocean, Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car, 1988)

which some people thought sounded like:

“Hey, you, get off of my cloud” (Rolling Stones, Get Off My Cloud, 1965)

which was echoed in:

“Hey you / Sha-la-la-la / Hey you / Sha-la-la-la” (Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Hey You, 1975)

which made about as much sense as:

“Na na na na-na-na nah / Na-na-na nah / Hey Jude” (The Beatles, Hey Jude, 1968)

which probably, in some small way, inspired:

“I say hey-ey-ey / Hey-ey-ey / I said hey / What’s going on?” (Four Non-Blondes, What’s Up, 1993).

At any rate, let us remember these wise words:

“Hey, hey, my, my / rock and roll will never die” (Neil Young, Hey, Hey, My, My (Out of the Blue), 1979),

though this lyric expresses the sentiment much better:

“Gabba gabba hey!” (Ramones, Pinhead, 1977).

Andre Mayer writes about the arts for

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