Fight Like Apes‘ frontwoman May Kay tackles the age-old thin line separating homage and unwitting imitation.
It’s an extremely distressing situation. You’ve spent weeks, maybe months on a song. You started off with a devilishly catchy riff (if you don’t say so yourself). You built everything around that, you scrapped some things and started again, still with the same riff, determined to make it work. You put some lyrics on there. Scrap some. Add some new ones. Eventually you finish it. It is the most exciting thing. It really is like all your Christmas’ have come at once. That is, if you like Christmas. If not, it’s like all your Sundays have come at once. If you’re into mass. If not, it’s like all your weddings have come at once. If you’ve enjoyed your many remarriages. You know what I mean. It’s class.
You call your mate, they call over for a warm can and some cheese cubes and you play them the song. “Do you like it?” “Yeah, I liked it the first time it was released as well.”
You’ve accidentally ripped off ANOTHER song. Devastating. But thank Prince you did ask your mate to call over. Sadly, when this idea gets into your head, particularly when you are under pressure to write songs it is difficult, if not impossible to get rid of the worry. You end up ONLY being able to think of other songs.
It’s the opposite to the problem where someone asks you during an interview what your favourite song is and you suddenly can not think of one single song that’s ever been written. Anywhere in the world. Ever.
And also, I’ve never quite learned how to turn a ‘rip off’ into a ‘homage’. Can someone help me with that?
Is it a case of, your album goes to print and you realise you’ve ripped someone off so you quickly call it a ‘homage’ before anybody else calls you a thief?
That’s very clever, actually.
I’ve only just learned the term ‘lyrical interpolation’. I could be wrong, but my take is that you can basically use someone else’s lyrics so long as you credit them. This has been done so badly by some people and so amazingly well by others.
Beyoncé lyrically interpolated all over the shop on her new album. You really have to be a certain degree of mega-famous for that to work out for you. I’m not really trying to suggest that it’s all to cover up for thieving or laziness. I really do think the talent involved in managing to pay homage to and represent something that you didn’t create, but use yourself, whether it be music, art, film while making someone feel honoured and nodded to is pretty amazing.
I’m going to lyrically interpolate a few bangers and see where it gets me. MayKay
Photo by Loreana Rushe