Today a video that sets out to “prove” that Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” and Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” and Miley Cyrus’ “Permanent December” are “the same song” made the rounds, and as you can imagine, it got a lot of pickup from people who like getting all OMG [INSERT LOATHED ARTIST HERE] IS SUCH A RIPOFF SUCK ARTIST. What I don’t get is why the rhetoric surrounding the video has turned into a matter of artistic intent of the three singers, instead of a look at the similarities behind the scenes. To wit:
“Tik Tok” is credited to Kesha “Ke$ha” Sebert, Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, and Benjamin “Benny Blanco” Levin.
“Calfornia Gurls” is credited to Katy “Ugh” Perry, Bonnie “Hey Guys I Was In ‘The Long Tail’” McKee, Calvin “Snoop Dogg” Broadus, Max Martin, and Dr. Luke.
“Permanent December” is credited to Miley Cyrus, John Shanks, and Claude Kelly. Kelly co-wrote Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You” with Max and Luke, Britney Spears’ “Circus” with Luke and Benny, Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” with Luke and Jessica Cornish, and Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment” with Dr. Luke. Obviously I’m not privy to how exactly those credits break down, but you do see a pattern here. Shanks has writing credits on, among other songs, Hilary Duff’s “Come Clean” (with Kara DioGuardi!!), a bunch of songs from Ashlee Simpson’s Autobiography, and some of the non-singles from Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway.*
So, to sum up: People who worked together have aesthetics that have rubbed off on one another. I mean, ugh, I know it’s the Internet, and OMG CONTROVERSY is the name of the pageview-goosing game. And it’s not like there are Dr. Luke fangirls clogging up ONTD and big-upping their hero and his protégés and collaborators 24/7. But Jesus, people. If you want to bitch about songs on the radio sounding the same, maybe scratch the surface as far as Wikipedia and figure out why?
In my experience, no non-music nerd/critic has EVER looked up a pop songwriting credit. Not people who are big enough fans to see the live show, nor the rockists who use “but she doesn’t write her own songs!… does she?” as a criticism they’re never quite sure is true. How the likes of ’80s Kylie Minogue and Rick Astley can sound exactly the same seems to be a mystery with no answer.
With that said, having always felt Max Martin/Dr. Luke were the definition of hacks, I laughed very hard the first time I heard California Gurls… and yet I can’t complain that they’d effectively just made Tik Tok listenable.