When Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album Sour came out in May this year, it was met with rave reviews. The new face of gen-z pop, Olivia had become a sudden global sensation at just 18-years-old. But no less than three months later, the teen star is facing a wave of plagiarism accusations for at least four of the 11 tracks on the album. Now, celebrities are weighing in on the claims.
It all started – as most gen-z drama does – with TikTok. Immediately after ‘good 4 u’ came out, fans began stitching it with Paramore’s Misery Business to highlight similarities between the two tracks. Suddenly, it became a viral trend to do so, with near 40,000 videos made using a mashup song of the two tracks – mostly of millennials reliving their teen years…
While reports state that Olivia’s teams had ‘been in touch’ with both Hayley Williams and Josh Farro’s teams – who wrote Misery Business – prior to good 4 u’s release, last week they were officially credited as writers on the track. It seems then all those millions of TikTok likes might’ve implied some pressure.
Hayley is yet to officially comment on the debacle, simply posting the following to her Instagram story after Warner Chappell Music shared a screenshot of the song hitting number one on the US Top 40 chart with the caption ‘huge shoutout to our writers Hayley Williams and Joshua Farro’.
Taylor Swift was also credited twice on Olivia’s album on songs Déjà vu - which Olivia says was inspired by Taylor's Cruel Summer – and 1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back, which interlopes the chords used in Swift’s New Year’s Day (yes, that’s where you’ve heard that riff before). Interloping is when an artist chooses to insert an existing piece into something else. Rather than sampling the original song, interloping involves re-recording the music in a similar manner.
‘We interpolated “New Year’s Day,” which is Taylor’s song from Reputation,’ Olivia told The Zach Sang Show. ‘I came up with the “1 Step Forward” concept and I sort of wrote a verse and a chorus ...I was in the car on a road trip, and when I got home, I decided to sing it over the chords of “New Year’s Day.” I think they’re really beautiful chords. I was lucky enough to get that approved, and it’s on the record now.’
Of course, given Taylor approved the songs herself and is one of Olivia’s biggest public supporters, it’s clear there’s no bad blood between the two… pun intended. Neither is there with Elvis Costello, who is the final artist Olivia was accused of plagiarising from.
If you’ve ever listened to his 1978 hit Pump It Up, you’ll notice the same guitar riff in Olivia’s song Brutal. When one Twitter user said it was ‘pretty much a direct lift’, Costello replied saying ‘This is fine by me, Billy. It’s how rock and roll works.’
As reference, he hash-tagged Bob Dylan's 1965 classic Subterranean Homesick Blues, which inspired Pump It Up, and Chuck Berry's 1956 single Too Much Monkey Business, which influenced Dylan’s hit.
The same reasoning has since been shared by singer Adam Levine, who rushed to Olivia’s defence this week on Instagram.
‘There’s all this drama about Olivia Rodrigo,’ he told fans. ‘Look, these are tricky things, and anyone who’s ever written a song knows that sometimes you rip something off inadvertently, and it makes it to tape, and then it gets released, and then there’s a lawsuit.
To be clear, Olivia has not been sued by any artists for plagiarism to date.
‘It’s a natural thing for it to happen, and sometimes it gets ugly, and sometimes it’s warranted that people take legal action,' Adam continued. 'Sometimes it’s not warranted that people take legal action, and ... the gray area has reared its ugly head these days. I do think that we [could] probably meet this with a little more compassion and understanding. All this calling out and s—, it’s like, music is a creative thing, and I just hate to see it crushed.’
I think it’s cool to introduce a whole generation of young people to different musical ideas.
‘When you take someone who’s a newer artist, and she’s doing things that emulate the ones from generations removed, I don’t know how bad that is. I think it’s kind of a cool thing to introduce the whole generation of young people to different musical ideas. ... That’s just my opinion.’
Courtney Love, however, appears to disagree. She accused Olivia of copying her artwork for the album cover to Live Through This by her band Hole, which was eerily similar to Olivia’s promotional cover for ‘Sour Prom’ – a concert film. When Love posted a side-by-side of the artwork on Instagram with the caption ‘Spot the difference! #twinning’ Olivia originally commented ‘love u and live through this soooo much.’
However, Courtney later shared on Facebook that shew as not impressed. ‘Stealing an original idea and not asking permission is rude,’ she posted. ‘There’s no way to be elegant about it. I’m not angry. It happens all the time to me. But this was bad form.’
Olivia has since responded in an interview with GQ, saying 'to be honest, I’m just flattered that Courtney Love knows that I exist.'