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Violence is Silence:

Updated: Nov 28, 2021

A look at the "spontaneous" use of the same lyric pattern between songs

Let us start by looking at two songs:

  • Hush - 2015 - Cappa, Almighty Chief - 233,393 Plays

  • Secret - 2015 - Computer Magic - 395,356 Plays

Both of these songs share the same lyrical pattern of rhyming "secret" with "keep it" in their respective choruses. While a seemingly obvious rhyme, no usages of it in popular or semi popular songs immediately comes to mind. In fact, looking at the website it appears that "secret" and "keep it" has been rhymed on around 150 songs ranging from Cheap Trick, Bon Jovi, RHCP, and Dolly Parton on her 2008 album Backwards Barbie.

How did two related electro-pop musicians end up deciding to spontaneously use the same lyric in the song. According to Spotify, the song Hush was released in March of 2015, while "Secret" was released 7 months later in October. If you note the play count both are pretty obscure with Hush having less than 250K plays more than 6 years after its release. Cappa did achieve momentary notoriety with a cover of the song "No Scrubs" (9.3 million plays on Spotify), but that wasn't release until November of 2015, a couple of weeks after Computer Magic released the album 'Davos' with the song "Secret". While it is possible Computer Magic may have heard Cappa play this song (Cappa was Tennessee based while Computer Magic was based in NYC), there is no concert listed on Cappa's BandsInTown profile that took place in NYC in 2015, only in Tennessee. Likewise, there is no proof that Computer Magic played any concerts in or around the Tennessee area in 2015. This means it is likely that these two obscure, but similar genre, electro-pop artists spontaneously, but almost simultaneously decided to use the "secret" and "keep it" rhyme.

Now this is of no surprise. With tens of thousands of electro pop indie songs being released every year, there is bound to be some similarities in song composition and lyrical patterns. Two talented people coming to the same abstract idea has historical precedence: both Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz were simultaneously and independently developing the ideas that would become calculus in the late 17th century. 250 years later while Einstein was developing his theory of relativity, a team of Russian scientists were conducting similar work and most likely would have proved the the theory to the scientific world if Einstein had not been first.

Let's now look at the titular example where the words "violence" and "silence" are rhymed in various indie pop songs since 2014:

  • Cheers - Greenwood Shade - July 11, 2014 - 1,233,033 plays

  • Baby - Tei Shi - March 31, 2017 - 2,574,246 plays

  • Rorschach - Typhoon - November 2, 2017 - 1,304,609 plays

  • Tough Love - ALASKALASKA - May 3, 2019 - 1,638,449 plays

Here are 4 that all use the trope of "silence" and "violence". Interesting I roughly discovered them in order of release. It should be noted all 4 songs are of similar popularity, with "Baby" being the most popular at more than 2.5 million listens, but all of the songs have 1 million listens. Now the earliest song I am aware of that had this rhyme pattern, "Cheers" was fairly obscure with just a few hundred thousand listens when "Baby" was released. But to what extent was each of these artists aware of the other songs. Did they each believe themselves to have been the originator of the lyrics (or at least that they revitalized it). RhymeZone lists out dozens of songs that rhyme "violence" and "silence" with perhaps "All I Ever Wanted" by Depeche Mode being the most well known, but it has also been done by Bob Dylan, Ani DiFranco, Seether, Ween, Moby, Madonna, Black Sabbath, Elvis Costello, Nas, Wyclef Jean, and dozens of others. It would seem the threat of the non-originality does not prevent the usage of these very distinct lyrics.

But while the aforementioned invention of calculus and discovery of relativity can be thougth to be inevitable (there were already many problems that calculus was required to solve and as the observation of physical events became more precise in the 19th century eventually a new theory of space-time would be required to explain it), what about when these coincidences happen in art, when there is no pre-determined inevitability of a song so sometimes when the coincidence is too much to bare .

Take these two songs:

The similarities between these songs, from title, to lyrics, to chorus and composition are impossible to ignore. In fact, you would almost think the COIN song, released nearly a year after Elohim's track, was a cover. Now Elohim was much more obscure in 2016 than she is now (she was featured on Microsoft music product commercials in 2018), and she is still much less known than COIN with only two songs in the 50 million - 60 million listen range, and her "She Talks Too Much" has about 1/50th the number of listens as "Talk Too Much" (which is by far COIN's most popular song). It seems almost impossible that one of the primary song writers had not heard Elohim's track then believed themselves to have created it on their own volition. Here is Chase Lawrence of COIN on the song's creation:

We just came off a two-month tour playing pseudo punk songs. We wanted to slow it down to the likes of ’80s new wave. The song came easier than any other song I’ve ever written. In a few hours, we wrote a song about my inability to leave it unsaid. I’m gonna stop there.

And when I google Elohim + COIN + Talk Too Much the only article I find about the songs similarities is this blurb from a minor music blog saying this about the similarities:

Flash forward 3 months and we're now starting to see some remixes appear. Nashville boys COIN retain much of the original's vibes but turn it up a bit.

I see no other articles claiming this, and no claims of plagiarism despite the similarities being far more considerable than say the accusation that Skrillex took the tonal hook from his 2015 collar with Justin Bieber "Sorry" from the 2014 song "Ring the Bell" by Minneapolis based indie group Hinterlands. I would rate the coincidence between COIN's song and Elohim's track to be on par with the simultaneous discovery of calculus by Leibenz and Newton, if it was indeed coincidental.

While completely originality is perhaps unattainable. With the proliferation of the production of music in the post-atomic age, it would seem everything has been done under the sun. Yet, we can still see the difference between incorporating the ideas of others "secret" and "keep it", versus full on making an altered version of a song that is not your own like COIN's talk too much. While tropes and similar musical segments cannot be completely avoided, one should think of the novelty of anything that is being created and whether it is simply a very clear re-hash of what has been done before, especially within your band's musical milieu.

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