The other night my wife suddenly hummed a familiar melody line. After some mental searching I identified it as a slightly modified version of French Canadian synth-poppers Trans-X’s 1983 hit “Living on Video” that I haven’t heard in 20 years or more. But my wife said, “No, it’s this Robyn song I heard on a Letterman clip on YouTube”. That turned out to be Robyn’s 2006 treatment of the Teddybears’ 2004 song “Cobrastyle“, where she’s backed by the Teddybears. The 2006 version introduces the Trans-X line which is not present in the 2004 original. Now I wonder, have Robyn and/or the Teddybears acknowledged the loan from Trans-X? I mean, the 1983 song is hardly an obscure piece of music, having peaked at no 9 on the UK singles chart. Googling robyn +cobrastyle +”living on video” produces nothing useful.

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Comments

  1. #1 Per Edman
    July 25, 2010

    Where in the Letterman clip do you feel the similarity to LoV comes up? I’m afraid I can’t read or write musical notes, but as far as I can hear, this version is identical to the track from “The Rakamonie” and they both have twice the number of notes compared to Living on Video. Gah, I just can’t explain this without further skills, I can only conclude that they are different after at least the fourth note.

  2. #2 Martin R
    July 25, 2010

    Melody starts

    Trans-X: 0:26

    Robyn: 0:19

  3. #3 codero
    July 26, 2010

    I doubt that anyone will remember Robyn in 27 years’ time.
    The whole question of sampling and plagiarism has of course been hotly debated, often in court. Interestingly, the web attitude to “just take what you want” is very similar to the one pre-Berne Convention composers had.

  4. #4 Mattias
    July 26, 2010

    The melodies are similar, but not identical and have different harmonic underpinnings (the Robyn version being harmonically static). They are sufficently generic as to be regarded commonplaces, I would say.

    I actually remember a discussion on Swedish Radio where the Teddybears and Robyn acknowledged several deliberate loans in this song – a kind of bricolage – it may have been when Robyn spoke on ‘P1 Sommar’. I can’t remember Trans-X being mentioned, though. Given the other acknowledgments, I assume they would certainly had mentioned the song if they were aware of it, which in turn seems to suggest a so-called coincidental intertext. Similar striking cases are for example Howard Goodall’s setting of Psalm 23 and the Beatles’ ‘A little help from my friends’. Things like that happen every time someone uses simple tonal melodies, and will of course become more common as repertoire grows.

  5. #5 Martin R
    July 27, 2010

    Codero, you may be right about Robyn’s international lasting power, but in Sweden she’s firmly entrenched in musical history by now. Though not one of her fans, I find her Madonna-like business savvy interesting and worthy of respect.

    Mattias, always good to have your comments on matters musical, even though I don’t know what the technical terms mean! (-;

  6. #6 Sandgroper
    July 27, 2010

    As long as we are posting music videos, time for some of that good Canadian tattooed midget twin lesbian music.

    First the unplugged version, and then the video.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqrFbmC6PsU

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soJtF3F5t2k

    Suck it up, brothers, this is the future.

    For those who have to know, in the second video, Tegan Quin is the one lying on the psychologist’s couch, and Sara Quin is the rescuer. In the first video, Tegan is on the left and Sara on the right.

    I saw them live last May, forced by my daughter to attend, and they were brilliant. They are coming back in December, and if I can, I will go to see them again.

    No, my daughter is not a lesbian, and neither am I. I asked my daughter if she thought it was creepy that her Dad likes the same music that she does, but she said no, she thinks it is very touching. *shrugs* If my parents had liked the music I liked when I was 20, I would have thought it was creepy.

    I’m thinking of adopting both of them. The Quin twins, I mean.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtCGODjuRq0&feature=related

  7. #7 codero
    July 27, 2010

    @Martin: No offence, what I really meant and should have written is that I find it hard to imagine that anyone (a Franco-Canadian, say) will make the same sort of musical comparison 27 years hence.
    I only remember Trans-X because they came to the fore during the narrow time window when I was learning English and watched the now-legendary Formel Eins programme on German TV every week. I could not hum the tune to save my life, and I’m a semi-pro musician now.