Say, that song sounds vaguely familiar...

I made this observation on Facebook yesterday, but I'm obsessive-compulsive enough to feel a need to expand it here. My Facebook comment got zero responses and so I don't expect that this post will garner much discussion, but I'm doing it anyway, out of principle.

Toby Keith has a relatively new song that's getting some airplay on local radio stations. It's called Bullets in the Gun and it's one of those catchy nihilistic outlaw ballads that sounds sort of edgy and dangerous and features ill-fated lovers and guns. It also sounds dangerously similar - in attitude and melody and cadence - to a song written by Robert Earl Keen, Jr. and popularized by Joe Ely called The Road Goes on Forever. Watch these two YouTube vids and judge for yourself.

If you scroll through some of the comments on Keith's video, you'll see that I'm not the only one who's noticed the similarity. (Not that that's necessarily cause for rejoicing; YouTube comments tend to not fall toward the thoughtful end of the spectrum, although there is a subset that's noticeably superior in terms of insight and sophistication, aka "Those Who Agree With Me.")

Don't get me wrong; I like Toby Keith and a lot of his music. And there's really nothing new under the sun, especially in the music world. But I find it hard to believe that Keith wasn't strongly influenced by Keen's song, which was written decades earlier, and which any serious fan of modern country music will be familiar with. It would have been great if Keith had at least sent a nod in the direction of Keen/Ely when he described how his version came to be (scroll down to Product Description). After all, he'll make about a thousand times more money on it than either of those guys did.

I also don't subscribe to the Everything That Comes Out of Nashville is Crap theory of country music. But things like this do tend to foster an us-vs-them attitude.

Oh, and in case you're interested, here's REK performing the song his own self:

1 Comment

Yup, very disctinct similarities. Reminds me of the Coldplay "Vida La Vida" vs Joe Satriani "If I Could Fly" controversy:

This guy does an interesting comparison:

I'll admit that the Coldplay song is very catchy arrangement (despite the utterly ridiculous lyrics) but my money is on Satch.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on December 3, 2010 8:21 AM.

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