Inspiration V. Imitation: Is Adele’s “Hello” A Record-Breaking Rip-Off?

by MARYAM OUTLAW

Although Adele’s return to music is dominating the charts after her three-year hiatus, some are now drawing comparisons between the celebrated singer-songwriter’s new song “Hello” and 1980’s rock musician Tom Waits’s “Martha.”

Waits’s record from 1973 contain dissimilar chords and style, but lyrically, “Martha” and “Hello” seem to share the same subject matter.

While Adele writes, “Hello, it’s me, I was wondering/ If after all these years you’d like to meet to go over everything/ They say that time’s supposed to heal, yeah/ But I ain’t done much healing,” 42 years ago Waits also wrote about reaching out to an ex-lover over the phone.

“Hello, hello there, is this Martha? This is old Tom Frost/And I am calling long distance, don’t worry ’bout the cost.’/Cause it’s been forty years or more, now Martha please recall/ Meet me out for coffee, where we’ll talk about it all,” he sang.

In addition, “Hello” co-writer Greg Kurstin, told Entertainment Weekly that when helping write Adele’s single, Waits and other music “storytellers” came to mind, leading listeners to assume that the chart-topping tune was at least inspired by Waits.

Many listeners find the linguistic resemblance harmless.

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Others fail to hear similarities of any kind.

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Today’s top artists are no strangers to melodic plagiarism, however. Back in 2011, Lady Gaga sunk in hot water when she released “Born This Way,” which masses compared and found major similarities to Madonna’s “Express Yourself” from 1989.

Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” generated controversy even more recently when the two artists lost a $1 million lawsuit in which the family of soul singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye accused them of ripping off Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up.”

Either way, Adele shows no sign of slowing down while the lead single for her upcoming album “25” makes history as the first song ever to sell 1 million U.S. downloads in a week, the most viewed music video on Vevo in 24 hours and the second fastest music video to reach 1 million views on YouTube.

So what do you think? Did Adele take inspiration too far? Or are Tom Waits’s fans being petty?

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