Back in June, Coldplay were accused of plagiarism by Brooklyn indie-rockers Creaky Boards, who claimed that the title track to Coldplay's Viva La Vida album bore an uncanny similarity to one of their own songs--a song ironically titled "The Songs I Didn't Write." Creaky Boards even went so far as to allege--in a somewhat whiny, self-released viral video--that Coldplay frontman Chris Martin got the idea for "Viva La Vida" when he attended one of their shows at the 2007 CMJ Music Festival:
While there was admittedly some resemblance between the two tunes, nothing came of this. Coldplay went about their lives, racking up Grammy nominations and selling millions of records, and Creaky Boards simply creaked back into obscurity. But now a more prominent artist, guitar virtusoso Joe Satriani, is lobbying the same sort of charges at the Britrockers. Satriani has just filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against Coldplay in Los Angeles federal court, and he may have a better case than Creaky Boards did.
Before you continue reading, check out this other video comparing and contrasting "Viva" with Satriani's 2004 instrumental, "If I Could Fly":
Now, first of all, there's no denying the similarity--it's a lot stronger than the one between "Viva" and the Creaky Boards song (that mashup at the end of this video makes a particularly convincing point). The songs in fact sound so much alike, if we'd wandered into a Satriani concert and heard him noodling away during "If I Could Fly" onstage, we'd admittedly mistake it for a guitar-wanky "Viva La Vida" cover.
Of course, the similarity could be a coincidence--and therefore the sonic resemblance isn't enough for Satriani to collect the "any and all profits" he is seeking in a jury trial against Coldplay. Another crucial aspect of his case is whether or not Coldplay had the opportunity to steal the song.
In the case of Coldplay vs. Creaky Boards, it was kind of difficult to believe Chris Martin would randomly pop up at some unknown band's CMJ showcase (Chris publicly denied he attended the gig in question). So it was almost impossible for Creaky Boards to prove that Coldplay had had ample opportunity to hear (and subsequently plagiarize) "The Songs I Didn't Write." But the Satriani album on which "If I Could Fly" originally appeared, Is There Love In Space?, came out four years ago on Epic, a major label...so it is more feasible that the members of Coldplay did have some chance to be exposed to it.
Although, of course, it's also kind of hard to imagine that Chris Martin lounges around his London mansion with Gwyneth, Apple, and Moses, attentively listening to Joe Satriani jams with notepad in hand. But hey, you never know.
Anyway, whether or not Coldplay are guilty as charged, they certainly were aware of Satriani's accusation before the lawsuit was officially filed this week. Just wait for the 3:30 mark in the video below for Chris Martin's sly mention of a mystery man whose name rhymes with "Moe Batriani"...along with his impassioned insistence that "Viva La Vida"'s resemblance to any song, by any artist living or dead, is purely coincidental: