Story Courtesy Of Julianne Escobedo Shepherd
Apparently, Swedish fans are mad because they think Gwen Stefani’s new song, “Baby Don’t Lie,” is ripping off “Heartbreakfree,” a song by Ji Nilsson. Having listened to both, I have come to the conclusion that they are both ripping off something, and that something is dancehall.
Of course, the two songs sound similar both in chord progression and spirit, which is fine and happens all the time—especially since it’s just like, three descending notes next to one another. But it’s also worth mentioning that each song uses some variation of a dancehall riddim, the closest example being the ever-recognizable Diwali riddim, which came out in 2003 and was most globally popular on Sean Paul’s “Get Busy.” (Sidebar, shout to everyone who celebrated Diwali this week.)
So if we’re gonna go there, maybe I would like to assert that Ji Nilsson is kinda ripping off Lumidee (also built on the Diwali riddim).
Uh oh! So, Gwen Stefani doing quasi-dancehall makes a little sense—No Doubt started as a ska band, and they’ve done takes on reggae before, so it’s not completely out of her purview. (Whether it’s appropriation or not is another matter, although I tend to lean on the side that, in a landscape of rampant appropriators from Miley to Iggy, at least Gwen’s chola dancehall queen stance is coming from a place of understanding and appreciation, rather than utter erasure and complete lack of knowledge. Don’t talk to me about that bindi or the Harajuku Girls, though. #FREETHEHARAJUKUGIRLS)
Anyway, it’s possible that Stefani’s song, produced by Benny Blanco and Ryan Tedder, is influenced by Nilsson’s song—mainstream musicians have been known to scour the internet for inspiration just like the rest of us—but again, the note progression is so simple that anyone could have come up with it and nabbed a dancehall beat. (Especially with the increasing popularity of dancehall-inspired work in the non-dancehall-paying-attention mainstream, thanks largely to Diplo’s Major Lazer project.) I don’t know dudes, I kinda wanna just tell you to go listen to Spice. It’s Friday, go home and practice your puppy tail and feel good about it.