Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

January 30, 2013

House of Burgess: Success is sweetest revenge of all

I like Jonathan Coulton and I cannot lie

My list of personal heroes now has a new entry: singer/songwriter Jonathan Coulton. I have always enjoyed his skewed take on geeky folk rock, but his latest move just put him over the top. Here’s the whole sordid affair in a timeline. It gets meta quickly:

• Feb. 4, 1992 — Seattle-based MC/producer Sir Mix-a-Lot releases his third album, “Mack Daddy”, containing the single “Baby Got Back” — an ode to oversized female posteriors. Just as he raps atop two giant faux cheeks in the accompanying video, the song similarly tops the Billboard Hot 100 chart for five weeks, winning the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance the following year.

• Aug. 31, 2006 — Coulton releases the first of four “Thing a Week” albums, culled from his weekly podcast in which he recorded a new song within a week, every week for a year. “Thing a Week One” is Coulton’s fourth album, and contains his subdued, folky rendition of “Baby Got Back”.

• Jan. 18, 2013 — Coulton discovers Fox TV show “Glee” will feature a note-for-note ripoff of his “Baby Got Back” cover for an upcoming episode. Via Twitter, Coulton says the show never contacted him and “may have even used parts of my recording.” Alex Anders, music producer for “Glee”, tweets: “Some people can’t see opportunity when it smacks them in the face.” Coulton tweets back: “Actually, I’m pretty sure I felt the smack.”

• Thursday — Fox airs the 11th episode of its fourth season of “Glee”, entitled “Sadie Hawkins”. The sixth and final song featured is the “Baby Got Back” ripoff, sung by cast member Oliver Kieran Jones. “Glee” also begins selling the pilfered arrangement on iTunes.

• Friday — Coulton posts to his website that “Glee” contacted him and said “they’re within their legal rights ... and that I should be happy for the exposure (even though they do not credit me, and have not even publicly acknowledged that it’s my version — so you know, it’s kind of SECRET exposure).” [Editor’s note: Time out. Image you’re Coulton here. What’s you move? Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Got it? Good. Game on.]

• Saturday — Coulton releases a single on iTunes entitled “Baby Got Back (In the Style of Glee)” which is “a cover of Glee’s cover of my cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s song, which is to say it’s EXACTLY THE SAME as my original version.” Coulton pledges to donate profits from the song to The It Gets Better Project and The VH1 Save the Music Foundation, “two great causes that are directly related to the ‘Glee’ brand.”

• Sunday — Sales on iTunes of “Baby Got Back (In the Style of Glee)” overtake all six of the songs from the “Sadie Hawkins” episode. At 7 p.m., the song sits at No. 2 on the Singer/Songwriter chart and No. 104 of all songs on iTunes. “Charity check is going to be huge,” tweets Coulton.

This case is a lesson in copyright law and aplomb. When Coulton released his cover of “Baby Got Back”, he bought the statutory license from the Harry Fox Agency, which collects and distributes license fees to artists like Sir Mix-a-Lot. Presumably, “Glee” paid the same agency. However, anything Coulton added was his property. “I wrote a new melody for it, which this recording uses,” Coulton wrote on his website Jan. 18. This is standard operating procedure for “Glee” — Coulton is just the latest. As compiled by The Daily Dot’s Michelle Jaworski, “Glee” has “covered” covers of: “Yeah!” by Usher (feat. Ludacris and Lil’ John) (originally covered by Divisi); “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper (originally covered by Greg Laswell); and DJ Earworm’s mashup of “Fly” by Nicki Minaj (feat. Rihanna) and “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly. Probably others, too. “Glee” is supposed to champion the outcasts of the New Directions glee club, but its shameless theft sounds more like villain Sue Sylvester. Actually, Coulton is the hero and “Glee” the bully. I think Coulton should still lawyer up, but for now, he’s won. Go to www.jonathancoulton.com and spend 99 cents on “Baby Got Back (In the Style of Glee)”. I did. It’s great. (Probably why “Glee” nabbed it, eh?) Plus, you’ll be supporting two very worthy causes. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is pure class.

Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/robaburg.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • MAUREEN HAYDEN: Expiring term heightens urgency of legislator's mission State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki had plans for her return to the General Assembly next January.The two-term Republican from Kosciusko County wanted to exert “full force” to roll back a law that prevents the children of undocumented immigrants from paying i

    July 23, 2014

  • CECIL BOHANON: Spend down surplus? Been there, done that Back in 1998, the state of Indiana had more than $1.3 billion in surplus funds in its general account. This was about 57 days of state spending. The state had total surplus funds of more than $2 billion that was over 24 percent of its annual operatin

    July 23, 2014

  • MAUREEN HAYDEN: Expiring term heightens urgency of legislator's mission State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki had plans for her return to the General Assembly next January.The two-term Republican from Kosciusko County wanted to exert “full force” to roll back a law that prevents the children of undocumented immigrants from paying i

    July 22, 2014

  • TOM LoBIANCO: Indiana Democrats deal with divide on education On the face of it, the battles between Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz and supporters and staff of Republican Gov. Mike Pence have been a unifying force for Indiana Democrats. But the scrapping has exposed a deep rift within the party o

    July 22, 2014

  • BRIAN HOWEY: Is Evan Bayh contemplating another gubernatorial run? This could be the saga of “LeBron Bayh.”Like a thunderhead brewing in the distance, you could see this one coming. This was the progression: former state Democratic Chairman Dan Parker announces he will not become a candidate for mayor of Indianapoli

    July 21, 2014

  • DICK WOLFSIE: Please go away already My wife is planning our summer vacation, which we will take in the fall. We took our spring vacation this summer. We got behind in 1984 and still haven't caught up. I don't have much input into the planning of these trips, but Mary Ellen did assign m

    July 21, 2014

  • ED VASICEK: Internet, and future of communication One morning, I was chatting with some retired folks and the subject of paying bills on the Internet came up. One woman said she disposed of her computer years ago and pays her bills by mail. I commented she could get by just fine doing that. The othe

    July 20, 2014

  • FAITH BRAUTIGAM: Learning from others' mistakes through literature If you’ve ever been locked out of somewhere — your home, your car, your workplace — I expect you could tell me all the details of the incident, even if it was years or decades ago. Why? Our brains remember major events, and it’s a big deal to be stra

    July 20, 2014

  • RAY DAY: We need to get tough Last year I said I was going to quit trying to do anything about the shooting off of fireworks in the neighborhoods. But as anyone who knows me can say, I don't give up on things that are of utmost danger. Here it was, a week before the Fourth of Jul

    July 19, 2014

  • LEE HAMILTON: Is this country doomed to ceaseless polarization? We Americans are trapped in a political dilemma. We all like representative democracy, but we don't much like the way it's performing. The reason for this dissatisfaction is clear. Polls in recent years detail a polarized nation, divided both ideolog

    July 18, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller