Pharrell has previewed his new track, “Freedom,” and while it seems the message will be timely, the production sounds more than a little familiar—namely, it’s very close to “Hot Music,” the classic 1990 house track by Soho, aka New York dancefloor legend Pal Joey.
For comparison, here’s Pharrell’s clip:
and here’s Soho’s:
Pharrell’s song also played in the background of a recent Apple Music commercial, in which the build and climax can be heard to be similar:
While it’s not an identical track, what we’ve already heard is close enough to raise an eyebrow, particularly in the light of the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit, in which a jury ruled Pharrell and Robin Thicke pay $7.3 million dollars to the estate of Marvin Gaye for copyright infringement of Gaye’s track “Got to Give It Up.”
We still don’t know if Pharrell collaborated with or sampled Soho—ASCAP and BMI searches turned up nothing on “Freedom” for Pharrell, Soho, Pal Joey or Joseph Paul Longo—so it’s possible he made a good faith effort with this jam. (Jezebel has contacted both Joseph Longo and Pharrell’s publicist for production credits and will update as we receive comment.)
Following the “Blurred Lines” verdict, Pharrell told the Financial Times,
“The verdict handicaps any creator out there who is making something that might be inspired by something else. This applies to fashion, music, design… anything. If we lose our freedom to be inspired, we’re going to look up one day and the entertainment industry as we know it will be frozen in litigation. This is about protecting the intellectual rights of people who have ideas.”
In 2013, a Resident Advisor profile on Pal Joey called him “the most underrated house producer on the scene,” and interviewed the producer about his almost three-decade-long career and working with artists as varied as Sade, Boogie Down Productions and Deee-Lite:
“How many times can you reinvent the wheel?” he asks. “Unless they started making house music that is three quarter time and everyone was dancing to it, it’s still four-on-the-floor.” DJing recently in Berlin has only strengthened Longo’s perspective, with more gig offers coming to him than ever before, due in part to the widespread return of classic house values in contemporary dance music. “They’re telling me it’s a resurgence of house music!” he says. “I’m like, ‘Well you guys are fools because you forgot about it all this time!’ It tells me that people are too fashionable. How could you love something one minute and… well, maybe you could love your wife one minute and then hate her, but music?”
“Hot Music” is far from an obscure track—for house fans, it’s been a staple for decades, indicating and perfectly encapsulating the humidity and energy of a New York summer night. But it was recently revivified in the form of Pal Joey Presents Hot Music, a 2013 retrospective released on BBE with the sole purpose of reestablishing the producer in the dance music canon. That year, BBE cofounder Lee Bright told Spin, “I don’t know why he hasn’t got iconic status, but it’s tragic, because I think he has an amazing talent, which will probably shine brighter and brighter as people discover him.”
Listen to “Hot Music” again, because it’s just that terrific:
“Freedom” is out June 30 on Apple Music.
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