Do We Need to Invent a New Musical Term for This? What Do You Call a Song That Sounds Similar to Another?

Some musical terms worth remembering:

  • Earworm: A clip of a song running through your head on a seemingly endless loop.
  • Mondegreen: Misheard lyrics. An example would be the line in “Purple Haze” where some people hear “‘scuse me while I kiss the sky” as “‘scuse me while I kiss this guy.”
  • Bandomynology: An invention of The Ongoing History of New Music a number of years ago. It describes the study of the origin of band names. It’s not in the OED yet, but I remain ever hopeful.

Handy words, yes. But Raya sent me an email that begs some genuine and serious etymological research: “Is there a term to describe a song/sound when it sounds similar to another artist’s song?” Great question.

To be clear, we’re not talking about plagiarism or ripoffs. With only twelve notes in the Western scale and only so many ways to combine them in a fashion that are pleasing to the ear, it’s inevitable that people are going to independently and unintentionally discover the same melodies, chord progressions and arrangements over and over again. Here’s an example: Sum 41’s “Still Waiting” sounds almost identical to a track called “Al menos ahora” by an artist named Nek. (For more, go to SoundsJustLike.com)

I think what Raya wants to know is if there’s a word that describes the deja vu one feels when hearing a song that sounds like another. Is there such a word in the English language? How about any other language? (C’mon, Germany! You have words for everything!)

If there isn’t such a word, I invite etymology academicians and fans of word origins to invent one using the standard rules for such things.

 

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on “Do We Need to Invent a New Musical Term for This? What Do You Call a Song That Sounds Similar to Another?

  • July 31, 2016 at 11:18 am
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    How about, instead of synonyms. ..we use synohyms???

    Reply
  • August 1, 2016 at 1:39 pm
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    In English it would be a homophone (sounds the same but different meaning and spelling). Since homophone is literally hom (Latin for same) and phone (Greek for sound) it seems like it would fit here too.

    Homophrase would fit the musical context but sounds ugly.

    I think i would prefer homostrophe for the poetic notions.

    Reply

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