This post has been updated with comments from Right Said Fred’s lead singer on Friday morning.
Within moments of Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated new single release on Thursday night — a pop track titled “Look What You Made Me Do,” off her upcoming album “Reputation” — multiple people on Twitter had the same observation.
… and so on. And they are correct! As it happens, iTunes lists the songwriters as Swift; her longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff; and Richard Fairbrass, Fred Fairbrass and Rob Manzoli, all members of the British pop group Right Said Fred who wrote the 1991 hit “I’m Too Sexy.”
Because the melody of the Swift chorus rings vaguely similar to “I’m Too Sexy,” it makes sense that the Fairbrass brothers and Manzoli get co-writing credits. It’s like how Ed Sheeran credited the writers of TLC’s “No Scrubs” when he released “Shape of You,” because there were similarities in the melodies, and how Sam Smith added Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne to “Stay With Me” when it sounded like “I Won’t Back Down.”
Singers these days have to be careful, particularly in the wake of the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit — in 2015, a jury decided that songwriters Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams lifted from Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up” and awarded Gaye’s family $7.4 million.
Even if it means less money for the artists, many feel they’re better safe than sorry. Country star Thomas Rhett has a whopping 14 co-writers listed on his song “Vacation,” because he noted the likeness between his song and War’s “Low Rider.” So the War members were added.
“When you look at somebody like Pharrell and Robin Thicke getting sued because of a drum pattern, it makes you scared to death to put something that remotely sounds like something,” Rhett explained. “So the best thing to do in these situations is just to go straight to the people that wrote that song and be like, ‘Hey we wanna make you co-writers on this song.’ ”
Anyway, you may not have been expecting Swift and Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” to be used in the same sentence when she released her new music — either way, on Thursday, the Fairbrass brothers seemed pretty psyched about the shout-out.
On Friday, Richard Fairbrass (the lead singer of Right Said Fred) woke up around 5 a.m. in Britain to hear the song — although Swift’s team reached out weeks ago and asked how he would feel about Swift and Antonoff using part of the “I’m Too Sexy” track, he didn’t get a sneak preview. But he and his brother, Fred, had no problem giving their blessing.
“We were fine with it,” Fairbrass said in a phone interview, adding that Swift’s team “was really helpful, really polite, and they’ve been really communicative the whole time.” While he didn’t hear directly from Swift, she did send him flowers as a thank you.
Though Fairbrass admits he’s more of a fan of Swift’s country music than her current pop sound, he likes “Look What You Made Me Do” quite a bit — especially the lyrics, which he feels are “particularly interesting…quite dark and cynical.” He’s also pleased that his band has a writing credit.
“Because [‘I’m Too Sexy’] was unusual, people seemed to think it wasn’t worthy in some way, that it wasn’t credible,” he said. “I’ve always felt ‘Sexy’ isn’t really unusual, it’s just that everything else is a bit boring. And it’s nice to have somebody much younger than us, like Taylor, picking up on it.”
Fairbrass only had a few minutes to talk, because his phone won’t stop ringing. He’s been inundated with messages all day, with plans for an appearance on BBC. In a way, that’s a relief.
“Because we’ve been in the business for so long, you’re very aware of the fact that these things can go two ways. It can either be completely mad or it goes out like a damn squib and nothing happens,” he said. “Today has just been mental.”