Aloe Blacc’s “The Man” Sparks Sales, Buzz Over Elton John Homage

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The soundtrack to a Beats commercial that features 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and aired during this weekend’s NFL Playoff Games, Aloe Blacc’s “The Man” has faced two notable consequences.

On the positive front, it has continued its surge up the iTunes Single Sales Chart. After pushing into the top ten this past week (following previous inclusion in Beats campaigns), “The Man” has ridden the NFL-themed commercial all the way up to number two. At press time, only Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse (featuring Juicy J)” had sold more in the past twenty four hours.

On a more negative–and also considerably more baffling–front, it is also making waves over the homage it pays to Elton John’s classic “Your Song.”

An obvious tribute to the 1970 hit, “The Man” opens its chorus with the same, iconic, “you can tell everybody.”

While the call to action is different–Blacc’s invitation is to tell everyone that he is the man–the reference is undeniable.

That is the point.

Much like the homages to Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” on J. Cole’s “Work Out” and Dead Or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round” on Flo Rida & Ke$ha’s “Right Round,” the interpolation makes a deliberate effort to conjure up memory of the Elton tune. It is paying homage to a previous narrative while setting the stage to deliver his own message.

Numerous Twitter users are struggling to grasp that concept. They, due to ignorance to the notion of a tribute, a proclivity to see the worst in mankind or a lust for controversy, are absurdly assuming (and alleging) Aloe Blacc thought he would trick the masses into believing he coined the “and you can tell everybody” line. They are accusing Blacc of ripping off “Your Song.”

Example Tweets included “That new Aloe Blacc song completely rips off Elton John” (PF), “Wait what are some other Elton John songs that we can pretend Aloe Blacc wrote?” (ElliotLeBoeuf) and “The bastardization of elton john with that ‘im the man’ song by aloe blacc makes me sick. It’s acceptable to blatantly plagiarize now” (Monte Barnard).

Faced with two options–that Aloe Blacc is referencing “Your Song” or that he felt he could get away with passing “you can tell everybody” off as his own–who could possibly believe the latter?

But if one truly were vulnerable to such illogical paranoia, he could escape its grasp by looking at the credits of the song.

Along with a live version of “The Man,” Interscope posted the complete production credits for the song.

Included in those credits is the following line:

“The Man” contains an interpolation from “Your Song” written by E. John & B. Taupin.”

Elton John and Bernie Taupin are also unmistakably listed as co-writers.

Whether one’s instinct is to think the best or the worst of Aloe Blacc, there is no denying what the credits say: the artist simply did not steal from “Your Song.”

(The full-length commercial follows; “The Man” begins at 1:07)

  • Mama Pope’s Chewed Wrists

    Aloe Blacc is a true artist and the song is awesome. My generation, unfortunately, runs rampant with idiots like these Twitter users.

    • Roger Peacock

      Your generation has no taste in music. Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix are/were true artists. This guy, not so much.

  • Meredith Gratton

    There is a definitive difference between “paying homage” and “ripping someone off”. I don’t have “trouble grasping that concept” as the author suggests. I do, as a musician myself, find Mr. Blacc’s lack of creativity and willingness to piggyback on the genius of another artist’s success utterly revolting. Creativity is a commodity and its too bad so many have “trouble grasping” THAT.

    • Brian Cantor

      You are perfectly entitled to feel samples, interpolations and overt references reflect a lack of creativity.

      But the debate here isn’t whether Aloe Blacc’s song (or any songs that sample or allude to past work) is a beacon of creativity. It is whether he “ripped off” “Your Song.”

      He simply did not. As noted above, the credits for the song not only list Elton John and Bernie Taupin as co-writers but specifically acknowledge the “Your Song” interpolation.

      (Aloe Blacc also Tweeted this post with the following message: “@eltonjohndotcom &@bernietaupin are both THE MAN! One of the greatest songwriting teams ever #duecredit”)

      That, quite simply, ends the debate. You could think all my other analysis is BS, and you could think Aloe Blacc lacks creativity, but you simply cannot say someone ripped someone off (which, as I’m sure you know as a musician, is a serious allegation) when he credited that artist.

      (And note that he did so upon releasing the song, let alone before it got big and generated any controversy)

      And, on top of all that, do you really believe Aloe Blacc was hoping people would think *HE* coined the “You can tell everybody” line? Do you really believe he didn’t think anyone would recall “Your Song” upon hearing “The Man?”

      That’s the homage test.

      • Dale Latimer

        Good. Elton can be a you-know-what sometimes. And as Brian said, A.B. isn’t THAT dumb.

  • dcarman686

    If Aloe Blacc did not seek permission for song than its a rip off.

  • biglew1971

    Reading is fundamental. The article clearly states he gives full credit to Elton John. How is that ripping him off?

  • Switchthefield

    I think everyone needs to take a deep breath and relax … Bruno Mars “borrowed” heavily from James Brown, Sly, and others last night. Most classic rock “derives” directly or indirectly from blues, country, and folk music. Clapton, Hendrix, Richards, Townsend, Beck and others (including Elton John) “borrowed” heavily from their predecessors, just in a way that most non-musicians cannot easily identify. It is all just the evolution of pop music.

    • Roger Peacock

      You mean devolution, not evolution, right? All the people you mentioned made “borrowings” in terms of their style, not their actual songs. A big, big difference that’s lost on most people.

  • Roger Peacock

    You know, Aloe Blacc could have simply included the lyrical line “you can tell everybody” with a *different* melody than Elton John’s. The fact that he didn’t speaks to his “talent” and the fact that he uses that melody/lyric as a platform for self-aggrandizement (“I’m the Man, I’m the Man, I’m the Man, Be a King when Kingdom Comes”, etc) speaks to his “character”.

    Any self-proclaimed hip hop experts care to weigh in on the manner in a logical and non-confrontational/non-emotional manner? Lollozollzolz :)

    • Roger Peacock

      And also, how is this song considered “soulful” when there’s no edge to the vocals? The guy sounds like a bland version of Bill Withers, who while he was a good singer, was a bit on the bland side himself.

      But alas, that’s the state of music these days…

    • daw johnson

      But if he used a different melody, it would have defeated the whole purpose of the interpolation.

      The point is to pay homage/make an OVERT reference to Elton John’s song. The words “you can tell everybody” don’t. The words “you can tell everybody” sung in that particular melody do.

  • Clint Eastwood

    Little bastard ripped EJ off, nobody cares if he gave him credit. That’s like one direction producing a song called bohemian rhapsody. Your a fake Aloe Blacc and have no creativity whatsoever. Hope the man gets a frog stapled to his face by elton john

  • IMHO

    Samples are fine; lots of bands have done it. Bothers me that he took a classic love song and made it all about how awesome HE is, and how he’s going to dominate in ways the listener never wanted dominated (your not the answer to my question, OR the relief to my stressin. whatevs dude) If you have to brag to let everyone know how cool you are, there’s nothing to brag about. This song is like giving yourself your own nickname. Blech. What a terrible track.

  • Ray Perkins

    Homage?!?!?! Bullshit. A hack steals.. this dude is a hack

  • fairwitness2010

    An “interpolation”? LOL. Always amusing when people who aren’t very bright try to impress by using a big multisyllabic word when a much simpler one will do. And in this case, “interpolation” isn’t even used properly. “Extrapolation” might have been closer, but even that is BS. How about “inspired by”, or more simply and honestly, “I lifted the melody and lyrics from a classic.” “Interpolation.” Sheesh.

    Even more annoying: Whereas the original conveys a humble message about a man paying tribute to someone he loves, this jerk has morphed it into “you can tell everyone I’m THE MAN!” Nice ego there, Mr. No Talent Mumbler. Sounds like some insecure high school jock/thug walking the hallways with his chest puffed out. I’M THE MAN! Pathetic.

    • daw johnson

      Huh? You’re embarrassing yourself, chief.

      Definition of interpolation (from the verb interpolate): to insert (words) into a text or into a conversation

      *As in, inserting another’s melody/phrase into a song. Perfect word choice for inserting parts of “Your Song” into “The Man.”

      Definition of extrapolation (from the verb extrapolate): to form an opinion or to make an estimate about something from known facts // To project, extend, or expand (known data or experience) into an area not known or experienced so as to arrive at a usually conjectural knowledge of the unknown area

      Has absolutely nothing to do with the Elton John aspect of this scenario.

      On top of that, when it comes to music, interpolation specifically refers to “using a melody – or portions of a melody (often with modified lyrics) – from a previously recorded song, but re-recording the melody instead of sampling it.”

  • Ray Jonas

    Honestly, the only line i can remember from The Man is “You can tell everybody”.
    This guy has no talent for writing songs