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Shamir, Apple and a Soundalike: Questions Arise Over New Advertisement

Shamir performs in 2015
Ollie Millington/Redferns via Getty Images

Shamir performs on May 14, 2015 in Brighton, UK.

At the conclusion of Apple's wide-ranging, extensive presentation at its Worldwide Developers' Conference on Monday (June 13), the company released a helpful 48-second recap video on YouTube that ran through the highlights of its upcoming iOS 10 redesign, set to the upbeat, pulsing, cowbell-driven groove of the song "Hey Hi Hello" by Hollywood Wildlife.

There was only one problem: the song is extremely similar to a track called "On the Regular" by XL Recordings artist Shamir, from its liberal use of cowbell to its poppy electro feel right down to its opening lyrics. ("Hi hi howdy howdy hi hi" opens Shamir's track; "Hey hi hello" opens Hollywood Wildlife's.) What's more, Shamir has appeared in both Apple Music ads and licensed his image to Apple for billboards in the past, meaning that if Apple wanted to use a Shamir track for its iOS 10 trailer, they certainly would have known who to call. 

So how did this particular song wind up in the trailer in the first place? And who, exactly, are Hollywood Wildlife?

To answer the latter question first, Hollywood Wildlife is the moniker under which songwriter Blake Healy released an eight-song, self-titled EP on iTunes May 17. The self-released project opens with "Hey Hi Hello," and other songs are titled, for example, "Hey Hey Hey" and "Aww Yeah" -- with catchy melodies, pop-rock-electro feels and gimmicky percussive sounds (handclaps, cowbells, tambourines), not to mention a maximum running length of 2:48 per track, they're practically tailor-made for synchs and licensing.

Accordingly, a YouTube account that appears to belong to the band hosts one video, for "Hey Hey Hey," that has just 62 views despite being up for nine months. A Soundcloud account with six of the tracks on the EP has just seven followers; one song, "Feel the Power," has 5,047 streams in 11 months, while the other five songs combined have racked up 187 streams total. The EP's eight songs have earned zero streams, no radio airplay and essentially zero downloads since becoming available, according to Nielsen Music.

Healy did not return requests for comment from Billboard. But he spoke with Pitchfork yesterday and said "Hey Hi Hello" came from a songwriting session set up by his publisher, Sony/ATV, that also involved songwriters Douglas Brown and Fransisca Hall, who is credited as the featured vocalist on the track. All three have extensive songwriting backgrounds; Healy was a founding member of the band Metro Station alongside Miley Cyrus' brother Trace and Disney channel actor Mitchell Musso's brother Mason; Brown is the vocalist for the band SafetySuit; and Hall has written for Britney Spears, Selena Gomez and Major Lazer, among others. All three have publishing deals with Sony/ATV. The publisher liked "Hey Hi Hello," as did Apple, and the latter company suggested the group release the songs prior to WWDC, resulting in the EP's release.

Healy denied that his song was an imitation of Shamir's "On the Regular," though did admit to being aware of Shamir's track. Shamir's management declined to comment, directing questions to their client's publisher, BMG Chrysalis UK. In a statement provided to Billboard, Sony/ATV defended the song as "an original piece of music that was created as a side project under the name Hollywood Wildlife by three very successful Sony/ATV songwriters who were put together by Sony/ATV and who all have a great track record of placing songs in film, TV, and commercials.” Apple likewise declined to comment except to support Sony/ATV's statement.

Complicating the situation, Apple has featured Shamir in an advertisement previously, in support of Apple Music.

The similarity in the two songs was first pointed out by Troye Sivan, who tweeted the trailer at Shamir and wrote, "!!!! do you have legal representation," a post which was then retweeted by Shamir. It's a grey legal area, particularly in a post-"Blurred Lines" world, and one that recalls the battle that indie band Beach House attempted to wage against Volkswagen back in 2012, when the German auto company seemed to blatantly rip off the band's song "Take Care," then doubled down in a callously-worded statement defending their track. 

But with Apple's clout, advertising budget and status as the biggest company in the world, litigation isn't necessarily an option -- and it doesn't seem like one Shamir and his team are eager to exercise, regardless.

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