- Ed Sheeran is on trial in federal court in Manhattan, fighting a copyright infringement lawsuit.
- His hit ‘Thinking Out Loud’ shares the same harmonic rhythm as ‘Let’s Get It On,’ the suit claims.
- Laughter broke out Wednesday as an expert played a nerdy ‘AI’ version of Marvin Gaye’s soul classic.
Smiles and some outright laughter broke out at the Ed Sheeran plagiarism trial in Manhattan on Wednesday, when a plaintiff musicology expert hit play on a computer-generated, decidedly soulless rendition of Marvin Gaye’s soul masterpiece, “Let’s Get It On.”
Even Sheeran appeared to suppress a smile at the defense table as a robotic voice sang, with perfect pitch and robotic diction, “Let’s get it on, sugar.”
“Giving yourself to me, can never be wrong,” the voice sang, every syllable crisply stated, sounding something like HAL the computer committing lethal karaoke in a sci-fi horror flick.
“Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on baby,” the voice continued, without apostrophes or groove.
The four-minute track — what plaintiff attorney Patrick R. Frank called an “AI recording” of the song — was played by an expert musicologist to show the similarities between “Let’s Get It On” and Sheeran’s 2014 hit, “Thinking Out Loud.”
Gaye and co-composer Ed Townsend repeat a four-chord progression throughout the song, the musicologist, Dr. Alexander Stewart, explained.
Sheeran repeats a virtually identical progression — right down to its distinctive rhythm — in the verses of “Thinking Out Loud,” though the lyrics and melodies of the two songs differ, Stewart told the jury.
“Dr. Stewart, did that sound particularly soulful to you?” the lawyer asked his expert after the track ended.
“Objection!” one of Sheeran’s lawyers interrupted.
“I’ll withdraw the question,” the lawyer responded.
Townsend’s estate — and his daughter, Kathryn Griffin Townsend — are suing Sheeran for $100 million.
“It was hideous,” Griffin Townsend told Insider of the robotic rendition of her father’s song that was played for jurors on Wednesday.
Still, “I think he would have laughed” to hear it, she added. “Because he had a sense of humor.”
Griffin Townsend’s lawyer, Ben Crump, said in openings on Monday that the trial is about “Giving credit where credit is due.”
Crump pointed in particular to a live mashup of “Thinking Out Loud” and “Let’s Get It On” that Sheeran once performed, calling it a “confession” of plagiarism.
Sheeran took the stand on Tuesday, countering the plagiarism claims. “I’d be an idiot to do that,” he said.
His side has pointed to numerous differences in the two songs. “Most pop songs can fit over most pop songs,” he told jurors of the two songs’ overlapping chord structure.
The trial is expected to last through next week.