Remember that time Sam Smith ripped off Tom Petty? What about the time Smith claimed he didn’t know who Thom Yorke was after being asked what he thought of Radiohead’s rejected theme song for Spectre, the Bond film for which Smith later sang the theme? Both instances are relevant to “Midnight Train,” a track on Smith’s new album The Thrill Of It All, which just hit digital retailers and streaming services.
As I mentioned in today’s edition of The Week In Pop, “Midnight Train” blatantly and mercilessly rips off Radiohead’s biggest hit, “Creep.” It has the same rhythm, the same basic chord structure, the same verse-to-chorus dynamics, and even a similar tremolo-laden guitar pattern. The resemblance is remarkable. It makes me wonder if after the “Spectre” snafu, Smith and longtime writing partner Jimmy Napes spent some time revisiting the Radiohead catalog and some of it inadvertently (or not so inadvertently) seeped into their songwriting. Or perhaps the track’s other songwriter and producer, Malay — known for his work with Frank Ocean and Zayn — was the one who brought the Radiohead vibes to “Midnight Train.” Whoever’s responsible, this thing sure sounds a lot like “Creep,” huh?
As several readers have pointed out, “Creep” itself was a ripoff of the Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe.” Songwriters Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood sued and received co-writer credits. So by the transitive property you might say Smith is ripping off the Hollies here, but the guitar and other details are so similar to “Creep” that it seems like the most obvious source material here.