Lilian Min
February 19, 2015 1:06 pm

Ariana Grande’s music videos are elaborate set pieces — she shoots aliens in space, serenades in the middle of a sand-blown mansion, and floats on spirals, all while sporting her signature ponytail. Ariana’s latest video has caused a lot of controversy, though not because of the song itself.

The video for Grande’s song “One Last Time” premiered last Sunday, and it features the singer arguing with a man as Earth is about to be destroyed by a comet; it ends with Grande getting in one last kiss with the man against a purple meteor-streaked sky.

It’s a concept we’ve seen before, the doomed romance at the end of the world. But when fans of the Australian group SAFIA saw the video, they pointed out how similar the video is in tone and style to that band’s video for “You Are The One,” especially the final shot:

There are some important differences between the two videos: SAFIA’s video follows a girl down one street, while Grande’s tracks her moving around a city. SAFIA’s video is shot in a slower, almost peaceful way; Grande’s is chaotic through and through. While the songs themselves sound nothing alike, from the opening static to the purple overtone, the videos are pretty similar — and SAFIA’s came out back in September 2014.

The band’s initial response was anger. Their first Facebook post after Grande’s video debuted read, “This might just be coincidence but to us it looks like either the people at Ariana Grande’s label or the film maker have seen our clip for ‘You Are The One’ & reworked the concept a little bit and then straight up stolen and copied some bits…(ESPECIALLY THE END!),” adding that “Wouldn’t be the first time uncreative talentless f***s from big labels and/or big film firms steal ideas from small independent creatives who are trying really hard to make something different for a change…” An hour later, they posted side-by-side screenshots of both video’s last shots, with the caption “YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE SAF! IT’S ONNNNN!”

But as with all things Internet, things escalated very quickly, and soon SAFIA was receiving death threats over social media (yikes — please, world, can we stop with the violent threats? It’s ridiculously terrible and scary and aren’t we better than this?). As of now, the band’s latest Facebook post backtracks from their earlier aggressive stance, reading:

Grande herself hasn’t released a statement about the video, but as she is a self-admitted micromanager, it’s likely that she had a say in its concept. As of now, the most public commenter from Camp Grande is the director of “One Last Time,” Max Landis, who defended the video and the pop star on Twitter.

“It’s almost like like tropes and themes are repeated constantly throughout fiction. Guys, calm down,” he begins, before writing, “I talked to Safia and they were very cool about it, but guys, I gotta be serious with you for a minute, as a creative person [a]nd just give you some advice, as a friend. I’m being a friend to you right now. Protip: don’t accuse someone of stealing for having similar tropes if you REALLY ACTUALLY STOLE YOUR VIDEO YOU’RE ACCUSING THEM OF STEALING. Everyone in the biz said “stay quiet, let it blow over” f*** that. [I] respect Ariana way too much to let her get called a thief.” He then tweeted both SAFIA and the director of “You Are The One,” writing, “I’m a fan of your work too, your video KICKS ASS. It sucks that the last shot is so similar.”

This is far from the first time a pop star has been accused of liberally lifting inspiration from an outside source — but in a world where images and information are both accessible and fleeting, there is no way to tell if and how an idea travels. What this case has shown is that it’s important to protect your creative work, but that we’re still trying to build safe discussions about originality and ownership in a culture that doesn’t make it easy to establish either. And while it should go without saying: it’s never okay to threaten people’s IRL safety when they bring up legitimate concerns online, and ultimately, as in this case, these issues will be resolved between the actual parties involved.

(Image via.)

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