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Plagiarizing Led Zeppelin: Greta Van Fleet (Is the Criticism Against Them Warranted)

I’ve been wanting to write this article ever since I first listened to Greta Van Fleet. There were only slight amounts of controversy initially and I decided to sit on it despite my opinions. At first listen I was loving every second. I am not a rock and roll fan so this band definitely caught me by surprise. But now, after listening to their most recent album and trying to catch up on an entire genre that I’ve never touched before I have come to an almost completely different opinion of the band.

I’ll only be focusing on an overall review of the album lightly because although I think there are some honorable mentions hidden within the tracklist, there’s more to this issue than just vocals and guitar riffs. Afterward, I want to delve into the controversy surrounding Greta Van Fleet especially after the release of their most recent project. I’ll follow up with a wider angle on the concept of imitation countering progression in the music industry, tapping into an extremely informative YouTube video made by the infamous melon Anthony Fantano. Does Greta Van Fleet go too far? Well, let’s dive in and find out.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that phrase growing up. I also remember learning about plagiarism, specifically how bad it can be for both parties involved. Copying someone else’s work is not only unfair to the person being copied but it also stunts the growth of the copier, forever dooming them to repeat themselves and never coming into their own. Even from the beginning, some critics called Greta Van Fleet a Led Zeppelin clone but the majority and a lot of fans of rock and roll, in general, were eating their singles up. It’s no secret that rock and roll is in need of a revival and I think a lot of fans christened Greta Van Fleet as their savior because of vocals and production oozing with nostalgia. After this album, however, I think a large portion of those rock and rollers desperate for anything Zeppelin related died out.

They went too far. The lyrics may be different but everything else is stripped right from the source. The worst part is that despite its similar sound, the quality is nowhere near Zeppelin level. Instead of a Stairway to Heaven we get a Stairway to Mediocrity which really stings the open wounds of so many hoping for a new era of Rock.

I felt cheated. As though I was robbed of my hope and expectations by worse versions of Plant and the crew dressed in younger flesh masks. I must give credit where credit is due, however, because to say this album was garbage is just frankly untrue. Even though Greta Van Fleet seem to have embraced being a Led Zeppelin knockoff band, not many bands could pull that off. They still display extraordinary talent and production value within this album which makes the disappointment hurt more.

But why is this a problem? In rap music, clones and copycats are praised to the point where they were able to carve an entire genre within hip hop for themselves i.e mumble rap. The reason why Greta Van Fleet has amassed so much hate is because even though rappers may rap similarly, their unique personas, tones, and lyrics always differentiate them from the rest. Lil Pump uses a similar style to a lot of rappers these days but no one can mistake his music.

I felt like I was being lied to while listening to this album and not by an experienced liar but by a bunch of toddlers with amazing potential. This is detrimental to the entire genre of Rock. If all it can produce is carbon copies of its legends, then it is not evolving and thus risks extinction. Pulling inspiration from your betters and paying homage to the ones that came before is one thing and is encouraged across all genres. The line is crossed when an entire album consists of indistinguishable vocals and production. It’s simply not enough to change the lyrics and mimic the vocals of an amazing singer. In order to survive and thrive in the music industry, you have to bleed and put yourself in your music.

Anthony Fantano, the needledrop’s finest, made an amazing video about Anthem of the Peaceful Army recently where he tears into the heart of the issue.

Spitting in the face of artistic evolution is exactly how I felt about this new album from Greta Van Fleet. Where we deviate is that I don’t think this is an intentional effort by the band to cash grab with some sub-par nostalgia. There is no question that this band has talent but I am under the impression that might be all they have. Led Zeppelin stole tons of song ideas from others but always twisted them in such a way that made the songs unmistakably theirs.

Fantano accredits this to foresight but I think it’s more than that. Their personality absorbs inspiration and spits out Led Zeppelin music. This is more than a conscious decision but a byproduct of their confidence and awareness of who they are. Led Zeppelin had talent but they also had charisma, a distinct kick-ass persona that fans paid to see just as much as they paid to listen to. Without that touch of unique individuality, all that’s left is plastic renditions that will never be as good as their original counterparts.

Let’s face it–Led Zeppelin was one of the best in its time but Plant can’t sing those high notes like he use to. That’s the human condition. We can’t let Rock and Roll die with its legends. I think Greta Van Fleet can’t help but mimic Led Zeppelin because they don’t have anything else to offer. All I can do is hope and pray that they prove me wrong.

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