You know, as Tom Petty even acknowledged himself after this week’s highly publicized accreditation of him and Jeff Lynne as co-writers on Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” there is no reason something so similar to the song should have gotten out of the studio. Like the writers of the Smith song, I was previously was unaware of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” However, being that this song had to pass through the eyes of so many studio engineers (some of them who worked with Smith’s label may have even worked with Petty for all anybody knows), there is no reason that someone couldn’t have pointed out the similarities.
With that being said, I do happen to think that “Stay With Me” is unique enough to fairly warrant not crediting Petty or Lynne. The melody of the verses are unique, the tempo is unique, the arrangement is unique, and therefore, I would say that “Stay With Me” is unique.
Of course, I am biased. I am a huge fan of Sam Smith’s intricately delicate vocal style. I find Petty’s singing to be somewhat haggard and atonal (although it’s better than Dylan). Although I know that plenty of my musical contemporaries would favor Petty’s work because it’s from the eighties (a time known for more organic songwriting than the Nicki Minaj anthems of today), I think Sam Smith and “Stay With Me” are original additions to American music culture.