The Eagles “Hotel California” vs. Frank Ocean “American Wedding”

This week we read and listened to multiple versions of Green Sleeves. Although the lyrics were different for the 3 different versions we looked at, the melody remained the same. We described the melody as having a melancholy, dream-like or nostalgic quality. But we also discussed how the lyrics affected the mood of the song and whether or not they fit the original tune.
I think the song “Hotel California” by the Eagles (1977) also has a dream-like and melancholy tune like we described with Green Sleeves. They are reminiscing about experiences in the song.
In 2011 Frank Ocean released a song on his free-mixtape called “American Wedding” where he samples the original “Hotel California.” The Eagles were not too pleased about this and threatened to sue if he played the song live again. Frank Ocean took to social media site Tumblr to complain about the backlash and claimed that if anything he was paying homage and that the Eagles must be “threatened” by him. A representative for Don Henley (of The Eagles) responded via the Los Angeles Times saying:
Frank Ocean did not merely “sample” a portion of the Eagles’ Hotel California; he took the whole master track, plus the song’s existing melody, and replaced the lyrics with his own. This is not creative, let alone “intimidating.” It’s illegal. For the record, Don Henley has not threatened or instituted any legal action against Frank Ocean, although the Eagles are now considering whether they should.”

Controversy aside, these songs provide a clear example of how lyrics can change a song’s meaning even when using the same melody. It can also really aggravate people! 😉 There have been multiple theories on what “Hotel California” is about, but The Eagles claim it is just about the high life in California. Frank’s “American Wedding” is social commentary on divorce, the deterioration of marriage and the American family.

Lyrics to Hotel California:

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
“This could be Heaven or this could be Hell”
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say…

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year (Any time of year)
You can find it here

Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

So I called up the Captain,
“Please bring me my wine”
He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine”
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say…

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
They livin’ it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise (what a nice surprise)
Bring your alibis

Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device”
And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
“Relax, ” said the night man,
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave! ”

Lyrics to American Wedding:

I took a walk with the palm trees
As the daylight fell
Sangria in a canteen
Talking to myself

This tattoo on my left hand
Is turning purplish blue
Daydreams of the romance
Daydreams of you

My pretty woman in a ball-gown
I’m Richard Gere in a tux
Getting married in a courthouse
Writing vows in a rush

Making out before the judge
With my teenage wife
Got a wedding band done
That I just might die with

It’s an American wedding
They don’t mean too much but we were so in love
We had an American wedding
Now what’s mine is yours, that’s American law

M R S dot Kennedy
She signed her name in pen
In a fancy, fancy cursive
Then turned her term papers in

A thesis on Islamic virgin brides
And arranged marriage
Hijabs and polygamist husbands
Those poor unamerican girls

After school she ran to me
Jumped in my 5.0
This is the home of the brave, land of the free
But your parents still didn’t know

She said, “I’ve had a hell of a summer
So baby, don’t take this hard
But maybe we should get an annulment
Before this goes way to far”

It’s just an American wedding
They don’t mean too much, they don’t last enough
We had an American wedding
Now what’s mine is yours, American divorce

Well, you can have my mustang
That’s all I’ve got in my name
But Jesus Christ, don’t break my heart
This wedding ring won’t ever wipe off

But if you stay, girl if you stay
You’ll probably leave later anyway
It’s love made in the U.S.A.

Don’t let ’em front you to saying you can’t move
Without ’em, fuck ’em, I tell ’em this ain’t new
We been some hustlers since it began, dude
Ain’t gon’ be tripping over some bitch ass, dude

They so vain I tell ’em this ain’t you
You keep it sensitive but this shit ain’t true
These niggas can’t do nothing that I can’t do
That she can’t, that he can’t do
That you can’t do, that we can’t do

Man, I had a dream and then that shit became true
And nigga if I did it I think you can too
These niggas can’t do nothing that I can’t do
That she can’t do, that he can’t do
That you can’t do, that we can’t do

Man, I had a dream and then that shit became true
These niggas can’t do nothing that I can’t do
That she can’t do, that he can’t do
That you can’t do

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