Winners & Losers: Lyft wants the driver’s seat, Robin Thicke infringes

The 1970s called, and they want their song back

 

▲ Lyft

Who you callin’ runner-up?

(Justin Sullivan/Getty)
(Justin Sullivan/Getty)

The ride-sharing firm raised US$530 million this week to help it compete with Uber, earning a valuation of $2.5 billion. That’s only a fraction of Uber’s $41 billion valuation, but Lyft generally doesn’t behave like it’s run by immature frat boys and it has those pink moustaches, so score another couple points for the underdog. The company’s investors, which include Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, are optimistic about its prospects. One investor from Andreessen Horowitz told the Wall Street Journal that “we would have never invested in Lyft if we thought it was destined to be the clear number two in the market.” The new money is specifically aimed at stealing market share from Uber in the U.S., and Lyft plans to do so by providing better customer service and building loyalty with passengers. Lyft will expand its carpooling service, and launch in its first city outside of the U.S. soon, although the location has not been disclosed. To reach a broader range of customers, Lyft is doing away with some of the quirky touches that made it unique and/or gratingly twee. Drivers will no longer be required to affix a large, fuzzy moustache to their cars, but can instead use a more portable “glowstache” that sits on the dashboard. They also don’t have to ask passengers to sit up front any more, or fist-bump them (yes, really). Driver and passenger are free to ignore one other—exchanging only money, no words—allowing the feeling of urban alienation and isolation to envelope them both with its cold, familiar embrace.

▼ Robin Thicke

Jealousy has a cost

(Mark Sullivan/Getty)
(Mark Sullivan/Getty)

We know what you’re thinking…Robin Thicke, a loser? Or maybe you’re thinking why is this week any different from the many other weeks that form the shambles of his sad, empty career? On Tuesday, a court in Los Angeles agreed that Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ 2013 earworm “Blurred Lines” borrowed too heavily from Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give it Up.” The songwriters were ordered to pay nearly US$7.4 million in damages to the Gaye family in a copyright infringement verdict that’s raising concerns in the music industry. The debacle started two years ago, when Thicke and co. preemptively sued the Gaye estate in response to legal rumblings from the family, claiming “Blurred Lines” was “strikingly different” from Gaye’s song. That gambit failed, and Gaye’s children ended up suing anyway, seeking an astounding $25 million in damages. The case proved to be somewhat humiliating, even for a man who feels no shame in dressing up like Beetlejuice and grinding with a 20-year-old Miley Cyrus in front of millions of people. Thicke admitted in a deposition that he was drunk and high on Vicodin during the recording of “Blurred Lines,” and actually only wanted a songwriting credit along with Williams because he was jealous. The verdict will be appealed, and we find ourselves very reluctantly siding with the men responsible for words, “I hate these blurred lines / I know you want it.” Music, like other art forms, is derivative, and musicians commonly borrow from those who came before them. If inspiration and homage qualify as theft, then musicians would be suing one another endlessly. Some in the industry are worried the case will have a chilling effect on songwriting. Though if we never hear Thicke’s soulless falsetto again, we won’t complain.

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