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Billy Corgan explains his Miguel writing credit for 'Leaves'

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Debi Del Grande

Miguel’s new album Wildheart is an exceptional piece of grown-and-sexy R&B, the perfect blend of summertime sweetness and seasonal affective melancholy. Perhaps the best track on the entire album is “Leaves,” a blissfully cool, gently escalating meditation on the weird and wonderful nature of California’s seasons (or lack thereof). 

But while the bulk of Wildheartwas written by Miguel, “Leaves” has an unusual co-writing credit in Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan. As it turns out, Miguel touched base with Corgan when the R&B sensation realized that his song sounded an awful lot like the Pumpkins’ “1979,” one of the biggest singles from 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

“His people reached out to my people and sent through the track and said pre-emptively they wanted to include me on this,” Corgan told Entertainment Weekly via phone while on tour (the Pumpkins are currently on the road with Marilyn Manson on a trek they are calling The End Times). “We negotiated it out like you would with anything. They said they felt it was the right thing to do, and we worked it out and it was all good. It’s the same thing that happened with Sam Smith and the Tom Petty song.”

“Kind of after we finished the song, it was like, ‘You know what, this is reminiscent of this song,’ so we made sure that they heard it and made sure that it was all good,” Miguel recently told the Associated Press. “We’re all standing on the shoulders of giants. There’s nothing that hasn’t been done. There’s going to be moments where you do things that are reminiscent of other things. And even if you’re not aware of them, I think it’s just best out of respect to reach out.”

Though neither Miguel nor his people specifically alluded to the recent ruling over “Blurred Lines,” Corgan felt it was in the air. “I don’t agree with that ruling, which opens up a can of worms that’s really difficult for musicians because it gets into interpretation,” Corgan said. “Maybe we’ve reached a critical mass where you probably can’t do much without ripping somebody off, and maybe it’s time for people to pay for appropriation. Legally, the Marvin Gaye ruling is a strange ruling, but if that’s the rules for the moment…I mean, it goes both ways. If I wrote a new song and somebody was like, ‘You know, that’s a lot like “Stairway to Heaven,”‘ I’d probably have somebody tell me to get on the phone with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant and work it out. I think Miguel said it right: he said it was about respect, and that’s how I took it. It was a respectful thing.”

Though Corgan is pleased to be receiving acknowledgment on “Leaves,” he takes artistic theft in stride. “I have literally been ripped off hundreds, maybe thousands of times and never receiving a penny,” Corgan explained. “I hear myself get ripped off all the time in ways the common person wouldn’t hear, because they don’t hear it from the songwriter’s point of view. I’m driving in a car and I hear a new song and think, ‘Motherf—er! They are ripping me off hard!’ But by the time I get to the next red light, I’m like, ‘Do I really want to get into it? Do I want to hire the lawyer and make the case and make somebody feel bad? Or do I want to just let it go?’ Hopefully it’ll all just work out for everybody. As a songwriter, I do think it is a slippery slope when you’re getting into who is appropriating from where. To quote my father, who is quite sage in these things, ‘There’s only 12 notes.'”

Catch the Smashing Pumpkins on the road with Marilyn Manson through August 9.

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