Ever since she stormed the charts with her debut album Sour in May, Filipino-American Rodrigo has faced accusations that some songs and her visual presentation borrowed elements of other artists' work without proper attribution.
In a video posted on his Instagram Stories, Levine, who formerly mentored aspiring singers on the US version of The Voice, called for more empathy surrounding Rodrigo, describing songwriting as a “tricky” art form.
“There’s all this drama about Olivia Rodrigo,” Levine said. “These are tricky things, and anyone who’s ever written a song knows that sometimes you rip something off inadvertently, it makes it to tape, then it gets released and then there’s a lawsuit.”
Back to the future
Levine’s intervention comes as Rodrigo has been retroactively adding extra songwriting credits to Sour.
Last week, Paramore singer Hayley Williams and former guitarist Josh Farro were listed as co-songwriters for the track good 4 u.
This comes after the song was criticised by Paramore fans for being similar to the rock band’s 2007 hit Misery Business.
In June, Rodrigo also retroactively credited Taylor Swift on her song deja vu for its interpolation of the latter's 2019 track Cruel Summer.
Upon Sour's release, Swift was also listed as co-writer for 1 step forward, 3 steps back for its similarities to her 2017 song New Year's Day.
While Williams, Farro and Swift have not made any official comment on their attributions, Hole frontwoman Courtney Love has accused Rodrigo of plagiarising her band’s artwork.
In June, Love posted a promotional image of a mascara-smeared Rodrigo wearing a tiara and noted its similarities to the cover of Hole 1994 album Live Through This, photographed by Ellen von Unwerth.
"It was rude of her and [record label] Geffen not to ask myself or Ellen von Unwerth,” Love said in the comments.
"It’s happened my whole career so I don’t care, but manners is manners.”
Levine called for more “compassion” to new artists.
“I do think that we could probably meet this with a little more compassion and understanding,” he said.
“When you take someone who’s a newer artist, and she’s doing things that emulate the ones from generations removed, I don’t know how bad that is.
“I think it’s kind of a cool thing to introduce the whole generation of young people to different musical ideas ... That’s just my opinion.”
'No hard feelings'
Rodrigo is not the first star caught up in plagiarism accusations over the years.
In 2015, Mark Ronson bumped up the songwriting credits from six to 11 for the hit Uptown Funk after a copyright claim that the song was heavily inspired by writers of The Gap Band’s 1979 funk anthem Oops Upside Your Head.
Also in 2015, Sam Smith agreed to give the late Tom Petty a co-writing credit for Stay With Me, owing to its similarities to the 1989 hit I Won’t Back Down.
"Let me say I have never had any hard feelings toward Sam," Petty said in 2015.
"All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen. Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by. Sam’s people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement."