Lil Nas X sets new Billboard record
LOS ANGELES, July 30, (AP): A jury on Monday found that Katy Perry’s 2013 hit “Dark Horse” improperly copied a 2009 Christian rap song in a unanimous decision that represented a rare takedown of a pop superstar and her elite producer by a relatively unknown artist.
The verdict by a nine-member federal jury in a Los Angeles courtroom came five years after Marcus Gray and two co-authors, first sued in 2014 alleging “Dark Horse” stole from “Joyful Noise”, a song Gray released under the stage name Flame.
The case now goes to a penalty phase, where the jury will decide how much Perry and other defendants owe for copyright infringement.
Questions from the jury during their two full days of deliberations had suggested that they might find only some of the defendants liable for copyright infringement. The case focused on the notes and beats of the song, not its lyrics or recording, and the questions suggested that Perry might be off the hook.
But in a decision that left many in the courtroom surprised, jurors found all six songwriters and all four corporations that released and distributed the songs were liable, including Perry and Sarah Hudson, who wrote only the song’s words, and Juicy J., who only wrote the rap he provided for the song. Perry was not present when the verdict was read.
Other defendants found liable were Capitol Records as well as Perry’s producers: Dr Luke, Max Martin and Cirkut, who came up with the song’s beat.
Gray’s attorneys argued that the beat and instrumental line featured through nearly half of “Dark Horse” are substantially similar to those of “Joyful Noise”. Gray wrote the song with his co-plaintiffs Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu.
“Dark Horse”, a hybrid of pop, trap and hip-hop sounds that was the third single of Perry’s 2013 album “Prism”, spent four weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in early 2014, and earned a Grammy nomination for Perry, who performed the song during her 2015 Super Bowl halftime show.
Her attorneys argued that the song sections in question represent the kind of simple musical elements that if found to be subject to copyright would hurt music and all songwriters.
“They’re trying to own basic building blocks of music, the alphabet of music that should be available to everyone,” Perry’s lawyer Christine Lepera said during closing arguments Thursday.
The defendants’ musical expert testified that the musical patterns in dispute were as simple as “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.
But the jury of six women and three men disagreed, finding that the bumping beat and riff at the center of “Joyful Noise” were original enough to be copyrighted.
Perry and the song’s co-authors testified during the seven-day trial that none of them had heard the song or heard of Gray before the lawsuit, nor did they listen to Christian music.
Gray’s attorneys had only to demonstrate, however, that “Joyful Noise” had wide dissemination and could have been heard by Perry and her co-authors. They provided as evidence that it had millions of plays on YouTube and Spotify, and that the album it’s included on was nominated for a Grammy.
“They’re trying to shove Mr Gray into some gospel music alleyway that no one ever visits,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Michael A. Kahn during closing arguments, when he also pointed out that Perry had begun her career as a Christian artist.
NEW YORK: It’s one sweet day for Lil Nas X: The breakthrough rapper’s viral “Old Town Road” has broken the Billboard record set by Mariah Carey’s “One Sweet Day” for most weeks at No. 1.
Lil Nas X accomplishes the feat this week as his country-trap song spends its 17th week on top of the Hot 100 chart. Carey and Boyz II Men’s duet set the record in 1996, and the only song to come close to breaking it was the ubiquitous international hit “Despacito”, which tied the 16-week record in 2017.
“YEEE TF HAWWW,” Lil Nas X tweeted Monday.
Hours later he posted a video thanking his fans for helping his song set a new record.
“I’m on the toilet right now, but I want to say thank you to every single person who has made this moment possible for me. We just broke the record for the longest-running No. 1 song of all-time,” said Lil Nas X, sporting a cowboy hat as he played “Old Town Road” in the background. “Let’s go!”
“Old Town Road”, which has achieved most of its success through audio streaming, was originally a solo song but 20-year-old Lil Nas X added Billy Ray Cyrus to the track. The song also has remix versions featuring Diplo, Young Thug, Mason Ramsey and BTS, and Billboard counts the original song and its remixes as one when calculating chart position, thus helping “Old Town Road” stay on top.
“17 is my new favorite number,” Cyrus said in a statement Monday, also referring to his debut album “Some Gave All”, which spent 17 weeks at No. 1 in 1992. “My goal was always to make music that would touch people’s lives around the world.”
“Old Town Road” initially was in a bit of controversy in March when Billboard removed it from its country charts, deeming it not country enough (it peaked at No. 19 on the country charts). But the drama didn’t hurt the song; it only propelled it.
Songs have come close to displacing “Old Town Road” from the top spot – including Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” and a pair of Taylor Swift singles – but ultimately were unsuccessful.
Swift was successful in 2017 when her song “Look What You Made Me Do” stopped Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber’s “Despacito” from reaching a 17th week at No. 1. Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” ended Carey and Boyz II Men’s epic run in 1996.