Back in 2014, everyone who saw Katy Perry’s video for Dark Horse probably thought the worst choices she made was to dress up like an Egyptian woman (which was followed very closely by the choice to throw a grill in her mouth). As it turns out, Katy Perry’s bad Dark Horse decisions began long before she put on a Cher wig.
The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that after a week-long trial, a jury in California has decided that Katy Perry and Dr. Luke plagiarized parts of Dark Horse from a Christian rapper from St. Louis named Flame.
Katy released Dark Horse in 2013. Most people probably heard it and thought, “Processed beat? Auto-tuned to Hell? Yep, that’s a Katy Perry song.” But Flame (whose real name is Marcus Gray) heard it and thought, “Wait a minute…that’s MY song!” A year later, Flame filed a lawsuit against Katy, her co-writers, including Dr. Luke, and Capitol Records, alleging that Dark Horse was “identical” to his 2008 song Joyful Noise. Here’s his song, and pay attention to that beat, and the voice drop at the 0:59 mark.
Now here’s Katy’s song.
Technically, it’s not identical. Flame sings about getting with Jesus. Katy Perry’s past self as a Christian singer named Katheryn Hudson might have also sung about getting with Jesus, but in Dark Horse she’s singing about getting with a guy. Also, Katy’s song is ten BPM slower in tempo and one step higher in pitch. But it’s close enough that a judge and a jury could get involved, and they did.
Both Katy and Dr. Luke claimed they had never heard Flame’s song Joyful Noise, but Flame disputed that, arguing that he’s not some nobody in his mom’s basement releasing God songs on SoundCloud. He’s released nine studio albums. His 2008 album Our World: Redeemed (on which Joyful Noise appears) was nominated for several awards, including a Grammy. Two different videos for Joyful Noise have nearly 3 million views on YouTube. His album The 6th has charted high on Billboard’s Christian, Gospel, Rap, and Top 200 charts. Flame hypothesized that Katy or Dr. Luke probably heard the song on YouTube or MySpace at some point.
The jury began their deliberations on Thursday, and yesterday they ruled in favor of Flame. The case will now enter the damages phase, in which it will be decided how much Katy and Dr. Luke will have to fork over to Flame. Like how Robin Thicke and Pharrell had to pay the family of Marvin Gaye $5 million for ripping off the beat of Blurred Lines from Got to Give it Up. Of course, there is a chance Katy’s lawyers will fight that.
But it’s not like Katy and Dr. Luke didn’t try to fight this thing. Katy and Dr. Luke shot back that the beat used in Dark Horse and Joyful Noise was a preexisting beat, and therefore no one ripped anyone off. They called experts to the stand in an attempt to prove the songs weren’t that similar. Katy also reportedly offered to sing the song live for the jury. No Katy! It’s bad enough the jury is stuck in a courtroom with uncomfortable chairs and bad coffee for only $15 a day. They shouldn’t have to be subjected to your live singing too.