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Katy Perry denies having ever heard Christian rap track she’s accusing of ripping off on ‘Dark Horse’

By | Published on Friday 19 July 2019

Katy Perry has told a jury in California that she had never heard a Christian rap track she is accused of ripping off on her 2013 hit ‘Dark Horse’. Not until she was sued for song-theft, anyway. The star was testifying as a long-running plagiarism case finally got to court.

Christian rapper Flame, real name Marcus Gray, sued Perry all the way back in 2014. His lawsuit alleges that Perry and her songwriting team ripped off his track ‘Joyful Noise’ on ‘Dark Horse’. Gray says he doesn’t think Perry et al set out to rip off his song, but that they subconsciously infringed his work when writing their hit.

To prove infringement, Gray needs to show that Perry, or one of her songwriting pals, had heard ‘Joyful Noise’ before writing ‘Dark Horse’. And also that the two tracks are sufficiently similar to constitute copyright infringement.

According to Law 360, on the first point Perry was adamant that she’d never heard ‘Joyful Noise’ – or, indeed, heard of Gray – before beginning work on ‘Dark Horse’. She then talked through her creative process, explaining how – when playing around with her songwriting team – they’d come up with what became the beat in ‘Dark Horse’. It was a beat which immediately made her think about the Trojan horse and the power of a woman, she said.

As for the similarity point, Perry’s lawyer was equally adamant that the two songs were not sufficiently similar to constitute infringement.

The main similarity is a musical phrase consisting of four C notes followed by two B notes. “This is a common musical building block used in many compositions”, attorney Christine Lepera insisted. “This is very basic – like kindergarten-basic. [Gray and his collaborators] cannot monopolise that”.

The lawyer then cited other songs that use the same musical phase, including ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ and ‘Jolly Old Saint Nicholas’.

It remains to be seen whether the jury concurs with Lepera on the similarity point. And, if they don’t, whether Gray and his team can convince the court that one of Perry’s collaborators must have heard ‘Joyful Noise’ before beginning work on ‘Dark Horse’.