Meet Katy Perry, the Latest White Musician Found Guilty of Stealing From a Black Artist

Illustration for article titled Meet Katy Perry, the Latest White Musician Found Guilty of Stealing From a Black Artist
Photo: Kevin Winter (Getty Images for Coachella)

America has a long history of stealing from black folks.

Nearest Green was never credited or compensated for his role in establishing Jack Daniel’s iconic brand; Michael Bolton pillaged a whole ass song from the Isley Brothers; and there are living, breathing human beings who wholeheartedly believe that the Kardashians invented whatever the hell “boxer braids” are.


So, because rhythm and originality are always in short supply over on the unseasoned end of the spectrum, the latest kleptomaniac to “borrow” from black brilliance appears to be Katy Perry, which is Wakandan for “give that back.”

According to Variety, on Monday, a California jury found Perry guilty of pilfering Christian rap hit “Joyful Noise” in order to create her own smash “Dark Horse”—a song so bad that it comes with its own Surgeon General’s warning.

From Variety:

Katy Perry’s 2013 hit “Dark Horse” infringed on the song “Joyful Noise” by Christian rap artist Marcus Gray, aka Flame, a Los Angeles jury found on July 29. The decision concerning the track’s underlying beat followed a week-long trial in Los Angeles civil court which included an appearance by Perry herself, who testified for 35 minutes.

In her testimony, Perry said that co-writers and producers Dr. Luke (Lukas Gottwald) and Cirkut (Henry Walter) brought her the song’s instrumental track, which suggests the two could have included elements of “Joyful Noise” in the song without Perry’s knowledge.

If you’re a sinner like me and have no idea who Flame is, apparently he’s kind of a big deal in Christian rap circles—as evidenced by his collection of Grammy, Dove, and Stellar Award nominations—and the song in question was pretty damn big. So I have no idea what her creative team was thinking when they decided to commandeer another black person’s hard work, but congratulations, you played yourselves.

There’s also this, courtesy of Variety:

During Perry’s testimony, her attorneys attempted to play audio of “Dark Horse” but were thwarted by technical difficulties. Showing her characteristic sass, Perry offered to perform the song live, to laughter from the people assembled in the courtroom.


For the record, laughter is always the appropriate response to anything involving Katy Perry and music. Unless of course, the topic is Katy Perry and cultural appropriation. Then feel free to deploy your most ornery side-eye.

While Flame impatiently waits to cash out from this court ruling, you can listen to a comparison of “Joyful Noise” and the crappy concoction that stole from it below.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for y'all to stop putting sugar in grits.



Appropriation is bullshit and should be called out, and I’m hardly inclined to defend someone like Dr. Luke or Katy Perry, but some of these recent copyright rulings are basically pushing the idea that someone can own very basic, simply music ideas and styles that aren’t at all creatively unique.

Long, unique passages of music, sure someone should be able to claim ownership. But this shit? There are a hundred songs that sound like this, nothing here is unique enough that one person should be able to claim it.

The one where Robin Thicke and Pharrell lost also comes to mind. You shouldn’t be able to own a basic musical style or idea, making music is always about a lot of borrowing, there are only so many ways to create a song. This type of stuff isn’t gonna be good for black artists either (like Pharrell for example).