Players are gonna play, haters are gonna hate, and it looks like lyricists are gonna keep suing Taylor Swift until she admits the chorus to “Shake It Off” is referencing more than just her diary.
Back in 2014, a certain philosophical line about players and haters from Swift’s radio hit struck listeners as a little familiar. One musician, Jessie Braham, tried suing the pop star to no avail back in 2015, and now it looks like a new opponent has stepped up to the challenge: the authors of 3LW’s 2001 hit “Playas Gon’ Play.”
While 3LW isn’t necessarily a household name these days, the song charted back in the day (it’s even on Billboard‘s list of 100 greatest girl group songs of all time). The group also launched the career of Adrienne Bailon, who went on to be a Cheetah Girl, briefly date Rob Kardashian, and now hosts the daytime talk show The Real with fellow Disney Channel star Tamera Mowry.
The songwriters behind “Playas Gon’ Play” are asking Swift to cc them on all residuals the song might produce, in perpetuity. TMZ reports that Sean Hall and Nathan Butler have sued Swift for copying their phrasing—specifically pointing to the song’s nearly identical chorus, which modifies “The playas gon’ play / Them haters gonna hate” to “’Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play / And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”
In the suit’s position, repeating hate and play a few more times isn’t exactly a re-imagination of the original lyrics—a defense Braham also tried to make in 2015 before being shot down. Hall and Butler are requesting a 20 percent songwriting credit on “Shake It Off,” plus all the royalties that authorship would entail.
Swift’s lawyers told TMZ the suit is a “ridiculous claim and nothing more than a money grab.”
Back in 2014, the “Shake It Off” video was criticized for being appropriative, inspiring many a discussion about what it meant to see the lily white pop star surrounded by twerking bodies. The question the lawsuit raises basically boils down to: Is it so wild to imagine that an artist who felt OK using Black culture as social currency in her music video might also not have understood the problem with borrowing a lyric without credit?