Last week, pop sensation Dua Lipa was sued by reggae band Artikal Sound System for copyright infringement. The band claimed Dua’s hit song ‘Levitating’ was copied from their 2017 track ‘Live Your Life’, and that the two songs were so similar that it was “highly unlikely that ‘Levitating’ was created independently”.
Since the news broke, pop music enthusiasts and conspiracists have joined forces on TikTok, engaging in a back-and-forth over whether Dua and her team actually copied Artikal Sound System.
In another case of trial by TikTok, let’s hear the arguments that have been shared from both sides of the courtroom.
While upon first listen, the chorus of ‘Levitating’ does sound almost identical to ‘Live Your Life’, the biggest argument against Artikal Sound System’s claim is the suspicious timing of the lawsuit.
As TikTok creator @danielswall and many others have pointed out, Artikal Sound System filed their lawsuit just weeks after the launch of their first full-length album. Involving themselves with one of the current most popular artists has already done wonders for their exposure, breaking their name and music into mainstream media. As @danielswall questions, if ‘Levitating’ was released in 2020, why did they wait two years before filing their lawsuit, if not to promote their own album release?
This wouldn’t be the first time lesser-known artists have accused mainstream artists of plagiarism for the publicity. Just last year, Olivia Rodrigo was faced with an onslaught of plagiarism claims, starting with Courtney Love pointing out similarities between Olivia’s ‘Sour Prom’ concept with Hole’s concept for ‘Live Through This’. After Courtney’s accusation, Olivia faced many other copycat claims. While copyright infringement and intellectual property should be taken seriously, the piling accusations seemed to be a desperate attempt to capitalise on the fame and success of a rising star.
Reminiscent of Olivia’s situation last year, Artikal Sound System’s lawsuit has already opened the floodgates for another copyright lawsuit against Dua for ‘Levitating’. Yesterday, Billboard reported that songwriters L. Russel Brown and Sandy Linzer accused the singer of copying their 1979 song ‘Wiggle and Giggle All Night’, and their 1980 song, ‘Don Diablo’. Given that the similarities are not that striking, who knows whether these new accusations were made in good faith, or if they are another attempt to bandwagon on Dua’s clout.
Other TikTok users have even claimed that Artikal Sound System’s entire lawsuit is a hoax. TikTok user @mathiasmorte pointed out that all recordings of ‘Live Your Life’ had been posted recently, and not in 2017 as they claimed, except for one version of the song on SoundCloud where the earliest comment was left only a few days ago. His theory followed that if this relatively obscure SoundCloud version was the only recording of the song that Dua and her team could have heard at the time of writing ‘Levitating’, it would be very unlikely that they had found this song and copied it.
However, in the spirit of internet sleuthing, with each new day comes newly uncovered evidence.
Yesterday, @mathiasmorte retracted his theory after another TikTok creator and music expert @luxxuryxx proved that ‘Live Your Life’ was also released on CD in 2017, and that this CD could still be purchased today.
Instead, @luxxuryxx proposed that perhaps Dua and her team subconsciously copied Artikal Sound System’s song. After comparing the two tracks and noting that they are both written in the same key, with the same chord progression, same tempo, and similar lyrics, he concludes that “the lack of changing anything is really so audacious [that it’s unlikely]” they intentionally plagiarised Artikal Sound System.
Dua has yet to respond publicly to either lawsuit at the time of publication. However, as it is with most TikTok scandals, it seems the only jurors either party will need to convince are the users of the app.