Lizzo is quickly learning how quickly celebrity brings out everything from the woodwork as her megahit “Truth Hurts” is coming under fire with a copyright claim. The Minneapolis singer spent years working hard to be known, and now that everyone knows her name, some want a piece of the action.
The song struck a chord in the country with its lyrics being a true anthem of empowerment, and it’s become a pop culture phenom appearing in memes by celebrities from TikTok users to Hillary Clinton. “Truth Hurts” put Lizzo into the spotlight for being an outspoken, body-positive strong black woman who has been expected to be a Grammy contender this year.
What started as behind the scenes whispers has grown into a louder voice asking who actually wrote the anthemic song. This has been a dispute for several months now as the song credits four writers; Lizzo, whose real name is Melissa Jefferson; Ricky Reed, her primary producer; Tele, another producer; and Jesse Saint John.
Now the debate begins about the real truth behind Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts.” This also shines a light on copyright laws in America and how vague they can sometimes be for artists.
Lizzo’s breakthrough tune, which spent six weeks on top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart this year, features the signature line: “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100 percent that bitch.” The lyric originated from a 2017 tweet by singer Mina Lioness and was turned into a popular meme, which was then used in Lizzo’s song “Healthy,” created in 2017.
The songwriting brothers Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, who worked on “Healthy,” claim states that they deserve writing credit on “Truth Hurts” since the song borrows from “Healthy,” a tune they co-wrote.
“We were never contacted about being credited for the use of the parts of “Healthy” (melody, lyrics, and chords) that appear in “Truth Hurts,” Justin Raisen wrote Tuesday on Instagram, explaining that they worked on “Healthy” in April 2017.
The songwriters credited on “Truth Hurts” are Lizzo, Ricky Reed, Tele and Jesse Saint John. “Truth Hurts” was originally released in September 2017 but got a boost this year after it was featured in the Netflix film “Someone Great,” released on April 19, the same day Lizzo dropped her album, “Cuz I Love You.”
“Truth Hurts” wasn’t originally featured on the 11-track “Cuz I Love You,” but her record label added it to the deluxe version of the album, released on May 3.
“After reaching out to Ricky Reed and Lizzo’s team about fixing it, we put the song in dispute in 2017 when it came out,” Justin Raisen continued on Instagram. “We’ve tried to sort this out quietly for the last two years, only asking for 5% each but were shutdown every time.”
But Lizzo’s lawyer said in a statement that “The Raisens are not writers of” Lizzo’s international hit.
“They did not collaborate with Lizzo or anyone else to create this song, and they did not help write any of the material that they now seek to profit from, which is why they expressly renounced any claim to the work, in writing, months ago,” Cynthia Arato said in a statement Wednesday.
“Although it has become all too commonplace for successful artists to be subjected to these type of opportunistic claims, it is nevertheless disappointing that after all of her hard work, Lizzo has to respond to this specious claim.”
It was reported that the Raisens rescinded an earlier claim over “Truth Hurts” through their publisher, Kobalt.
Outside of the all-genre Hot 100 chart, “Truth Hurts” spent seven weeks at No. 1 on both the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs and Hot rap songs chart, respectively. It was submitted for the 2020 Grammys in categories like song and record of the year — where songwriters and producers also earn nominations; the Recording Academy will announce its nominees on Nov. 20.
“The last thing we want to do is throw any negativity toward Lizzo’s momentum and movement as a cultural figure. If we believe in what she’s preaching, believing in ourselves & our own voices is something we thought she’d understand,” Justin Raisen wrote.
The brothers are careful to praise Lizzo as a singular and inspiring force. “What she is doing for culture is unlike anything we’ve seen a modern pop star do, maybe ever,” they said in an interview. But as their efforts to obtain credit — as well as a share of the royalties for what may well become a multimillion-dollar song — have dragged on without resolution, they decided to speak out.“It’s not fair that we were not included,” said Justin Raisen, who has developed a specialty working with female artists like Sky Ferreira, Charli XCX and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth.
Lizzo is currently selling T-shirts on her website that read “100% that bitch ” — the line created by Lioness (She didn’t immediately reply to an email from Movie TV Tech Geeks seeking comment).
Cynthia S. Arato, a lawyer for Lizzo, strongly denied the Raisens’ claim.
“The Raisens are not writers of ‘Truth Hurts,’” Arato said in a statement. “They did not collaborate with Lizzo or anyone else to create this song, and they did not help write any of the material that they now seek to profit from, which is why they expressly renounced any claim to the work, in writing, months ago.”
For an industry that has already been shaken by controversial copyright cases, like the multimillion-dollar jury verdicts over Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” the “Truth Hurts” episode raises another knotty question: Who has the right to claim authorship over even small phrases in a song, when multiple people were “in the room” when they were created?
According to the Raisen brothers — who grew up as rock fans on Long Island and are now part of the songwriting and production circuit in Los Angeles — they held a joint songwriting session in April 2017 with Lizzo and two other writers, Saint John and Yves Rothman.
While the five of them worked on a song called “Healthy,” the brothers said, Saint John pulled up a meme on his phone based on a tweet that read: “I did a DNA test and found out I’m 100% that bitch.” They all laughed, and Jeremiah said that he suggested including the lyric in the song.
Lizzo sang it almost identically to the way those words appear in “Truth Hurts,” as demonstrated in a recording from the session that the brothers shared with media outlets and later posted on Instagram. Jeremiah also said he helped write the melody for “Healthy,” including the “DNA test” line.
(In another complication to the song’s origins, the woman who wrote the tweet, a British singer who goes by the name Mina Lioness, has complained bitterly that she, too, deserves credit.)
“If Ricky and Lizzo’s team decide to settle this dispute with us, we would like to share some of the proceeds with Mina for her influence on Healthy,” Justin Raisen wrote.
Danny Riordan, an aspiring songwriter and friend of the Raisens who said he was present for part of the “Healthy” session, remembered the excitement in the room as the song boomed over the studio speakers.
“Everyone was like, ‘Oh my God, this is going to be huge,’” Riordan said.
Five months after the session that produced “Healthy,” “Truth Hurts” was released, and the Raisens said they were surprised that Lizzo’s song contained the “DNA test” line but without credit given to them or Rothman.
“There was a bittersweet emotion, because deep in our hearts we know that we were a part of this song,” Jeremiah Raisen said. “We should feel validated but we’re not.”
The Raisens said they began their campaign shortly after, seeking 5 percent each of the songwriting royalties from “Truth Hurts.” As the song climbed to No. 1 this summer, the brothers took up something of a vigilante campaign on social media, posting congratulatory messages to Lizzo while also aggressively arguing their case.
But the Raisens’ case may be complicated by the fact that they rescinded an earlier claim over “Truth Hurts” through their publisher, Kobalt, which Lizzo’s representatives believe should bar them from pursuing the matter further.
Lizzo’s representatives do not contest that the session yielded “Healthy” and its “DNA test” line. The crux of the disagreement is who did what: The brothers say the session was conducted with the understanding that all parties were contributing to the resulting work, and that Lizzo’s vocal was tailored to the instrumental track they created. Lizzo’s representatives say the Raisens were not involved in creating Lizzo’s vocal line and so have no claim to it now.But the law may favor the Raisens on this point, said Don Gorder, the chairman of the music business and management department of the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“Copyright law says that if a work is created and it’s clearly the intention of all the people who contributed that it’s merged into a whole,” Professor Gorder said, “that they are all equal owners of the song unless they agree otherwise.”
As part of their campaign, the Raisens commissioned an opinion from a musicologist, who concluded that “Truth Hurts” has “some strikingly similar lyric and musical elements to those in ‘Healthy,’” and that Lizzo’s hit “would not exist in its present form without the existence of and the borrowing from ‘Healthy.’”
Lizzo’s representatives portray the Raisens’ claim as a common hazard for artists with a big hit and say that theirs is baseless. After six weeks at No. 1, “Truth Hurts” finally fell to second place on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart on Monday, replaced by Travis Scott’s “Highest in the Room.”
“Although it has become all too commonplace for successful artists to be subjected to these types of opportunistic claims,” Arato said, “it is nevertheless disappointing that after all of her hard work, Lizzo has to respond to this specious claim.”
The disagreement over “Truth Hurts” may involve another precious currency: a Grammy. Although the song is two years old, Grammy rules allow it to be nominated for next year’s awards because it was part of a 2019 album — it was added to “Cuz I Love You” as a bonus track — and had not been previously submitted. (The song’s popularity exploded this year thanks in part to TikTok memes and a prominent Netflix placement, and as Lizzo’s public appearances established her as a charismatic new star.)At the Grammys, “Truth Hurts” is under consideration for both record and song of the year, and Lizzo is considered a leading candidate for best new artist. Nominations will be announced Nov. 20.
Tarzan Actor Ron Ely Incident
A woman was killed at the home of former “Tarzan” actor Ron Ely and sheriff’s deputies fatally shot a suspect on the property, authorities in Southern California said Wednesday.
A Santa Barbara County sheriff’s office statement did not identify any of those involved but noted that a disabled elderly man living at the home was taken to a hospital for evaluation.
The deaths occurred Tuesday night in Hope Ranch, a suburb of luxury homes outside Santa Barbara.
A 911 call after 8 p.m. reported a family disturbance and deputies found a woman who was the victim of an apparent homicide, authorities said.
Deputies shot and killed a suspect they found on the property in response to an unspecified threat, the sheriff’s statement said.
The 81-year-old Ely played the title character on the NBC series “Tarzan,” which ran from 1966 to 1968.
The tall, musclebound Ely was not quite as well-known as Johnny Weismuller, the Olympic swimmer who played the role in movies in the 1930s and 40s, but formed the image of the shirtless, loincloth-wearing character remembered by many in the baby-boom generation. Tarzan was a fictional character raised in the African jungle.
Ely also played the title character in the 1975 action film “Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze,” but otherwise had mostly small roles in TV and films including the 1958 movie musical “South Pacific.”
Ely was host of the Miss America pageant in 1980 and 1981 and married a former Miss Florida, Valerie Lundeen, with whom he had three children.