Given her status at or near the top of the pop music heap, it’s not surprising that Taylor Swift can’t seem to go a month without someone taking a legal shot at her. Now, just a few weeks after decisively winning a countersuit against a DJ who accused her of ruining his career after she said he grabbed her ass at a meet-and-greet, Swift is under legal fire from a different, more nostalgic direction. Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler are accusing T-Swift of ripping off the lyrics to her massive hit “Shake It Off,” claiming it bears similarities to 3LW’s 2001 hit “Playas Gon’ Play,” which the pair wrote for the group.
The similarities rest in the two songs’ chorus, with Swift famously singing “The players gonna play, play, play, play, play, and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate,” while 3LW sang, “The playas gon’ play, them haters gonna hate.” (The songs, which share little-to-no melodic elements, diverge lyrically from there.) In the complaint, the pair’s attorney writes:
The combination of playas/players playing along with hatas/haters hating may seem like common parlance today, however, in 2001 it was completely original and unique. In all, “Playas Gon’ Play” prominently features a sequence of four peoples (playas, haters, callers, and ballers) who engage in four activities (playing, hating, calling, and balling). Plaintiffs were the first to put such a sequence together using the terms playas and haters, and prior to Defendants’ use at issue herein, the combination had not since been used in popular music.
For her part, Swift’s people have denounced the suit as a “money grab,” with a representative for the artist stating that “This is a ridiculous claim.” This is the second time “Shake It Off” has been accused of plagiarism; a judge threw out a similar case, based on similarities to Jesse Graham’s “Haters Gone Hate,” back in 2015. And while Swift does seem to keep winning the cases people bring against her, it’s presumably enough of a hassle that we can kind of understand why The Old Taylor went to such drastic efforts to stop having to answer the calls.