You wouldn’t think the woman who wrote “All Too Well” would have to prove that she also penned a little nursery rhyme like “Shake It Off,” but here we are. Taylor Swift is back in court, this time facing off against the songwriters behind 3LW’s track “Playas Gon’ Play.”
According to The Guardian, Sean Hall and Nathan Butler first filed a copyright suit in 2017, but it was quickly struck down by a federal judge; in 2019, an appeals court overturned that ruling, and the case moved forward once again, leading to the motion Swift filed earlier this week.
“The lyrics to Shake It Off were written entirely by me,” she states in a sworn declaration, via Pitchfork. “Until learning about Plaintiffs’ claim in 2017, I had never heard the song Playas Gon’ Play and had never heard of that song or the group 3LW.”
Further, she claims she couldn’t have caught the girl group on TV because her parents “did not permit [her] to watch TRL until [she] was about 13 years old” (her mother, Andrea Swift, said in her own statement that she “carefully monitored both the television she watched and the music she heard” and didn’t even let the kid go to sleepovers before age 10).
Is it possible that Hall and Butler originated the exact phrasing later used in “Shake It Off”? Perhaps. (Fleetwood Mac made a very similar observation about players back in the ’70s.) But, as Swift argues, the term has become culturally ubiquitous: “I recall hearing phrases about players play and haters hate stated together by other children while attending school in Wyomissing Hills, and in high school in Hendersonville. These phrases were akin to other commonly used sayings like ‘don’t hate the playa, hate the game,’ ‘take a chill pill,’ and ‘say it, don’t spray it.’” She even cites another pre-“Shake It Off” example: “I was present at the 2013 Country Music Awards and heard Eric Church perform his song ‘The Outsiders,’ which includes the lyric ‘the player’s gonna play and a haters gonna hate.’”
Even Swift admits that this is far from her most original hook, but “Shake It Off” is still a major cash cow, so it’s not hard to see why Hall and Butler would pursue this. “This is defendants’ fourth attempt to make these claims go away, so defendants’ labeling them as baseless rings hollow at this point,” the pair said in a statement, per The Guardian. “The law does not believe in pure coincidences, especially where, as here, the two works are so strikingly similar that Ms Taylor’s denial of access makes no difference to the outcome. Plaintiffs are confident that there are abundant factual issues for their claims to reach the jury, as it is not up to the court to weigh in on credibility issues or crown the winner in the battle of the experts.”