Lizzo Faces Countersuit Over ‘Truth Hurts’ Credit Controversy
UPDATE: A judge dismissed the songwriters’ countersuit against Lizzo over the song “Truth Hurts,” noting that a “joint author of one copyrightable work does not automatically gain ownership of a derivative work.” However, the judge allowed for the lawsuit to be refiled pending amendment, Deadline reports.
Three songwriters have filed a countersuit against Lizzo, reasserting their claim that they helped write the pop star’s breakout smash “Truth Hurts,” but were not properly credited on the song.
The suit was filed by brothers Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, and Justin “Yves” Rothman, who claim “Truth Hurts” emerged from a writing session with Lizzo and Jesse Saint John that produced a song called “Healthy.” They allege that “Healthy” contained elements that later appeared in “Truth Hurts,” including the memorable line, “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100 percent that bitch.”
The Raisens and Rothman first brought up their issues with the song last fall in a non-legal setting, choosing instead to voice their complaints on social media. Lizzo, in turn, rebuffed their allegations and eventually filed a lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgement that the Raisens and Rothman had no claim to any kind of credit on “Truth Hurts.”
The new countersuit accuses Lizzo of a “bad faith, unprincipled attempt to deny songwriting and producer credits and royalties” to the the three songwriters, and alleges that “Lizzo would never have collected her Grammy Award [for Best Pop Solo Performance] but for the songwriting and producing contributions of [the Raisens and Rothman].”
Lawyers for the three songwriters said in a statement, “Lizzo is a talented musician and performer who currently enjoys immense popularity based on a hit song that she did not write alone. The counterclaims we filed today seek a judgment from the court that the song that is now called ‘Truth Hurts’ originated in Justin Raisen’s home recording studio from a collaboration among our clients, Justin and Jeremiah Raisen and Yves Rothman, along with Lizzo and Jesse Saint John. When the case proceeds to trial, we look forward to sharing the sound recordings, videos, photographs and musicology that 100% prove that collaboration. Our clients deserve their fair share of the recognition and revenue that comes from collaborating on a hit song.”
A lawyer for Lizzo did not immediately return Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
The new countersuit offers a detailed breakdown of how “Healthy” and another song, “Gorgeous,” allegedly came about over two April 2017 recording sessions at Justin Raisen’s home studio. It alleges that while Saint John showed those in the studio a meme that contained the “100 percent that bitch” line, it was Jeremiah Raisen who encouraged Lizzo to use it in the lyrics to “Healthy.” (Saint John is credited on “Truth Hurts,” as is the musician Mina Lioness, who originally tweeted the “100 percent” meme in February 2017.)
Following the sessions, the countersuit claims that in May 2017 Lizzo’s management told the Raisens that “Healthy” had “a shot” of making Lizzo’s then-forthcoming EP. After that, they claim they didn’t hear anything about the song until August, when they were informed that “Healthy” was not going to be used. “Truth Hurts” was released September 2017 and the suit cites a September 19th, 2017 Lizzo tweet, in which she thanked Saint John and stated that “Truth Hurts” came “from a whole otha song we wrote,” with the countersuit alleging that the other song was “Healthy.”
The countersuit later lays out the ways “Truth Hurts” and “Healthy” are allegedly the same, beyond the “100 percent” line. The suit states they have identical structures to the point that “if the ‘Truth Hurts’ vocals are played over the music to ‘Healthy,’ every musical drop and change matches up perfectly when played in the same key.” Other alleged similarities include Lizzo’s vamping in certain parts of the song, a “piano-sound for the main underlying instrumental theme,” a vocals-and-drum break down during the bridge and various melodic and rhythmic similarities in the bridge and in the delivery of the “100 percent” line.
The suit additionally details the ways in which the Raisens tried to resolve the credit controversy with Lizzo, her producer Ricky Reed and others between fall 2017 and spring 2019. Most notably, the suit cites a March 26th, 2019 phone call between Justin Raisen and Lizzo, in which Lizzo allegedly “admitted to Justin that elements of ‘Truth Hurts’ never would have been created without ‘Healthy,’ and admitted that Reed suggested to her that they take elements from ‘Healthy’ for ‘Truth Hurts.'” It further states that during the phone call, Lizzo allegedly said she “did not want to share any percentage” of “Truth Hurts” and claims that she “used the call as an opportunity to intimidate Justin into stalling his efforts.”
One factor potentially complicating the Raisens’ claim to a credit on “Truth Hurts” is that, as previously reported, the pair revoked their claim to the song via their publisher Kobalt last April. But the countersuit asserts otherwise, stating that they have not waived their claims to either “Healthy” or “Truth Hurts,” and are thus entitled to licensing fees, royalties and other profits from the song.
The suit ultimately asks for the judge to dismiss Lizzo’s lawsuit and to declare that the Raisens and Rothman joint authors and co-owners of “Healthy” and “Truth Hurts,” that “Truth Hurts” is derivative of “Healthy” and that they be properly compensated as such.
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