May 24, 2024 Musicology No Comments

No. Overall, this looks like one of the silliest lawsuits of all time. But it’s got a few interesting twists and turns.

Beyonce’s troubles stem from Break My Soul’s sample from New Orleans artist Big Freedia.

No good deed goes unpunished. Beyonce sure loves to feature New Orleans in her work. Is she from there? I thought BK was from Texas. I think her mom is from Louisiana. You “mix that creole with something and make a Texas something?” She included a phrase like that in her last album, “Formation.” Anyway…

Beyonce is, from what I’ve seen, both careful and generous about handing out writing credits and attribution. I’ve said many times it was unnecessary when Beyonce credited the Neptunes for barely alluding to Milkshake, and sure as hell didn’t deserve static from Kelis over it. I’ll bet she’s stunned today to find herself sued by some unknown band from Louisiana, “Da Showstoppas,” that thinks it owns the phrase “Release your wiggle,” which appears in their track, “Release A Wiggle,” which they evidently “released” in a mixtape back in 2002.

On “Break My Soul,” off “Renaissance,” Beyonce samples a Big Freedia track that includes the phrase, “Release Your Wiggle.” I’m sure she cleared that sample. It’s not the first time Beyonce has incorporated Big Freedia elements in her work. So the issue is that “Da Showstoppas” thinks, first, they own the phrase; next, that Big Freedia’s track infringes so it’s not Big Freedia’s to license to Beyoncé in the first place, and therefore “Break My Soul’ infringes too.

Big Freedia has been mentioned on Musicologize before, A COUPLE OF TIMES!! Big Freedia is associated mostly with the New Orleans bounce style, and stop to think about it, I remember her from another multi-tiered lawsuit in which she and Drake had cleared a ShowBoys sample, but then were sued for sampling “Roll Call”, which included the Show Boys sample, “Triggaman,” which they may not have duly licensed themselves, and thus they probably had no standing, blah blah blah. This stuff can get a little knotty.

Da Showstoppaz weren’t a band for long according to and they quit the music business, but the song was on YouTube and Big Freedia could well have heard it there or around New Orleans. Indeed it could be that Da Showstoppaz’s track is where Big Freedia got the idea for the phrase.

So, I can see how a case gets its start.

But we shouldn’t dwell on the chain of custody or even about whether Big Freedia might’ve heard the phrase in Da Showstoppaz track. As is often the case, the best question to ask isn’t about who sampled whom, or whether “Release your wiggle” is too similar to “Release A Wiggle” but instead, what is and isn’t original protectable expression.

The key here is that it’s unreasonable to consider so simple a phrase as “releasing wiggles” to be a protectable expression. THAT’S THAT.

This is hardly a forensic musicology situation for more than a few seconds. It’s probably just that simple, and this case shouldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t make it more interesting than that if I tried.

On the other hand, Beyonce DID credit the Neptunes. And I won’t be shocked if she’s considering throwing these people a bone. I don’t think it’s any great stretch to say, she is that nice. But wow, I hope she doesn’t.

Written by Brian McBrearty