December 21, 2022 Musicology No Comments

Did someone at CNN get shut out of tickets to the Eras Tour or what?

It strikes me odd that a week after this case was dismissed, presumably settled, there’s still a court of public opinion battle to be waged, and under the CNN banner. The press announcement that I believe came out Dec 20…

CNN Flash Docs” will investigate the copyright lawsuit brought by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler against Taylor Swift for her hit song “Shake it Off.”

Taking On Taylor Swift scrutinizes the legal and ethical issues of the case and explores cultural appropriation , featuring insights from…

CNN’s Press Announcement

“Taking on Taylor Swift?” Like a rebel taking on the empire? The empire is necessarily bad, agreed? Is there another way to interpret “Taking on Taylor Swift?”

You’re gonna “investigate” the lawsuit? Like, blow the lid off it? Well, the beliefs of the plaintiffs are spelled out in the complaint. The beliefs of the defendants are they’ve imagined things. If you play that down the middle, you’re just trying the case.

Let’s see CNN walk that line. So far, they’re not doing great.

Are there ethical issues such as cultural appropriation to explore around Taylor Swift’s singing “Players gonna play?” at all? I wouldn’t presume to say. I’d err on the side of “sure.” Let’s do be thoughtful about that.

But if CNN conflates that with a presumption of the righteousness of a lawsuit that has (presumably) been settled, that’s an ethical issue worth exploring on its own. The press release continues…

Since its release in 2014, Swift been accused that that the chorus of her hit song, “Shake It Off” (“’cause the players gonna play, play, play…”) is a direct lift from the 2000 song, “Playas Gon’ Play” written by Hall and Butler, and made famous by the girl group, 3LW.

CNN’s Press Announcement

The case launched in 2017. Was there really all that much of a public outcry prior? Generally speaking, I notice that sort of thing or it’s brought to my attention somehow. For what it’s worth, I didn’t, and it wasn’t. Continuing on… isn’t the supposed “famousness” of “Playas Gon’ Play” a material factor in the case? Swift said, as reported by Variety, that she had never heard of the song, or of 3LW. And here again, neither had I.

I think Playas Gon’ Play peaked at 80-something on the Billboard Top 100. That’s something to be awfully proud of, but is it famous? Sorta, but the matter is at least arguable, is it not? And if it is both arguable and material to a recently settled case, shouldn’t CNN be more thoughtful about the language?

I don’t know what settlement was reached here, how much Taylor paid, nor even if she paid. It’s only the assumption I and pretty much everyone else I know made because the case went away before trial. And by nature, settlements (especially empire-to-rebel type settlements I suppose) can be anywhere on the “fairness” scale from “hush money” to “even-steven” to “ransomware payments.” We don’t know. We can speculate. We bring our biases to it.

CNN? I’ll watch it. We’ll see. Here’s their preview on YouTube.

Written by Brian McBrearty