I don’t think it’s shocking news when artists don’t write their own music — it’s normally expected. After all, once you reach a certain level of fame you cease being an artist and become more like a marketing/brand machine. It’s hard thinking of constant No. 1 hits, original dance performances, and eye-popping visual music videos. And when an artist can’t keep up with the relentless demand for originality, they steal. Beyoncé should know — she’s a pro at it.
Ever since her Destiny’s Child days, Queen Bey has been accused of stealing songwriting credits for songs she didn’t write, lifting choreography from dancers without permission, and even straight-up jacking songs from struggling artists and then paying a settlement fee to shut them up.
Beyoncé is hardly the only mainstream artist that does this (ahem, Madonna, ahem), but her rap sheet is definitely one of the longest. Below, a full rundown of all the times she’s been accused of stealing.
She strong-armed “If I Were a Boy” from a debut artist.
This No. 1 ballad from Beyoncé’s I Am…Sasha Fierce was written by BC Jean, who was inspired by the idea after a recent breakup. After writing the song with producer Toby Gad, she started shopping the song to labels as her lead single. However, once Beyoncé’s team got a sniff of it, they decided to let Ms. Carter record her own version. BC was credited as the songwriter, which was bizarre to her considering she didn’t intend for anyone else to sing the song. “It’s an amazing compliment, but I was like, ‘That’s great, but it’s going to be on my album!'” she said in 2011. “And it can be on my album, too, I just didn’t realize how it worked.” Sounds like someone was taken for a ride.
However, BC later clarified that the internet exaggerated claims that her song was “stolen.”
“The story is not as bad as everyone’s saying it is,” she said. “It’s pretty much, the best break-up ever, and the best experience ever and again, it’ll be on my album coming out in January!”
Sounds like she’s not telling the full truth, but whatever the case, at least she got a huge check out of the deal.
She copied her “Countdown” music video from a Belgian dancer.
Beyoncé’s choreography is iconic, but considering how long she’s been in the game, it’s probably hard for her and her team to constantly think of new and original ideas. That’s probably why they lifted “inspiration” from Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. Fans made side-by-side comparison videos to illustrate exactly how much was copied. Beyoncé later admitted that the video was meant to be an homage.
“Clearly, the ballet ‘Rosas danst Rosas’ was one of many references for my video ‘Countdown,'” she said in a statement to The New York Times. “It was one of the inspirations used to bring the feel and look of the song to life.
Anne still wasn’t happy about it and expected Bey’s team to at least give her a head’s up instead of directly stealing her work as an homage. “There are protocols and consequences to such actions, and I can’t imagine [Beyoncé] and her team are not aware of it,” she said at the time.
She allegedly stole “Baby Boy” from a struggling singer-songwriter.
Back in 2003, artist Jennifer Armour sent a demo of her song “Got A Little Bit Of Love For You” to Beyoncé’s record label, Columbia Records. A few months later, she heard “Baby Boy” on the radio and thought the song sounded awfully familiar. She filed a lawsuit but ultimately lost because she couldn’t prove to the judge that Bey physically heard her song first.
She allegedly stole dance moves for her Formation World Tour.
Dancer and choreographer Marlyn Oritz called Bey out for stealing dance moves from her troupe’s show, De La Guarda. She took her grievances to social media where she wrote in a lengthy Instagram post that, while “inspiration” is nice, she and her struggling colleagues would at least like a little credit.
“Beyonce you have the nerve to steal exact concepts n choreography from other real creative geniuses. You stole from @breakingsurface, you stole the stomping from #delaguarda @fuerzabrutanyc. It’s ok to be inspired but at least make the effort to make it your own.”
She was accused of stealing “Survivor” from a producer.
Her reputation for song-stealing even persisted through her Destiny’s Child days. Producer Terrence “T-Robb” Robinson filed a $200 million lawsuit against Destiny’s Child for stealing his song “Glorious,” which he produced back in 2000. He showed the song to Bey’s father/manager Mathew Knowles expecting the song to kickstart his career. Mathew disappeared with the song, and months later, “Survivor” was born without Terrence’s name or credit. “I know right now I would be one of the biggest, most sought-after producers,” he said at a news conference about the alleged theft. It’s unclear what became of the suit, so it was probably settled out of court.
She lied about writing “Crazy in Love.”
“Crazy in Love” is easily one of the best pop tracks of the 2000s, and according to Beyoncé, the song was the product of a genius collaboration between herself and producer Rich Harrison. “The song came from me actually looking crazy one day in the studio,” Beyoncé said at the time. “I said, ‘I’m lookin’ crazy right now,’ and Rich Harrison, the producer, was like, ‘That’s the song!'”
Huh. That’s not how Rich tells the story.
According to him, after he played a sample of the track for Beyoncé, she then told him, “I love the idea. Now write the song. I’ll be back in two hours.” Although he was hungover, he managed to write the full song and play all the instruments before Bey got back. The only thing she wrote was the bridge, which is hardly the same as writing the whole song.
She lied about writing “Irreplaceable.”
Back in 2008, she came under fire when she told an audience at a concert that she wrote “Irreplaceable” for fellow women — except she didn’t write it, Ne-Yo did. “I honestly wrote that song for myself,” he said in 2011. “However, a man singing it comes across a little bit misogynistic, a little bit mean.” Although Bey didn’t write it, Ne-Yo said he had no problem letting her take songwriting credit because she “put her own spin on it.”
She copied her 2011 Billboard Music Awards performance from an Italian pop star.
In 2011, after the disappointing success of 4, Beyoncé had more drama on her hands, particularly pertaining her eye-catching performance of “Run the World” at the Billboard Music Awards. As cutting-edge as it all looked, the performance and choreography was actually taken directly from Italian pop star Lorella Cuccarini. After backlash, Bey decided to fess up.
“My makeup artist showed me the performance of Lorella Cuccarini a year ago, and it inspired me so much,” she said in an interview. As for Lorella herself, she actually “enjoyed” the similarities and liked the extra attention she was receiving in the States. So, a win/win, I guess?
She lied about the Stevie Nicks sample in “Bootylicious” being her idea.
That famous guitar riff from Stevie Nick’s “Edge of Seventeen” was sampled heavily in this track, and according to Beyoncé, it was her idea to use it. “It was 2000 and we were on our way to Japan,” she said in her I Am Yours DVD. “And I came across this Stevie Nicks song. Something about this guitar riff reminded me of a voluptuous woman… and I said, ‘I am gonna write a song to celebrate a woman’s curves.'”
Except using the sample wasn’t her idea, it was producer Rob Fusari’s, and he wasn’t happy about Bey running around town taking credit. When he saw her on Barbara Walters lying about her involvement on the track again, he had enough.
“I called Mathew – which was a big mistake,” he told Billboard. “I called Mathew and said, ‘Mathew, like, why?’ He explained to me, in a nice way, he said, ‘People don’t want to hear about Rob Fusari, producer from Livingston, N.J. No offense, but that’s not what sells records. What sells records is people believing that the artist is everything.'”
The scary thing about that exchange? Mathew was right.