UPDATED: Lizzo today shot back at three songwriters who claim that they deserve a piece of her breakthrough hit, “Truth Hurts” — with a lawsuit.
Like many recent hits, the song, which has been at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for seven straight weeks, is the subject of claims from people who say they are entitled to a writing credit. In this case it’s the brothers and songwriting team of Justin and Jeremiah Raisen and another collaborator, Justin “Yves” Rothman, who recorded demos with Lizzo in 2017 and went public with their claims last week.
Today, Lizzo responded with a lawsuit and a social media post. “The men who now claim a piece of ‘Truth Hurts’ did not help me write any part of the song,” she wrote in the post. “They had nothing to do with the line or how I chose to sing it. There was no one in the room when I wrote ‘Truth Hurts,’ except me, Ricky Reed, and my tears.”
The lawsuit says that the brothers “expressly withdrew any claim to ‘Truth Hurts,’ in writing” last April, that Rothman never previously made any such claim, and that Lizzo requests that the court enter a judgement stating that the Raisens, Rothman and their publisher have no ownership rights or rights to any money earned in connection with “Truth Hurts,” that it does not “infringe any copyright interest purportedly held by Defendant Rothman in any unreleased demo song,” and awards Lizzo costs and reasonable attorney fees.
It also asserts that “The Raisens, moreover, embarked on an escalating campaign of harassment against Lizzo and others involved in ‘Truth Hurts,’ threatening to ‘go public’ unless they receive an unwarranted share of this work.” Reached by Variety, reps for the Raisens, Rothman and their publisher did not immediately provide a response.
In a statement to Variety, Lizzo attorney Cynthia Arato wrote: “Today we filed a lawsuit on Lizzo’s behalf to establish, in a court of law, that the Raisens are not writers of ‘Truth Hurts’ and have no right to profit from the song’s success. The Raisens did not collaborate with Lizzo or anyone else to create the song, and they did not help write any of the material that they now seek to profit from, which is why they expressly renounced any claim to the work, in writing, months ago, as the lawsuit makes abundantly clear.
“Although it is all too commonplace for successful artists to be subjected to these type of opportunistic claims,” the statement concludes, “it is nevertheless disappointing that Lizzo had to take this step to put an end to the Raisens’ false claims and their campaign of harassment.”
The lawsuit details email exchanges between the involved publishers regarding the Raisens’ claim, which was first noticed when their names had been added to the song’s credits in the ASCAP song database. “Lizzo rejected the Raisens’ unfounded attempt to hijack a piece of ‘Truth Hurts’ and its profits,” the section reads. “Lizzo’s representatives rejected the Raisens’ claims in writing, and Lizzo did the same in an April 2, 2019 phone call with Justin Raisen. During that call, Justin Raisen acknowledged that neither he nor his brother had anything to do with the material through which they had claimed their purported share.
“That same day, after Justin Raisen made his concession, the Raisens’ manager contacted Lizzo’s lawyer and told her that the Raisens were no longer making any claim to ‘Truth Hurts.’ Two days later, on April 4, 2019, the Raisens/Heavy Duty’s music publisher, Kobalt Music Publishing, reiterated the Raisens’ relinquishment of their purported claims. The publisher emailed Lizzo’s representatives, under the subject line ‘Re: Split Dispute Notice – ‘Truth Hurts’ / Lizzo / Coconut Oil’ and stated: ‘I have been advised by our clients to withdraw our claims to this work. Kobalt makes no claim to ‘Truth Hurts.’ Thanks for your patience. :)’”
While the Raisens and Rothman have not yet filed a lawsuit or legal papers, there has been substantial communication between them and Lizzo’s team on the matter. In last week’s social-media posts, the Raisens wrote:
“On April 11th, 2017, we wrote a song called ‘Healthy’ w/ Lizzo, Jesse St John, and Yves Rothman at our studio,” the post reads in part. “[The lyric] ‘I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that bitch’ was taken from ‘Healthy’ and used in Truth Hurts.’ We were never contacted about being credited for the use of the parts of ‘Healthy’ (melody, lyrics, and chords) that appear in ‘Truth Hurts.’ After reaching out to [co-writer/producer] Ricky Reed and Lizzo’s team about fixing it, we put the song in dispute in 2017, when it came out. We’ve tried to sort this out quietly for the last two years, only asking for 5% each but were shut down every time.”
The matter is even more complicated than other recent copyright disputes, as it involves a lyric, derived from a third-party tweet, that apparently originated in an unreleased demo. While Raisen’s post includes a side-by-side rendering of the “100% that bitch” line from both the demo and the finished version of “Truth Hurts,” the video does not seem to provide evidence that the Raisens and Rothman actually contributed to the writing of the line; in addition, Justin Raisen told the Washington Post that the song’s melody “was written over the beat that we came up with.” He also said he never “knowingly signed away my rights or claims” to the song, and the brothers repeated that claim to Pitchfork after this article published.
The Raisens and Lizzo both specify that the lyric originated from a meme they saw at the time, which apparently was first tweeted by singer Mina Lioness.
“Shout out to the singer Mina Lioness ( @minalioness ) for tweeting ‘I just did a DNA test turns out I’m 100% that bitch,’” Raisen wrote. “A meme of that came up in our writing session & inspired the lyric and melody we wrote together. If Ricky and Lizzo’s team decide to settle this dispute with us, we would like to share some of the proceeds with Mina for her influence on ‘Healthy.’”
Lizzo also said in her post she intends to share a portion of the proceeds of the song with Lioness. “I later learned that a tweet inspired the meme. The creator of the tweet is the person I am sharing my success with … not these men. Period,” she concludes. “Thank you to everyone who has supported me and my song.”
Lioness tweeted about the situation shortly after Lizzo’s post was published on Wednesday, writing, “I just took a DNA Test, turns out I’m a credited writer for the number one song on Billboard. … I want to publicly thank @Lizzo and her entire managment team for embracing me and reaching out.”
In a related development, Lizzo’s publisher, Warner Chappell, refuted claims from singer Cece Peniston that Lizzo copied ad-libs from Peniston’s 1992 song “Finally” on the song “Juice.” The statement reads, “There’s no substantial similarity between ‘Juice’ and ‘Finally’, and there’s no valid claim there.”