ST. LOUIS –Pop music star Katy Perry may be going to trial over allegations she used a Christian hip-hop composition as the basis of her 2014 hit, “Dark Horse.” The artists behind the 2007 piece entitled “Joyful Noise” not only say Perry used it without permission, but that she “irreparably tarnished” their work by associating it with Pagan imagery in her music video. The judge in the case thinks it’s close enough that it’s worth having jurors make the call.The song “Joyful Noise” was created by Marcus Gray (Flame), Lecrae Moore, Emanuel Lambert, and Chike Ojukwu in 2007; it was published the following year. The song was nominated for a Dove award, and the album on which it’s included — “Our World: Redeemed” — nabbed a couple of nominations, including one for a Grammy.
According to the filed legal papers, “by any measure, the devoutly religious message of Joyful Noise has been irreparably tarnished by its association with the witchcraft, paganism, black magic, and Illuminati imagery evoked by the same music in Dark Horse. Indeed, the music video of Dark Horse generated widespread accusations of blasphemy and an online petition signed by more than 60,000 demanding removal of an offensive religious image from the video.”
The “offensive religious image” cited in the filed papers was of a necklace bearing a symbol for Allah that turned to dust, along with the man wearing it. In addition, the Pagan imagery, “especially in the music video” as noted in the papers, creates what amounts to a public-relations problem for the Christian artists, because the alleged similarity creates “a false association between the music of Joyful Noise” and the aforementioned esoteric elements.
Ironically perhaps, Perry also offended some Pagans when she performed her song at Grammy award show in 2014. That performance included witch-burning imagery that some considered disrespectful. At the time Michelle Mueller wrote a Wild Hunt guest column about the issue, saying, ” I didn’t mind the references to witch-burning because it seemed she was identifying with the motif of the martyr or the persecuted witch. . . . others find the performance offensive because Perry may have been making light of atrocities towards women and healers.”
Attorneys for Perry and others named in the suit, including Capitol Records and five individuals who share authorship credit with Perry, maintain that the beat and melody couldn’t have been copied, because they never would have heard such an obscure song. “Joyful Noise” creators say that 3 million hits on YouTube is nothing to sneer at, but Perry’s lawyers have responded by effectively sneering at it.
Perry was a Christian music singer first, before she entered the wider pop world. Her 2001 eponymous Katy Hudson was critically successful but not commercially. She moved into secular music not long after that; she has since described herself as a New Age adherent. The disconnect might explain way this incident is reported on some Christ-centered sites.