Singer Mitsou accuses Beyoncé and Jay Z of ripping off her hit
Did hip-hop’s royal couple just rip off “Drunk in Love,” Beyoncé’s smash hit with her husband, Jay Z? That’s what the Hungarian folk singer known as Mitsou claims in a lawsuit, which alleges that the song samples vocals from her recording of “Bajba, Bajba Pelem,” a folk tune passed on by her grandmother, according to news reports.
Those samples, the suit alleges, were digitally altered and can be heard most distinctly in the first 40 seconds of Beyonce and Jay Z’s Grammy-nominated hit as an “Eastern-sounding a cappella voice” that fades in and out, according to Yahoo News. In the suit, Mitsou — who is apparently no Beyonce fan — said she learned about the song from friends, the site reported.
“All together,” the suit says, “Mitsou’s vocals are featured for over one and half minutes of the five and one half minute song (sic)…,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald. And yet, the suit also notes, the content of each song is strikingly different. Mitsou’s song, according to the suit, is a traditional Roma ballad “about hopelessness, when one can no longer trust anyone but her own mother and God.”
By contrast, “Drunk In Love” incorporates several interlocking themes — marriage, alcohol, love, celebrity and sex, mostly — that are the opposite of hopelessness. Thus, the suit alleges that Beyoncé and Jay Z capitalized on the Roma song “to evoke foreign eroticism alongside the sexually intense lyrics,” according to Yahoo. Beyoncé and Jay Z have not commented publicly on the suit, and publicists for the two artists did not immediately respond to requests for a statement. The video for “Drunk in Love” won Best Collaboration at the MTV Video Music Awards and has been viewed on YouTube more than 238 million times.
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The suit, which was filed in New York and names Beyoncé, Jay Z and producer Timbaland as defendants, demands an injunction and unspecified damages, according to Yahoo. “Mitsou has never signed any documents that would permit anyone to use her voice for advertising or trade purposes,” the suit says, according to Yahoo.
The singer (real name Mónika Juhász Miczura) estimates that her voice is present in 29 percent of the song and claims that the multimillionaire couple has been “unjustly enriched to the detriment of Mitsou,” according to the New York Post. “Bajba, Bajba Pelem” was released in the United States under the title “Gypsy Life on the Road” by North Pacific Records in 1997, according to the paper. “Blatant unauthorized use of [her] voice for trade purposes is causing irreparable harm and emotional distress,” the suit says, according to the New York Post.
“Beyoncé,” the album that includes “Drunk in Love,” became the fastest-selling album ever on iTunes, according to the New York Daily News. The single at the center of the lawsuit is up for two Grammy Awards, and “Beyoncé” is one of five nominees for the album of the year Grammy, the recording industry’s top honor.