On the track
Flourgon, a Jamaican dancehall artist who enjoyed hits in the 1980s and 1990s, said the turn of phrase was taken from his 1988 song “We Run Things,” whose lyrics include, “We run things / Things no run we.”
Flourgon, whose real name is Michael May, is seeking $300 million from Cyrus, her label Sony Music and her team of songwriters and musicians — a highly ambitious sum that is more than the pop star’s estimated net worth.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in a federal court in New York, said the lyrics belonged “distinctly” to Flourgon with “roots in Jamaican Patois with its own unique phraseology and linguistic combinations that, when translated into English, is not grammatically correct.”
Flourgon said Cyrus built her career off the single, noting that it came out around the time that the former star of the Disney series “Hannah Montana” was adopting an edgier, more sexualized public persona.
Cyrus “dramatically changed her style of dress and personal vocalizations to reflect the grittiness, aggression and sultriness associated with US-based hip-hop, R&B, urban and Caribbean music,” the lawsuit said.
The 25-year-old singer did not immediately respond to the lawsuit, which also seeks to prevent her from further performances of “We Can’t Stop.”
The pop starlet has faced accusations in the past of appropriating black culture, especially when she twerked her behind against singer Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2013.
“We Can’t Stop” coincidentally only reached number two on the US singles chart because it was held back by Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” which was targeted in a landmark lawsuit.
Thicke and co-writer Pharrell Williams were ordered to pay more than $7 million to the estate of Marvin Gaye after a jury found similarities to his song “Got to Give It Up.”
But a judge recently rejected a lawsuit revolving around lyrics against Taylor Swift, saying that the words in her song “Shake It Off” were too banal for copyright infringement.