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Beyonce denies interpolating Right Said Fred track without permission

By | Published on Monday 10 October 2022


Beyonce has hit back at Right Said Fred, after they were quoted in The Sun as claiming that she had not sought permission to interpolate their song ‘I’m Too Sexy’ on ‘Alien Superstar’, a track from her current album ‘Renaissance’.

‘Alien Superstar’ is the latest addition to a slightly weird trend of superstar artists using the 1991 Right Said Fred hit. Beyonce’s use follows Taylor Swift borrowing it for her 2017 single ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ and Drake using it in 2021’s ‘Way 2 Sexy’. Sugababes also reworked it for their 2009 single ‘Get Sexy’.

The Sun last week quoted Right Said Fred – aka Richard and Fred Fairbrass – as saying: “Normally the artist approaches us but Beyonce didn’t because she is such an arrogant person she just … probably thought ‘come and get me’, so we heard about it after the fact, when you did. But everyone else, Drake and Taylor Swift, they came to us”.

“To use our melody they need our permission, so they send us the demo and we approve it, and if so we get a co-write credit”, they went on. “With this Beyonce thing, there are 22 writers, it’s ridiculous, so we would get about 40p. The reason that is happening we think is because there is so little money now in the actual sales people like friends, golfing partners, engineers, bookers and the guy who brings the coke, they all want a cut”.

In cases of apparent copyright infringement such as this, the law says that the infringed artist should sue the infringer. However, Right Said Fred said that they feel powerless in the face of the Beyonce machine: “We cant stop it. There is nothing we can do. It is shit”.

“You are going to get into a conversation with someone who has a lot more presence and power and money than we do”, they added. “And that won’t go well. It’s best to let it go. If you’re not careful you spend your life looking back. We keep looking forward the whole time”.

If legal action isn’t possible, then the court of public opinion is the next step – ie using social or traditional media to bring awareness to the fact that you feel ripped off. But that cuts both ways. Avid Sun reader Beyonce responded quickly to Right Said Fred’s claims with her own statement, saying that the duo were talking utter nonsense.

“The comments made by Right Said Fred stating that Beyonce used ‘I’m Too Sexy’ in ‘Alien Superstar’ without permission are erroneous and incredibly disparaging”, read the statement. “Permission was not only granted for its use, but they publicly spoke of their gratitude for being on the album”.

“For their song, there was no sound recording use, only the composition was utilised”, it went on. “Permission was asked of their publisher on 11 May 2022 and the publisher approved the use on 15 Jun 2022. They were paid for the usage in August 2022”.

“Furthermore”, the statement adds, “the copyright percentage of the Right Said Fred writers with respect to the use of ‘I’m Too Sexy’ is a substantial portion of the composition. Collectively the Right Said Fred writers own more than any other singular writer and have co-writer credit. This accusation is false”.

So, there you go. Of course, it’s possible that this licensing deal was done without Right Said Fred’s active involvement – depending on the terms of their publishing contract – and also that all the lovely money they are due from the ‘Alien Superstar’ interpolation hasn’t made its way through the system into their bank accounts yet. But Beyonce does seem pretty clear on the fact that a deal was definitely done.

She’s also correct to say that Right Said Fred previously seemed quite happy to have their song used on her new record. They tweeted upon the release of ‘Renaissance’ that it was “nice to get a writing credit on the new Beyonce album”, adding on Instagram: “Writing credits with Taylor Swift, Drake and now Beyonce – not bad for two blokes that haven’t been playlisted in the UK for over 25 years”.

This isn’t the first run-in Beyonce has had over an interpolation on her latest album, of course. In July, Kelis accused Beyonce of “theft” over the use of her song ‘Milkshake’ on the track ‘Energy’. This, it turned out, came down to the fact that only The Neptunes – Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo – are credited as writers on the Kelis hit.

That said, despite that usage also seemingly being properly cleared ahead of the release of ‘Renaissance’, a new version of ‘Energy’ was subsequently replaced the original on digital music services with the ‘Milkshake’ interpolation removed.

If you’re sitting there wondering why so many songs these days are recycling old hits in this way, this episode of the Switched On Pop podcast will help you understand.