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The Weeknd sued over alleged Call Out My Name song-theft

By | Published on Tuesday 21 September 2021

The Weeknd

Another song-theft lawsuit for you now. The Weeknd has been accused of ripping off elements of an earlier track on his 2018 hit ‘Call Out My Name’.

Producers Suniel Fox and Henry Strange reckon that record lifts from their 2015 track ‘Vibeking’. Indeed, ‘Call Out My Name’ and ‘Vibeking’ “contain quantitatively and qualitatively similar material in their respective lead guitar and vocal hooks, including melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic elements”, the two producers state in a new lawsuit filed with the courts in California.

Though, while said lawsuit then talks through those similarities in some detail, perhaps more important is the explanation of how The Weeknd, real name Abel Tesfaye, got himself a copy of ‘Vibeking’, which is somewhat stronger than the explanations found in many other song-theft lawsuits.

Fox and Strange allege that they sent a copy of ‘Vibeking’ to Tesfaye collaborator Eric White, aka PNDA, in April 2015. They did so, they add, on the specific understanding that White would share the track with Tesfaye on the basis that doing so might result in some kind of collaboration.

White did just that and then reported back that Tesfaye said of ‘Vibeking’: “Shit’s fiiiire”. Which, the lawsuit helpfully explains, suggests “that The Weeknd liked, enjoyed, and/or thought highly of ‘Vibeking'”.

Despite the positive feedback – reconfirmed in subsequent emails – it seemed that Tesfaye wasn’t interested in working with Fox and Strange. But then, in October 2016, White said he was going to put ‘Vibeking’ back in front of Tesfaye.

He suggested to Strange that he tell Tesfaye “our production team wrote the track”, because “he doesn’t know you”. Strange responded that he had actually met Tesfaye at a Drake show. So he suggested White tell Tesfaye that ‘Vibeking’ had been produced by “the guy with the ponytail you met on [the] Drake tour – who is part of our production team”.

But, it seems, nothing ever came of that exchange. And then, in 2018, ‘Call Out My Name’ was released. So, Fox and Strange allege, having gained access to their track, defendants then “included elements in the ‘Call Out My Name’ musical composition and sound recording that are strikingly and/or substantially similar, if not identical, to original elements from the ‘Vibeking’ musical composition and sound recording, without a licence, authorisation, or consent from plaintiffs”.

Fox and Strange’s lawsuit names as defendants Tesfaye and his two co-writers on ‘Call Out My Name’, plus his label at Universal Music, all the publishers with a stake in The Weeknd song, and even the writers’ collecting societies and the streaming services that have the hit in their catalogues.