“California Gurls” may be intended to evoke images of the cool Pacific Ocean surf, but Katy Perry may be in a hotter kind of water over her smash hit’s homage to the Beach Boys’ “California Girls.” The latter song’s writers, Brian Wilson and Mike Love, have both gone on record as being big fans of Perry’s tune. But the company that owns the copyright on behalf of Love and Wilson, Rondor Music, is more interested in compensation than flattery.
Roncor has reportedly threatened to sue if Perry doesn’t hand over royalties on her single, which has sold more than 3 million digital downloads, and tied a record by reaching that figure in just 11 short weeks. If Wilson and Love do end up getting a piece of that action, needless to say, they’ll be able to buy themselves and their grandchildren a lifetime supply of Hawaiian shirts.
Perry has borrowed song titles before and not gotten in trouble for it. Her breakthrough hit was “I Kissed a Girl,” which bore thematic as well as titular similarity to the Jill Sobule single of the same name. If anything, Perry would have seemed to be in less danger with “California Gurls,” which bears no similarity to the Beach Boys’ oldie beyond the title. Well, except for the line “I wish they all could be California girls,” uttered late in the song as part of a seeming improv by guest rapper Snoop Dogg. As far as Roncor Music is concerned, that one borrowed lyric crosses the line from tribute to plagiarism.
Suing is such a stupid thing, let’s hope this isn’t true.
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