Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’ Copied Christian Rap Song, Federal Jury Finds

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella

Looks like Katy Perry has not strayed too far from her own Christian music roots after all. At least, that’s what a federal jury decided on Monday afternoon after a weeklong trial, ending the singer’s copyright lawsuit by concluding that elements of her 2013 bop “Dark Horse” are too similar to “Joyful Noise,” a 2009 Christian rap song by Marcus Gray. Gray, who was then performing under the stage name Flame, sued the singer five years ago, asserting that her track “Dark Horse” had lifted several elements from his song, but most important, the beat.

In response to the lawsuit, Perry’s legal team argued that the beat in question is not unique to Gray’s song, nor had Perry or her producers allegedly heard “Joyful Noise” before. “They’re trying to own basic building blocks of music, the alphabet of music that should be available to everyone,” Perry’s lawyer Christine Lepera argued during closing arguments of the trial on Thursday.

Far from being a niche Christian track, however, Gray’s legal team pointed out that Our World: Redeemed, the album on which “Joyful Noise” was released, was nominated for a Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album Grammy award in 2008. In the end, the jury agreed with Gray’s claim, and Perry now waits to find out what damages she will be expected to pay in return. As for whether the songs actually sound similar to the untrained ear, well, you know what you came here for.

Update August 1: A judge has awarded Marcus Gray and his co-writers $2.78 million in damages. According to Entertainment Weekly, Perry will have to pay $550,000 herself with Capitol records footing the rest of the bill.

Update March 18, 2020: The previous ruling has been overturned following an appeal filed by Katy Perry, Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, and Capitol Records in October 2019. The $2.8 million jury judgement was wiped out.

Jury: Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’ Copied Christian Rap Song