After spending an entire year on Billboard’s Hot 100’s top 40, nearly every regular radio listener or TikTok user has heard the wildly popular song “Levitating.” Sung by 26-year-old British pop star Dua Lipa, the song has been on a wild ride since its release in October 2020. From its immediate radio success to viral runs as a TikTok sound to the questionable remix with Dababy, Dua Lipa’s catchy melody has spent the last 18 months at the forefront of listeners' minds.
But, according to band Artikal Sound System, that melody is not Lipa’s to claim.
Founded in 2012, Artikal Sound System is a reggae band hailing from South Florida. Initially performing with Carribean singers, the band has been releasing music independently in the past several years. And, in defense of their 2017 song “Live Your Life,” the band filed a lawsuit against Lipa on March 1 for copyright infringement.
The band argues that the pop star stole the melody of their 2017 song, which — to an untrained, casual listener’s ear, at least — seems believable. Aside from “Levitating” being slightly faster, the melody is essentially identical to that of Atrikal’s “Live Your Life,” even down to being in the same key.
What makes this copyright dispute more complicated for Dua Lipa — and, frankly, for Artikal as well — is that they are not the only groups vying for rights to this content. On March 4, L. Russell Brown and Sandy Lizner filed another copyright infringement lawsuit against “Levitating.”
Brown and Lizner assert that “Levitating” lifts artistic property from their 1979 disco song “Wiggle and Giggle All Night,” performed by Cory Daye. The resemblances between “Levitating” and “Wiggle and Giggle All Night” are not nearly as striking as those to“Live Your Life,” but the melodies are suspiciously similar. And, considering that “Levitating” and “Live Your Life” have nearly identical melodies, Artikal Sound System should tread carefully before they, too, are implicated in a copyright debacle.
Ultimately, it is impossible to create art in a vacuum. Of course, some instances of “inspiration” are more egregiously plagiaristic than others, but the statement stands: Art begets art. And this all boils down to the age old question of who gets to use what, when, and how? This question, as with most things, always seems to become more urgent and significant as more money becomes involved. With a thriving TikTok presence and the honor of being No. 1 on Billboard’s 2021 year-end Global 200 chart, “Levitating” involves big money. But if Dua Lipa is held responsible for failing to credit the writers of “Live Your Life,” then both she and Artikal Sound System need to appropriately acknowledge their mutual predecessor: disco.