It’s been two years since Black Panther came out and unfortunately for the band Yeasayer, who have decided to sue Kendrick Lamara and The Weeknd for using their material, which I’ll get into, this really appears to be more of a cash grab by a band that formally split as of December of 2019. Two years almost they’ve had to file this complaint, as Kevin Burwick of MovieWeb even mentions. Two years and nothing. So why now? The reason for calling it a cash grab is that Yeasayer is not one of the more popular mainstream bands out there, though they had a shot for several years to become something that would hit the charts and stick around for a while. Fans of the band would likely debate this until they were blue in the face, but next to Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd it’s fair to say that Yeasayer kind of got the short stick when it came to overall popularity. Unfortunately for them this makes such a lawsuit appear to be about little more than getting an extra payday rather than being truly offended that someone would dare to use their music. Listening to the tracks that have been provided by Kevin Burwick side by side there are definitely some similarities, but should a judge decide to rule in favor of Yeasayer it might be a gross injustice if only because there really isn’t much that the band can say about the similarities other than they sound the same in some regards, but are still different songs. Unless Pray for Me is outright stealing lyrics from Yeasayer’s track then it’s kind of hard to see just how they used their powers of reasoning to come up with this lawsuit.
Plus, I’ll go back to my main point, the two years it took the band to somehow notice that this had happened. People can cite coincidence as much as they’d like and give up a dozen different excuses as to why no one from the band stepped forward, but unless they’d been fighting this particular battle since 2018 and there’s no real indication that they have, the timing looks a bit suspicious. The band broke up in December 2019, and come February 2020 they’re suddenly united once again, after deciding to part ways amicably, to combat an ‘injustice’ that in many ways doesn’t appear to be what they’re claiming it is. It’s enough to ask if anyone else sees this and what the average take on the matter really is versus that which the media is currently pushing. It’s a bit obvious that Lamar and The Weeknd could possibly pay off their accusers out of court, but whether the Yeasayer’s will allow that to happen versus getting everything they want if the decision does fall in their favor is hard to say. At any rate it looks and sounds like a con that is being held up with a very thin thread of evidence that might hold if those being accused can’t come up with something to counter it. Jon Blistein of Rolling Stone has more to say on the matter.
Stealing an idea is a very serious offense for several reasons, but when it comes to music it’s the livelihood of the artist at stake and whether or not they’ll be able to market the song and the lyrics they’ve worked long and hard to develop. However, stealing versus being inspired by something is a very touchy matter. It’s important to give credit where it’s due, that much is obvious, and should it be found that Lamar and The Weeknd did sample Yeasayer’s work and tweak it with their own sound then by all means they should pay up and make amends to the band. But if it’s found that Yeasayer’s track managed to inspire the artists to do their own thing and it somehow sounded similar, that’s unfortunate for Yeasayer since it’s not necessarily plagiarism if something new but similar came from that inspiration. It would be great to see an acknowledgment for certain as to where the sound came from, who and what inspired it, and how it came to be, but apart from that, Yeasayer has no real grounds to sue, UNLESS the artists in question did in fact take their idea and not give them the proper credit for it. Had Yeasayer come forward a couple of years ago or even a year ago this wouldn’t have been an issue and it might have looked far less suspect than it does now considering that since parting ways it’s very likely that they might be in need of funds since not performing together any longer could have hurt their wallets in a big way. It’s blunt, it’s to the point, but it’s unfortunately one of the most reasonable conclusions to come to since after this long coming back to sue for something this serious was bound to raise a few eyebrows.