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The New Daily
The New Daily
Genevieve Thorpe

Rick Astley sues Yung Gravy over ‘indistinguishable’ vocal impersonation

Eighties music icon Rick Astley has filed a lawsuit against American rapper Yung Gravy, claiming the rapper’s song Betty (Get Money) used a vocal impersonator to replicate his distinct vocals.

Gravy, real name Matthew Raymond Hauri, interpolated the song’s chorus and iconic synthesiser in the hit track.

In interviews, Hauri said he and his team cleared their interpolation of the song with Astley and his record label.

But while Astley agreed to the interpolation, he argues that he never gave Hauri permission to copy his voice.

Interpolation is when an artist rerecords a portion of another artist’s song and uses it in their own.

It is different to sampling, which is using the same old recording in a new song.

Unlike other noteworthy music lawsuits, like that involving Katy Perry’s Dark Horse, which took aim at elements of the song’s instrumentals, Astley has taken issue with the song’s vocal performance.

Betty begins with an unnamed artist singing the chorus of Astley’s original song, with near-identical vocals.

The impersonator is heard doing vocal riffs throughout the track, even saying “get money” in the chorus in a singing style very similar to Astley.

In the complaint, Astley’s lawyers claim the public “could not tell the difference” between the impersonator’s voice and Astley.

“In an effort to capitalise off the immense popularity and goodwill of Mr Astley, defendants … conspired to include a deliberate and nearly indistinguishable imitation of Mr Astley’s voice,” the complaint reads.

Astley is seeking “millions of dollars in damages, as well as profits made from the song”.

Legal heavyweight hired

Hauri is facing a steep legal challenge, with Astley selecting Richard Busch to represent him in the case.

The lawyer is well known for having represented Marvin Gaye’s family in the landmark lawsuit against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over their alleged copying of Got to Give It Up in 2013 track Blurred Lines.

‘Making a bag’

Hauri explained the division of the song’s profits in a September interview with Ethan Klein of the H3 Podcast.

“Rick Astley wasn’t actually involved [in clearing the song] because he didn’t write it,” he told Klein.

“Basically he’s down with the song though. He’s a fan, but there’s three other writers that had to approve it and I had to change all the lyrics because it was a lot dirtier, then I had to make it cleaner.

“On the publishing side, which would be like radio play or if it gets put in a movie or something, they’re making a bag for sure. They own a good percentage of it. But anything else like streams and all of that stuff, it’s your boy.”

The confusion with Astley’s vocals was evident when Hauri appeared on another podcast, Jeff Wittek’s Jeff FM.

“We recreate[d] all these samples. What we did was we remade the whole song so that my version does not have the actual record,” he said.

“It’s not Rick Astley singing,” he added, to the surprise of those around him.

“Oh wow, damn, that’s crazy,” one said.

Ironically, the group then proceeded to talk about the well-known Down Under lawsuit involving Australian rock band Men at Work.

In the legal dispute, a judge ruled that the band had copied the song’s distinctive flute riff from campfire song Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, and they were ordered to hand over 5 per cent of royalties.

Never Gonna Give You Up was Astley’s debut single, released in July 1987.

Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman are all credited with writing and producing the song.

Never Gonna Give You Up was a worldwide No.1 hit, topping the charts in 25 countries including Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The earworm had a viral resurgence in recent years thanks to the ‘Rickroll’ internet meme, in which people would be sent a link to the video – expecting to open something else.

Betty (Get Money) is Yung Gravy’s biggest hit to date, hitting No.25 on the ARIA Chart and No.30 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Australian public voted the track No.97 in Triple J’s Hottest 100 for 2022.

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