Yung Gravy’s attempt to Rickroll us all has backfired: Rick Astley is suing the rapper over his 2022 hit “Betty (Get Money)” for its interpolation of “Never Gonna Give You Up,” alleging that the vocals sound a bit too much like Astley’s iconic croon.
Gravy and his lawyers claim that they receive permission from Astley’s team to interpolate “Never Gonna Give You Up,” which means they could legally recreate elements from the song such as melodies and lyrics. However, Astley’s lawyers claim that the end result of the interpolation in “Betty” sounds too similar to the original song’s chorus, violating the singer’s so-called right of publicity.
“In an effort to capitalize off of the immense popularity and goodwill of Mr. Astley, defendants … conspired to include a deliberate and nearly indistinguishable imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice throughout the song,” Astley’s lawyers wrote in a suit filed Thursday (via Billboard). “The public could not tell the difference. The imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice was so successful the public believed it was actually Mr. Astley singing.”
If a song uses the actual recording of another song, that would instead be called a sample, which requires an entirely different license to be legal — one that Gravy and his team did not secure, according to the suit. For “Betty,” Gravy recruited singer Popnick to mimic Astley’s “signature voice,” which comes out sounding nearly identical.
“A license to use the original underlying musical composition does not authorize the stealing of the artist’s voice in the original recording,” Astley’s lawyers continued in the suit. “So, instead, they resorted to theft of Mr. Astley’s voice without a license and without agreement.”
What’s more, Astley’s lawyers have also accused Gravy of making false statements saying Astley had endorsed “Betty.” In a 2022 interview, Gravy said Astley’s team had told him the singer “digs the song.” “He approved it and he’s a fan,” Gravy said. Revisit “Betty” and make your own judgments below.
Last year, Astley discussed the legacy of “Never Gonna Give You Up” on The Story Behind the Song podcast.