Dagny Talks Providing Inspiration for Katy Perry's 'Never Really Over' and Being 'Part of Something Bigger Than Me'
"I’m really happy they reached out," the Norwegian singer-songwriter says. "Because what would I do? Call my nonexistent lawyer and take her to court?"
When Katy Perry roared back onto the music landscape last Friday (May 31) with “Never Really Over,” pop superfans may have noticed the superstar’s comeback single bore a striking similarity to another song: indie-pop darling Dagny’s giddy 2017 track “Love You Like That.”
The resemblance between the two anthemic pop bangers is indeed uncanny. Each song opens with the same plucky synth pattern, heightens the drama with a soaring pre-chorus and delivers a propulsive, statically charged chorus built on a foundation of rapid-fire lyrics and a repetitive, one-note melody. The two tracks are even written in the same key -- though Perry’s, which debuted at No. 26 on Billboard’s Pop Songs chart (dated June 8, 2019), trades out the ‘80s feel of “Love You Like That” for Zedd's signature electro-pop production.
As it turns out, the parallel structure of the kindred bops is no mere coincidence: Perry was deeply inspired by Dagny’s song when crafting “Never Really Over” -- so much so that the rising Norwegian talent is listed as a co-writer alongside Zedd and a cabal of other hitmakers on the new entrant for song of the summer.
In the wake of the single’s release, Billboard chatted with Dagny about getting the call from the superstar’s team, whether the song actually samples “Love You Like That,” and why she hopes the collaboration with Perry will set a new precedent for creative cooperation between artists big and small.
How did you get involved in “Never Really Over?” Did Katy reach out directly?
Well actually, it was back in 2017 when we first wrote “Love You Like That.” I was at the end of two months of sessions in L.A. and hadn’t really written anything great. It was on the last day and I went into the session with my producer Jason Gill and Michelle Buzz, who’s a topliner in L.A., and we were just super inspired. I think the session lasted 16 hours -- we started at 11 in the morning and went until 5 the next morning because we knew we just had to finish this track before I had to fly back to Europe.
Then at the start of this year, Katy’s team reached out and said they had been really inspired, and had a song that was like their version of my song. I never sat down in a room with Katy, or wrote the song for her, but it’s based on “Love You Like That.”
I guess they wanted to give credit where credit is due. We had a really open dialogue about it. I was very eager about it. I was very happy on behalf of the song, because it was going to be part of something bigger than me. For songs at that level, they often have lots of different stages and writers involved, so I’m really happy they reached out. Katy Perry is obviously massive and the new song is this massive pop anthem, so I was really excited to be a part of that.
What was your first impression of the new song?
Back when we first heard about this, I’m gonna be completely honest, I only heard a very small snippet of it -- I was out traveling, for some reason I didn’t have headphones, so I was only listening on my phone. My first impression was that it wasn’t really that similar? So I was prepared for a Twitter storm of people saying, “This doesn’t sound anything like your song!” but once it came out, I realized the similarities and saw the inspiration very clearly. “Love You Like That” is one of songs I feel most passionate about of my own songs -- it’s one I’m most connected to, I’m very proud of it.
So in a way, I guess you can say it would be a given that I like [“Never Really Over”] -- but I actually genuinely love it. It’s a great song for her, it makes me feel good, it’s a straight-up massive pop song, and that’s what she does really well. There’s not that many people who can pull off this big, pop banger anthem -- not everyone does that, that’s my kind of vibe.
It’s been floating around online that the Katy track samples “Love Me Like That” -- but is it technically a sample?
No, I don’t know where the word "sample" came from. A lot of the rumors maybe came from an article that I did here in Norway, but I don’t think I ever used the word "sample." You can compare the song [to “Love You Like That”] -- for a lot of people it will feel very similar. I think it’s the production and the melodies; that’s the similarity. They’ve obviously done a new lyric. So it’s inspired, but there’s no me going “love you like that” somewhere in the background. [Laughs.]
In music there’s a fine line between where you’re inspired and where you rip off someone’s song. It’s always a good thing to be inspired by things that go way back, or more recently too. That’s fine, as long as you realize where you’ve crossed a line. You want to involve people in the process. It says a lot about [Katy’s] whole team that they wanted to include us. I’m happy, because what would I do? Call my nonexistent lawyer and take her to court? That wouldn’t have been an option. I hope a lot more [artists] can follow that example.
You mentioned the new lyrics on “Never Really Over.” Do you see any lyrical parallels between your song and Katy’s?
That’s a really good question. I wish I had sat down and gone through and analyzed them a bit more. They’re both from different times and perspectives of love; that’s the biggest similarity they’ve got, really. “Love You Like That” was a declaration when I wrote it -- to open your arms and just say “I fucking love you” to the person you love. Hers is saying, “Well actually, yeah, I love you but even though it’s over, it’s never going to be completely gone.” You look back at something and realize once you’ve been in that, it’s never going to go away. It’s a part of you. In a way, it’s a natural follow-up to my song.
Were you a Katy fan before working with her?
Yes, definitely! Back in 2012, the whole Teenage Dream era was very cool -- she did something really inspiring to a lot of people. I mean, the number of times I’ve been in a session and said “let’s listen to Teenage Dream!” It shows that music is a universal thing. I’m sitting here in Norway and she’s in L.A. listening to my song, and I’m listening to hers. It’s cool that inspiration can go both ways.
Do you have any favorite Katy Perry songs?
I actually really like the one “Thinking of You” [from 2009's One of the Boys]. It’s more of a ballad. I used to listen to it so much. And the first song I ever heard of hers was “I Kissed a Girl.” At time I was working with a photographer who was from L.A., and he turned and looked at me and was like, “This gonna be massive.” But yeah, my favorite is “Thinking of You.” I often fall for the non-singles for some reason.
Anything else you’re up to currently?
I’m actually writing on my album! It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally in the pipeline. Pop is closest to my heart; I’m from Scandinavia, we do that whole pop, melancholy, dance/cry vibe. My album will have that written all over it. [Laughs.]
And this has inspired me even more, I would love to do work with other artists and write with other artists. Summer is coming up, so I’ll be playing festivals and writing the album, lately. And watching “Never Really Over” really go crazy, hopefully!