Sam Smith and Normani are facing a copyright lawsuit over their 2019 hit “Dancing With a Stranger,” filed by three songwriters who say the song is “strikingly similar” to an earlier track with the same name and refrain.
In a complaint filed Friday in Los Angeles federal court, songwriters Jordan Vincent, Christopher Miranda and Rosco Banlaoi accused Smith and Normani of stealing the core from their 2015 track “Dancing With a Stranger.”
“The hook/chorus in both songs—the most significant part and artistic aspect of these works—contains the lyrics ‘dancing with a stranger’ being sung over a nearly identical melody and musical composition,” the songwriters wrote. “In both songs, the title, hook, chorus, lyrics, and musical composition are all the same—and are repeated throughout the song giving both songs their identities.”
The lawsuit also made pointed reference to the music videos for the two songs, saying they contained “extraordinary similarities” that would suggest copyright infringement.
Notably, the case was filed by the same law firm, Francis Alexander, that filed a highly-publicized copyright lawsuit against Led Zeppelin over “Stairway To Heaven” – a case that was ultimately rejected.
“Dancing with a Stranger” is one of Smith’s top-charting hits. Released in 2019 off their third studio album Love Goes, the song spent 45 weeks on the Hot 100 and peaked at No. 7 on the chart. A rep for Smith did not immediately return a request for comment on Monday.
According to the lawsuit, the earlier song was written in 2015, shopped to labels later that year, released on SoundCloud in 2016 and released on Spotify and YouTube in 2017. When Smith’s song was released in 2019, Vincent, Miranda and Banlaoi say it was “immediately obvious” that it had been copied from their song.
“It is beyond any real doubt that Smith, Normani, and the other defendants copied Plaintiff’s work,” the three wrote. “The protected expression in both the Infringing Song and Plaintiff’s preexisting work is nearly identical and is strikingly similar.”
The lawsuit said it was “common practice in music production” to take an earlier song as a “reference track” that can be slowed down or sped up. Vincent, Miranda and Banlaoi say that seems to be what Smith did with their song.
“When Plaintiff’s song is slowed down from 122 [beats per minute] to the 103 bpm used by the Infringing Song, the key of the two songs match,” the accusers wrote. “When the songs are compared, it is apparent that the underlying composition is nearly identical and was copied, as was the sound recording.”
Beyond Smith and Normani – whose real name is Normani Kordei Hamilton – the lawsuit also named a wide range other individuals and corporate entities allegedly involved in the production of the 2019 song.
In addition to Alfred Fluehr of the Francis Alexander law firm, the three songwriters are also repped by Steven T. Lowe of the law firm Lowe & Associates.