The Weeknd, Belly Sued Over 'A Lonely Night'
More than four months after urging The Weeknd to “do the right thing,” a trio of British songwriters filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the singer.
William Smith, Brian Clover and Scott McCulloch are seeking unspecified damages, alleging that The Weeknd’s 2016 Starboy track “A Lonely Night” copied their 2004 song “I Need to Love.”
The suit, which was filed in the Central District of California, also names the singer’s fellow Canadian, rapper Belly, as a defendant, among others.
In addition to The Weeknd, Belly (whose real name is Ahmad Balshe), “A Lonely Night” is credited to Toronto's Jason Jason Quenneville and Swedish songwriters Max Martin, Peter Svensson, Savan Kotecha and Ali Payami.
In an interview last November with iHeartRadio.ca, Clover urged one of the writers “to do the right thing, show some integrity and say, ‘Look, it was me.’”
Clover said he, Smith and McCulloch signed a publishing deal in 2005 with Big Life Management and “I Need to Love” was one of the tracks the company tried to find a home for. In 2009, Big Life’s catalogue was taken over by Universal Music.
“They were confident our song would get recorded by an artist,” Clover recalled. But, Universal relinquished the rights to “I Need to Love” in November 2016.
Seven months later, Clover was in a Topman store when he heard The Weeknd’s “A Lonely Night.”
“I could not believe it. I cannot articulate how I felt,” he said.
Clover said the songwriting trio wrote a letter to The Weeknd’s Ottawa-raised managers Wassim ‘Sal’ Slaiby and Amir ‘Cash’ Esmailian. “We said we don’t know how this has happened but can we please find a solution to the matter,” he recalled.
Clover said Stuart Prager, a New York lawyer representing The Weeknd, denied there was any similarity between the songs but offered the songwriters the equivalent of about $85,000 CAD.
“He asked what hits we have had and I said none. He laughed down the phone at me,” Clover alleged, “saying ‘Why would The Weeknd want to use one of your songs?’”
Prager did not respond to an iHeartRadio.ca request for comment.
In a letter to The Weeknd’s record company, dated March 23, 2018, London-based Simons Rodkin Solicitors LLP said “A Lonely Night” bears “more than a striking and substantial similarity” to “I Need to Love.”
“It is virtually identical and would be indistinguishable to a layman,” the letter reads. “The melody of the chorus … is almost identical in relative pitch to the melody.”
The Pre-Action Protocol – essentially a formal threat of one’s willingness to file a civil suit – included a report from Chandler & Siddell Musicologists, which opined that there is “sufficient musical evidence to support a potential claim of infringement.”
None of the allegations have been tested in court and none of the defendants has commented on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks “a declaration of ownership and authorship in ‘A Lonely Night’, and actual damages, direct profits, and indirect profits from the exploitation of the song."
Clover told iHeartRadio.ca in November that he and his fellow songwriters want "the recognition for writing a song on a Grammy-winning album.
"Then we can get on with our careers.”
Listen below to a mash-up of the two songs: