Rick Astley Sues Rapper Yung Gravy Over Hit Song With Soundalike Singer: ‘Flagrantly Impersonated’ (2024)

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When does a soundalike song sound a little too much alike?

Rick Astley is suing Yung Gravy over the rapper’s breakout 2022 hit that heavily borrowed from the singer’s iconic “Never Gonna Give You Up,” alleging that the new track — an interpolation that sounded a whole lot like an outright sample — broke the law by impersonating Astley’s voice.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday (Jan. 26) in Los Angeles court, Astley claims that Gravy’s “Betty (Get Money),” which reached No. 30 on the Hot 100 last year, violated the singer’s so-called right of publicity because it closely mimicked the distinctive voice Astley used in the chart-topping 1987 hit.

“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. “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.”

Pulling heavily from a song that boomed in recent years thanks to “Rickroll” internet memes, “Betty” was a major hit for Yung Gravy. But it often drew attention largely for its connections to Astley; the New York Times called it “a real-life rickroll that functioned as a comedy song, a TikTok trend and a nostalgia trip all at once.”

In their new lawsuit, Astley’s lawyers said the singer was “extremely protective over his name, image, and likeness,” meaning the unauthorized use of the soundalike voice had caused him “immense damage.”

Representatives for Gravy (real name Matthew Hauri) and Universal Music Group’s Republic Records (also named in the lawsuit as the label that released “Betty”) did not immediately return a request for comment.

Thursday’s new lawsuit raises big questions about the methods used in the music industry to legally borrow from older songs, an ever more popular tactic in a nostalgia-heavy age.

When they created “Betty,” Gravy and his team allegedly cleared the underlying musical composition to “Give You Up,” which Astley does not own. That gave them the legal right to recreate music and lyrics from the original song in their new track — a process known as “interpolating.”

But the lawsuit says Gravy and his team weren’t able to secure a license to use the actual sound recording of the famous track — the better-known process of “sampling.” That would mean they didn’t have any right to directly copy the exact sounds, including Astley’s voice.


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Instead, Astley says they hired Popnick (real name Nick Seeley) to imitate Astley’s “signature voice” on the track. At one point, the lawsuit quotes from an Instagram video in which Popnick said he wanted the song to “sound identical” to Astley’s voice.

By doing so without permission, the lawsuit claims that Gravy and Popnick violated Astley’s right of publicity — the legal right to control how your name, image or likeness is commercially exploited by others.

“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 wrote. “So, instead, they resorted to theft of Mr. Astley’s voice without a license and without agreement.”

Astley’s allegations rely heavily on a 1988 federal court ruling, in which Bette Midler successfully sued the Ford Motor Co. for violating her right of publicity by running a series of commercials featuring a Midler impersonator. In that case, the court sided with Midler even though Ford had obtained a license to the underlying song.

The new lawsuit was filed by Richard Busch, a prominent music litigator best known for winning the blockbuster copyright case over “Blurred Lines.” In a statement to Billboard, Busch said: “Mr. Astley owns his voice. California law is clear since the Bette Midler case more than 30 years ago that nobody has the right to imitate or use it without his permission.”

In addition to violating Astley’s right of publicity, the lawsuit also accuses Gravy of violating federal trademark law by making false statements that made it appear that the singer had endorsed the new song. In an interview with Billboard, Gravy said he had spoken with Astley and that the singer had approved of the new song — that he “f*cks with the song.”

“These statements were all false,” Astley wrote in his lawsuit.

Read Astley’s entire lawsuit here:

Rick Astley Sues Rapper Yung Gravy Over Hit Song With Soundalike Singer: ‘Flagrantly Impersonated’ (2024)


Rick Astley Sues Rapper Yung Gravy Over Hit Song With Soundalike Singer: ‘Flagrantly Impersonated’? ›

Rick Astley sues Yung Gravy over alleged Never Gonna Give You Up

Never Gonna Give You Up
"Never Gonna Give You Up" is a song by English singer Rick Astley, released on 27 July 1987. Written and produced by Stock Aitken Waterman, it was released by RCA Records as the first single from Astley's debut studio album, Whenever You Need Somebody (1987).
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Never_Gonna_Give_You_Up
imitation. Rick Astley is suing rapper Yung Gravy for using an alleged impersonation of his voice on a recent single. The singer's 1987 worldwide hit Never Gonna Give You Up is interpolated in Yung Gravy's song Betty (Get Money).

Did Rick Astley successfully sue Yung Gravy? ›

The battle between Rick Astley and Yung Gravy is over. On Tuesday, Sept. 26, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, the "Never Gonna Give You Up" singer, 57, and the meme rapper, 27, settled the lawsuit filed by Astley in January against Gravy (born Matthew Hauri) and his collaborators for an undisclosed sum.

How does Rick Astley feel about Yung Gravy? ›

In legal documents obtained by EW, Astley's lawyers allege that Gravy, real name Matthew Hauri, "flagrantly impersonated" Astley's voice on the song and "falsely stated he endorsed them with no request, forewarning, or remorse," which has caused the '80s crooner "immense damage."

Did Rick Astley steal Never Gonna Give You Up? ›

Although Astley agreed to license the music and lyrics, he never authorized Gravy to directly copy his voice. On January 26, 2023, Astley filed a lawsuit in a Los Angeles court, objecting to Gravy's use of an impersonator to mimic Astley's voice. The case was settled in September 2023.

What song did Yung Gravy copy? ›

Rick Astley is suing Yung Gravy for imitating his vocals from "Never Gonna Give You Up" on the rapper's hit track "Betty." The track peaked at number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart last September, and was used in countless TikTok videos.

Did Yung Gravy ever go to jail? ›

“We were accused of burglary, and I spent the night in jail. I got probation with community service. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, so all of the felonies were expunged, but I still got charged with 'Criminal Trespassing' and 'Underage Drinking.

How rich is Rick Astley? ›

The musician has amassed a fortune of £11.9million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. While he is known as a singer, his career was not always in the music industry. Rick was born in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, on February 6, 1966.

Who owns the rights to Never Gonna Give You Up? ›

While not mentioned in Astley's complaint, the entity that owns the publishing rights to “Never Gonna Give You Up” is Primary Wave, a prolific purchaser of publishing rights to catalogs tied to Bob Marley, Nirvana, and Prince.

Did Yung Gravy steal Never Gonna Give You Up? ›

Yung Gravy settles with Rick Astley for using 'Never Gonna Give You Up' (the Rickroll song) The 2022 single “Betty (Get Money)” by Yung Gravy, left, borrows heavily from Rick Astley's 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

Has Rick Astley ever been Rickrolled? ›

The meme has also extended to using the song's lyrics, or singing it, in unexpected contexts. Astley himself has also been Rickrolled on several occasions.

When did Rick Astley come out? ›

His first single was the little-known "When You Gonna," released as a collaboration with Lisa Carter. His first solo offering was "Never Gonna Give You Up," Which was released in 1987 which spent five weeks at the top of the British charts and becoming the year's highest-selling single.

What did Yung Gravy do before rapping? ›

Yung Gravy, whose real name is Matthew Hauri, embarked on a career in music after completing his marketing degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2017. While in college, he explored his passion for rapping, drawing inspiration from artists like Lil Yachty and Lil Peep.

What is the Never Gonna Give You Up controversy? ›

The singer's 1987 worldwide hit Never Gonna Give You Up is interpolated in Yung Gravy's song Betty (Get Money). The song features an alleged imitation of Astley's vocals, something the singer said had not been agreed. The lawsuit claims that Astley's distinctive voice is a resource that needs to be carefully managed.

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