Released in 2019 off Smith’s third studio album Love Goes, “Dancing with a Stranger” is one of their top-charting hits, peaking at No. 7 on the Hot 100 chart. The lawsuit was brought by songwriters Jordan Vincent, Christopher Miranda and Rosco Banlaoi in March, alleging that Smith and Normani (real name Normani Kordei Hamilton) copied the trio’s little-known 2015 song of the same name.
Smith, Normani and songwriters Mikkel S. Eriksen and Tor E. Hermansen of Stargate, and Jimmy Napier, as well as their publishing companies, were represented by Davis Wright Tremaine’s Peter Anderson, Sean M. Sullivan and Eric H. Lamm. In July, the attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, attacking the lawsuit’s core accusations and arguing that many of the alleged similarities between the two songs — such as the “shape of the melody” — were just common musical tropes or abstract ideas that are not protectable under copyright law.
In Judge Wesley L. Hsu‘s ruling on Wednesday, he wrote that the melodic phrases in question — sections in the hooks where both songs contain the lyrics “dancing with a stranger” — “are not substantially similar.”
In coming to his ruling, the judge reviewed the plaintiffs’ claims that “lyrics, pitch sequence, melodic contour, metric placement of the syllables, rhythm, feel, and structure” all represent musical elements that the defendants appropriated — but found that “most if not all of the 28 Plaintiff’s claimed similarities” are not protectable under law. Those that are protectable, Hsu ruled, Smith and Normani’s Dancing With a Stranger” did not unlawfully appropriate.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, AJ Fluehr of Francis Alexander, did not respond to a request for comment at time of publishing.