Back in December 2019 Juice Wrld died of an accidental overdose. It was unclear whether Yellowcard was still going to follow through with this lawsuit. This week it was announced that Yellowcard was dropping the case. You can read more about their decision here
Pop punk band Yellowcard is suing Juice WRLD (AKA Jarad A. Higgins) for $15M citing that the melody of their 2006 track “Holly Wood Died” was substantially lifted and used in Juice Wrld’s “Lucid Dreams” (2018).
Here is a comparison of the first verse of “Holly Wood Died” followed by the chorus of “Lucid Dreams”.
Full Youtube videos at the bottom of this post.
I also excerpted section IV of the court filing describing the musical similarities in detail. You can download the entire court filing here as a PDF.
IV. Substantial Similarity
85. In addition to being apparent to the ordinary listener, melodic elements of the works are not only substantially similar, but actually go beyond striking similarity in places, and are virtually identical. Indeed, as shown below, a direct comparison of the musical works transcribed in the same key of A Minor and at the same octave, of both “Holly Wood Died” and the Infringing Work and Infringing Sound Recording, reveals that these works are not only substantially similar, but, as noted, in places are virtually identical. These substantial similarities include, but are not limited to, the following:
86. The vocal melody found in the first verse of “Holly Wood Died” and the vocal melody found in the first chorus of “Lucid Dreams” go beyond substantial similarity.
87. The vocal melodies in question constitute essential identifying features of “Holly Wood Died” in both qualitative and quantitative ways. This is especially important qualitatively as the melody shared between the two works constitutes each song’s distinctive recognizable “hook.”
88. In both songs, the vocal melodies consist of a pair of phrases constituting a passage. This passage recurs three times in the Infringing Work and Infringing Sound Recording. Additionally, this passage appears once in each song superimposed with either the additional verse or the chorus material. These similarities surpass the likelihood of coincidence to the extent that they could only reasonably be the result of an act of copying.
89. The following musical transcriptions demonstrate the strong similarities of the vocal melodies. A solid vertical line indicates a note that is the same in terms of both pitch and synchronicity (timing position). A dotted vertical line indicates a note that is the same in terms of pitch and almost the same in terms of synchronicity.
90. Of the above transcribed eight-bar section, there are 26 vertical lines shown, 18 of which are solid and 8 of which are dotted. There are correlating notes in every single bar of the 8-bar sections in each of the two works.
91. Of the 38 notes that comprise the vocal melody found in the verse of “Holly Wood Died,” 26 have correlating notes in the 41-note vocal melody found in the first chorus of “Lucid Dreams.”
92. Discounting the repeated articulation of the pitch of D in bar 2 of “Lucid Dreams,” the longest span of similar continuous pitches is eight in bars one to two: Holly Wood Died: C-C-G-F-E-C-D-C Lucid Dreams: C-C-G-F-E-C-D-(D)-C
93. In bar two, above, all six notes that comprise the melodic phrase in “Holly Wood Died” have correlating notes in the 7-note melodic phrase found in “Lucid Dreams,” with five of those six notes being identical in terms of pitch and synchronicity, and just one note being identical in terms of pitch but not precisely the same in terms of synchronicity.
94. The preponderance of similar notes in every single bar with one bar in particular (bar two, above) containing notes that are beyond substantially similar, demonstrates that the similarities are the result of copying rather than of coincidence. Indeed, given the access discussion discussed above, and these similarities, any claim of independent creation is dead on arrival. But there is even more.
95. The vocal melody found in the second verse of “Holly Wood Died” features a melodic idiosyncrasy that also appears in the chorus of “Lucid Dreams” in a parallel position. This idiosyncrasy is in the form of a “melisma,” which refers to the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between two or more notes in succession. The following musical transcription demonstrates this similarity, with lines to indicate coincidences of pitch. The last two notes within the excerpts of each song below, occurring in bar 4, demonstrate this occurrence of a melisma in each work.
96. Qualitatively, as seen in the above transcription, of the 21 notes that comprise the vocal melody in the four-bar section of the first chorus of “Lucid Dreams,” 16 have correlating notes in the vocal melody found in bars five to eight of the second verse of “Holly Wood Died.” This totals an approximate 76.2% similarity of the two 4-bar sections.
97. In “Holly Wood Died,” the melisma is found in the setting of the last word (“heart”) of the phrase “like razors they cut through the heart.” The last single-syllable word “heart” is sung to the two pitches C-A with the pitch C falling on the strongly accented downbeat (the first beat) of the bar and the pitch A falling on the second semi-quaver or sixteenth note beat of the bar.
98. In “Lucid Dreams,” the melisma is found on the last word (“dead”) of the phrase “I know that you want me dead.” Just as with “Holly Wood Died,” the last single-syllable word “dead” is also sung to the same two pitches C-A,with the same rhythms and with the same synchronicity (timing position), with the pitch C falling on the strongly accented downbeat of the bar and the pitch A falling on the second semi-quaver or sixteenth note beat of the bar.
99. The melisma represents a shared creative choice which, when combined with the other similarities identified, is even further evidence that the Infringing Work was not independently created.
100. The high degree of objective similarity between the Original Work and the Infringing Work extends well beyond the possibility of coincidence and could only reasonably be the result of an act of copying.
101. The Infringing Work is therefore not wholly an original work, but relies in crucial parts on “Holly Wood Died” for its musical identity. The copying of the Infringing Work was willful.
Juice Wrld – “Lucid Dreams” (2018)
Yellowcard – “Holly Wood Died” (2006)
And finally, the lawyer representing Yellowcard has previously represented the Marvin Gaye Estate against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke and won.