For the second time, R&B icon Mariah Carey is being sued over her equally iconic seasonal hit, “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
According to Billboard, a songwriter named Vince Vance, who first sued Carey over the song last year but ultimately dropped the suit, filed a new complaint Wednesday in a Los Angeles federal court alleging that Carey’s 1994 holiday hit—which can be heard ad nauseam every year in malls, grocery stores and other public places as early as October—infringed the copyrights to his 1989 song of the exact same name.
Now, Vance is back with a stronger legal team and a more detailed case against the “Touch My Body” singer and her smash Christmas hit that, frankly, would certainly eclipse this little-known songwriter’s Christmas bop no matter what it was officially titled. (Seriously, we’re talking about Mariah Carey, y’all.) Although, Vance clearly disagrees.
But the new case includes far more detailed — and far more personal — allegations against Carey, including that she made up the story of how she wrote the song, and that her own co-writer, Walter Afanasieff, has disputed that story.
“Carey has without licensing, palmed off these works with her incredulous origin story, as if those works were her own,” Vance’s new lawyers wrote in the re-filed complaint. “Her hubris knowing no bounds, even her co-credited songwriter doesn’t believe the story she has spun. This is simply a case of actionable infringement.”
Just like his first lawsuit, Vance’s new complaint claims his own “All I Want for Christmas is You” was recorded by his Vince Vance and the Valiants in 1989 and had received “extensive airplay” during the 1993 holiday season — a year before Carey released her better-known song under the same name.
But his new lawsuit includes new details about the success of his earlier song, calling it a “a country music hit” that peaked at No. 31 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and later reached No. 23 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart (re-named the Radio Songs chart in 2014.) He’s also now joined as a plaintiff by Troy Powers, who claims to have co-written the earlier song.
So, basically, Vance is claiming his country Christmas carol was doing well on the charts until Carey’s song— which Billboard noted “has reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 during each of the past four holiday seasons”—came along and made everyone forget his little Holiday jingle even existed.
It’s also unclear why it would even matter legally that Carey may have fabricated her inspiration for writing the story. That seems like an unrelated detail that would have nothing to do with copyright infringement, although it does indicate that Vance’s suit might be more about pettiness and spite than it is about right and wrong.
However, it’s worth noting that Vance isn’t only claiming Carey stole the title of his song. His new suit alleges that there are striking similarities between the two songs, including the “unique linguistic structure” and musical elements that Carey allegedly ripped from Vance’s song.
“The phrase ‘all I want for Christmas is you’ may seem like a common parlance today, in 1988 it was, in context, distinctive,” Vance’s lawyers wrote. “Moreover, the combination of the specific chord progression in the melody paired with the verbatim hook was a greater than 50% clone of Vance’s original work, in both lyric choice and chord expressions.”
Speaking of Vance’s attorneys, Billboard reported that he’s now being represented by Gerard P. Fox, the lawyer who represented two songwriters who accused Taylor Swift of stealing the lyrics to “Shake It Off.” That legal battle went on for five years before it ended late last year with a confidential settlement. So, if Vance does have a case that can be proven, he might just have the heavy-hitting legal team that can make it happen this time around.
But one probably shouldn’t expect Carey to be shaking in her Christmas boots right about now. (Again, it’s Mariah Carey, y’all. Come on now.)
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