On Monday, August 8, Taylor Swift responded personally to the plagiarism lawsuit from songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler that she was first hit with in 2017. The pair claim that her massive hit “Shake It Off” was stolen in part from 3LW’s 2001 TRL staple “Playas Gon’ Play.” The band was led by Naturi Naughton, Adrienne Bailon, and Kiely Williams, later known for their roles in The Cheetah Girls franchise.
Hall and Butler’s accusations center around some similarity in the lyrics: 3LW sings, “playas, they gonna play” and “haters, they gonna hate.” Swift sings, “‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate.”
Both songs make salient points, but Swift has said in a sworn declaration that was filed in response to the lawsuit that she had never even heard of 3LW before these allegations.
“The lyrics to ‘Shake It Off’ were written entirely by me,” Swift responded, according to Billboard. “Until learning about Plaintiffs’ claim in 2017, I had never heard the song ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ and had never heard of that song or the group 3LW.”
The band was best known for their hit “No More (Baby I’ma Do Right)” and they were popular when Swift was quite young, as she emphasized when she added that her parents “did not permit me to watch TRL until I was about 13 years old.”
Swift added, “None of the CDs I listened to as a child, or after that, were by 3LW. I have never heard the song ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ on the radio, on television, or in any film. The first time I ever heard the song was after this claim was made.”
The statement also offered a bit of insight into Swift’s general creative process. She outlined her inspiration for the song, largely experiences from her own life.
“In writing the lyrics, I drew partly on experiences in my life and, in particular, unrelenting public scrutiny of my personal life, ‘clickbait’ reporting, public manipulation, and other forms of negative personal criticism which I learned I just needed to shake off and focus on my music,” Swift explained. “I recall hearing phrases about players play and haters hate stated together by other children while attending school in Wyomissing Hills, and in high school in Hendersonville. These phrases were akin to other commonly used sayings like ‘don’t hate the playa, hate the game,’ ‘take a chill pill,’ and ‘say it, don’t spray it.’”
In short, her lyrics reflected her experience and the experience of every middle schooler of the era.