According to some, Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" is far from The Best Damn Thing.
Songwriters Tommy Dunbar, of the band the Rubinoos, and James Gangwer sued the Canadian pop princess Monday for copyright infringement, claiming that her hit single closely resembles their 1979 tune "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," because both feature that catchy, "Hey, hey, you, you" part. (View the Lawsuit.)
"Hey, hey, you, you, I wanna be your boyfriend," goes the Rubinoos' track, while Lavigne, of course, opines, "Hey, hey, you, you, I don't like your girlfriend," among other "hey, hey, you, you" attention-getting devices, including "I want to be your girlfriend" and "I know that you like me."
In a statement posted on her Website Friday, Lavigne more or less dismissed the Rubinoos' claims.
"They claim that a small part of the lyrics are the same and are saying that I took these from them," she wrote. "I had never heard this song in my life and their claim is based on 5 words! All songs share similar lyrics and emotions. As humans we speak one language.
"Off the top of my head, two other songs that I can immediately think of with this type of lyric are 'Hey, hey, you, you get off of my cloud' by the Rolling Stones and 'Hey little girl I want to be your boyfriend' by the Ramones. Simply put, I have been falsely accused of ripping their song off. Luke and I have done nothing wrong and there is no merit to their claim."
Lavigne's Vancouver-based manager, Nettwerk Music Group CEO Terry McBride, told the Canadian Press that he hired a musicologist to study both songs and that there's no evidence of copycatting.
"This one came back so solidly on our side it's just ridiculous," McBride said, although he also says that he would consider settling with the plaintiffs if the costs of defending the suit outweigh the benefits, citing a previous claim against his client and fellow Canadian Sarah McLachlan that cost $500,000 to defeat in court.
"Avril's very, very sensible. She knows music well," McBride said. "If the chords had been similar, the melodies had been similar, lyrics had been similar…she would have gone, 'OK, I can see their point.' But nothing's similar."
Dunbar and Gangwer's attorney, however, told the CP that the similarities are clear and that Lavigne copied sizable parts of "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend."
"She's made a lot of money off my client's song," Nicholas Carlin said from San Francisco, where the lawsuit was filed in Federal District Court. "The entire song is not the same, they have different bridges, but the heart and soul of her song is directly taken from our client's song."
Carlin also hired a musicologist, who "confirmed that the songs have, in her words, 'a high degree of similarity.'"
A statement from the plaintiffs also goes on to cite Billboard critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine's review of Lavigne's album, in which he writes that "Girlfriend's" chorus is "a total lift from the Rubinoos' 'I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.'"
The suit also names Avril Lavigne Publishing and the singer's songwriting partner, Luke Gottwald, aka Dr. Luke, as defendants. Dunbar and Gangwer are seeking unspecified damages.
A court date has been set for Aug. 28 in Oakland, California.
The Best Damn Thing, Lavigne's third studio album, has sold more than 4 million copies. The multiplatinum effort is also gaining its fair share of attention from supposedly scorned songwriters, as well, however.
The Rubinoos lawsuit comes less than a month after Chantal Kreviazuk told Performing Songwriter magazine that she supplied Lavigne with the new song "Contagious" two years ago and was mighty surprised to see it show up on The Best Damn Thing with songwriting credits by Lavigne and Evan Taubenfeld.
McBride said that Kreviazuk has since retracted her statement to the publication. "I know, personally, she regrets saying what she said," McBride told the CP. "The interviewer obviously got Chantal on a bad day."
"Let it be crystal clear that I have not ripped anyone off or done anything wrong," Lavigne's posting continued. "I have never had to deal with anything publicly like this and surely never wanted to. I do not deserve this negative press and attention. I take pride in the songs that I write and appreciate the opportunities to work with some great writers and musicians."
(Originally published July 5, 2007 at 7:58 p.m. PT)