Is her “Girlfriend” really just “Boyfriend” in drag?
You might have heard that Avril Lavigne and co-writer Luke Gottwald are being sued by Tommy Dunbar of The Rubinoos over her latest hit “Girlfriend”. The case hangs on the chorus and all I can say is, “Ouch”. That is some similarity. Lavigne is claiming that she has “never ripped anyone off”. Is this possible? I say yes. Click through to find out why and to compare the tracks.
The Rubinoos are a 70s power-pop outfit whose trademark was bright upbeat tunes. They had two hits, “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” and have been occasionally reforming, recording and touring again since the 80s. The case against Lavigne and Gottwald is simple. Even writing out the lyrics is enough “Hey (hey), you (you) I wanna be your boyfriend”. The song was covered by a number of groups after that and also featured regularly on US TV.
When courts look at cases of possible plagiarism, two major issues are actual similarity and access. It is entirely possible that either Gottwald or Lavigne heard “Boyfriend” and incorporated the chorus into the song, albeit unwittingly. So I have no reason to particularly doubt Lavigne when she cries innocence. But that does not stop the chorus from being derived from the original Rubinoos song. Plagiarism is a nasty word. But the resemblance here is just too obvious.
Avril’s Girlfriend lyrics not necessarily a rip-off
Many years back the band I was in was particularly proud of a chorus we wrote that turned out to be a note-for-note lift from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” (we were ambitious).
In many ways, I sympathise with Lavigne. As she notes on her website, she is being attacked from all sides. This, unfortunately, is inevitable when you have hits. There is always someone who will try and claim ownership of your songs – often previous writing partners!
To check out the various versions of The Rubinoos and Lavigne songs, visit the Rubinoos site. (EDIT: as they settled out of court, the Rubinoos have removed all references from their site. That’s what I call gentlemen! Meanwhile, check the comments below for a comparison).