Despite her punk rock posturing and her occasionally brash public behavior, singer Avril Lavigne is sure sensitive about one thing – her reputation.
In an open letter on her official Web site, Lavigne, 22, responds to allegations that her hit single “Girlfriend,” from her latest album The Best Damn Thing, was plagiarized from a 1979 song called “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” by a new wave outfit called the Rubinoos. The group’s songwriters, Tommy Dunbar and James Gangwer, have filed a federal lawsuit against the singer.
“I had never heard this song in my life and their claim is based on 5 words,” Lavigne blogs. “All songs share similar lyrics and emotions. As humans we speak one language.”
In fact, Lavigne lists several songs she argues are lyrically similar (among them, tunes by the Ramones and Rolling Stones). “Simply put, I have been falsely accused of ripping their song off. [Songwriting partner] Luke [Gottwald] and I have done nothing wrong and there is no merit to their claim,” she writes.
The Rubinoos’ suit is not the first time that Lavigne’s songwriting practices have been called into question. In a recent interview with Performing Songwriting Magazine, Canadian singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk discusses collaborating with Lavigne. And she tells the magazine she gave Lavigne the song “Contagious” which, she claims, appears on The Best Damn Thing. On the album, however, the song is credited only to Lavigne and songwriting partner Evan Taubenfeld.
“I was going to be the bigger person and not reply when I read Chantal Kreviazuk’s article,” Lavigne writes. “Our songs have no similarities and opposite meanings, i.e. different lyrics, different melody, different genres. . . . There are hundreds of songs out there with the title ‘Contagious, 75+ on iTunes alone.”
Lavigne adds: “I am not going to sit here and defend my writing skills. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I know who I am and what I have done and accomplished and no one can take that away from me.”
The first court date in the Rubinoos lawsuit is scheduled for August 28 in Oakland.
There is also some dispute over how the lawsuit was made public.
Tommy Dunbar of the Rubinoos has claimed that the band wanted to keep the suit quiet “to save Avril and her handlers any embarrassment,” and that Lavigne’s camp “decided to pre-empt things” and went to the press.
In a statement, Lavigne’s manager, Terry McBride, called that “simply a lie.” Of the lawsuit, he said, “There is no basis for this claim.”
Until the trial, though, fans can judge the putative similarities between the Rubinoos’ song and Lavinge’s hit “Girlfriend.” The band has posted clips of the two side-by-side on their official Web site.