11 August 2022

Was Kelis’ outburst over Beyoncé’s ‘Energy’ justified?

The singer was never officially listed as a songwriter or composer for ‘Milkshake’, meaning she held no copyright over the song.

After Beyoncé released her latest album, Renaissance, singer Kelis quickly pointed out she hadn’t been made aware of the interpolation of her 2003 track ‘Milkshake.’ However, it appears Kelis was never officially listed as a songwriter for the track.

Beyoncé recently removed her interpolation of Kelis’ track from the song ‘Energy’ but was she right to do so, or was it just an easy response to the backlash? 

According to official song credits, Kelis was never listed as a songwriter or composer. The only official songwriters and composers for the hit were The Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo. Therefore, the artist doesn’t gain any royalties from the song unless she performs it herself. However, it turns out Kelis was listed as a songwriter for Beyoncé’s track, meaning she would receive royalties from the track for years to come had she not been removed. 

In 2020, Kelis revealed in an interview with The Guardian that she doesn’t make any money from her two albums produced by The Neptunes. She said that she was told everything would be split three ways and so didn’t double-check when presented with the contract.

She was 19 at the time of signing the contract and claimed that she was “blatantly lied to and tricked” but didn’t notice at first because she had other sources of income, like from touring. “Their argument is: ‘Well, you signed it.’ I’m like: ‘Yeah, I signed what I was told, and I was too young and too stupid to double-check it.’” So, due to the contract, Kelis doesn’t have any copyright in the song ‘Milkshake,’ or indeed much of her first and second albums.

In the music industry, when a song is recorded, it has two rights attached to it. One in the actual sound recording and one in the song itself. This is why Taylor Swift re-recorded and released Red to reclaim her rights to the sound recordings. She was the owner of the songs themselves but not the recordings, forcing her to redo the album.

This whole debacle kicked off on July 25th after a Kelis fan page on Instagram shared that Beyoncé would be sampling a song from the star, which was the first Kelis had heard of the news. The R&B star then commented: “My mind is blown too because the level of disrespect and utter ignorance of all three parties involved is astounding. I heard about this the same way everyone else did. Nothing is ever as it seems, some of the people in this business have no soul or integrity and they have everyone fooled.” However, it seems Queen Bey was in the right all along.

  • Writer Chris Saunders
  • Banner Image Credit Instagram / Beyoncé

Related Content