Post Malone Settles with the Musician Who Claimed He Co-Wrote "Circles" | Dallas Observer

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The Post Malone Lawsuit Explained

Post Malone performing at AT&T Stadium. One of his songs, a lawsuit claims, is not exactly his own.
Post Malone performing at AT&T Stadium. One of his songs, a lawsuit claims, is not exactly his own. Natalie Perez
We've heaped a lot of applause and praise on local musical hero Post Malone over the last couple of weeks or so. But not everyone is feeling the love for Posty.

A lawsuit filed in March 2022 by songwriter and musician Tyler Armes claims he should have credit for Malone's hit single "Circles." According to court records, Malone and his attorneys reached an undisclosed settlement with Armes and his team just a day before the case was scheduled to go in front of a judge.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Central District of California, alleged that Malone did not "credit Armes as a co-writer and [has] refused to pay Armes a fair share of the monies derived from the exploitation of 'Circles.'"

Malone and producer Frank Dukes responded to the complaint last January, denying all of Armes' allegations.

Armes is a singer-songwriter from Toronto. He started his career in the late 2000s with the Canadian rap crew Down with Webster, which found an audience on the radio and through the Canadian music channel MuchMusic before starting the alt-indie band Honors. He has song writing credits with Lil Baby for the song "Forget That" and YVS Village's "Only Fans." Armes also wrote the score for the 2021 Canadian Broadcasting Channel docuseries Anyone's Game, according to his bio page for Hallwood Media.

The initial lawsuit claimed Armes first met Malone's manager, Dre London, in 2015 and reconnected three years later when London invited him and his band Honors to a private concert in Toronto. That's where Armes also met Malone, and the two talked about collaborating on some songs together. They produced "Circles" in the studio, the hit single that premiered at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2019, setting a record of 34 weeks spent in the the top 10.

"[Malone] was excited and said, 'Let's write a tune!'" the complaint says. "Armes spent hours in the studio jamming with Post and Dukes and ultimately co-writing the song 'Circles.'"

Armes says he and Dukes co-wrote the song's chords on a keyboard and provided input on the guitar and bass line for the song's melody.

"Dukes exclaimed, 'It's so fucking good!' the complaint reads. "'It's a whole new sound man.' Post said, 'It's super special' and 'That's gonna be the next ... we're just gonna, for the next album we're just gonna use a fuck-load of reverb.'"

"Circles" premiered on London's Instagram page in August 2019, the same day of Malone's Bud Light Dive Bar Tour in New York City. Armes says he texted London, asking for his proper credit for the song.

"'Trying to just be fair here,''" the complaint says Armes wrote in his text message. "'Not asking for much. would just like credit and minimal pub. Please speak to Post."

London responded the next day saying that Malone remembered Armes' involvement, referring to his contributions to the bass line, but "refused" to give him credit or proper compensation for his involvement. Later, London told Armes' manager that Post remembered his larger contribution to the song and offered him a 5% cut of the publishing funds. If he refused, he would get nothing.

Malone stated in court filings that Armes "doesn't have a shred of evidence" to support the claims in his lawsuit shortly after it was filed. He also told the court that Armes' contribution was only a "fragment of a guitar melody," adding it was an "extremely commonplace guitar chord progression."

Armes claims that his exclusion from credit or publishing royalties for "Circles" caused "significant harm to Armes' reputation, career and cost him a host of opportunities that otherwise would have been available had Armes been properly credited as a co-writer and co-producer of the song when it was initially released," according to the complaint.

Malone is far from the first musician to face a judge over songwriting credits. One of the first cases to grab headlines came in 1976, when the Bright Music Corp. took ex-Beatle George Harrison to court for "subconsciously" plagiarizing the 1962 John Mack song "He's So Fine" for Harrison's 1970 hit "My Sweet Lord." The judge in the case said he believes Harrison did not deliberately take the song and turn it into his own work but concluded that "this is, under the law, infringement of copyright and is no less so even though subconsciously accomplished," according to the New York Times archives.

Just around the same time that Armes filed his lawsuit, Lizzo settled a case in a Los Angeles federal court over her 2017 hit "Truth Hurts" in which brothers Justin and Jeremiah Raisen and Yves Rothman accused the singer of not giving them credit for helping writing the song that made her a viral sensation, according to Billboard.

Ed Sheeran faced a civil lawsuit in the U.K. last year brought on by British singer Sami Switch, who claims Sheeran, Snow Patrol's John McDaid and producer Steve McCutcheon stole part of his song "Oh Why" for Sheeran's 2017's "Shape of You." The court ruled in Sheeran's favor over claims of copyright violations and posted on Twitter that claims such as these "have become a culture ... with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it court." 
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.

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