Diane Warren woke up and chose violence on Monday when she took to Twitter and asked, “How can there be 24 authors on a song?” And although she accentuated her question with a prominent emoji, she insisted in a follow-up tweet“It’s not supposed to be shade, I’m just curious.”

While Warren didn’t call anyone by name, the Beyhive quickly began to swarm her, assuming the legendary songwriter was referring to “Alien Superstar,” a standout track from Beyoncé’s seventh studio album. Renaissancewhich has 24 credited authors.

The virtual onslaught on Warren was quick, stinging and at times just plain nasty, with some Beyoncé fans trying to offer “useful” leads on the sample song trade, and others downright intimidating her. In his favor – or perhaps to his detriment, depending on how you see the spats on Twitter – Warren tried to defend himself, bragging that “that’s 23 more” writers who are attributed to her songs, which she writes alone. But after the initial onslaught, she attempted to quell the madness, conceding in another Tweeter“Okay, these are prob samples that add up the number of writers.”

Of course, Warren, who has written hits for everyone from Celine Dion to Cher to Beyoncé herself, knows that. She’s not stupid; she knows how music law works and is well versed in the craft of sampling and the collaborative creative process, even if that’s not how she herself chooses to work. She was probably just feeling sarcastic and thought she would try to prove a point, however tediously.

And yet, the conversation around “Alien Superstar” and the growing trend of pop songwriter committees has persisted, with Renaissance collaborater The-Dream gets involvedand tons of people giving their opinion on the question posed: how box there are 24 authors on a song?

The simple answer is, yes, it’s because of the samples. If you sample or interpolate multiple songs on a new recording, all of those original songwriters get credit, as well as those contributing to the new song. On an album like Renaissance— where Beyoncé uses a slew of samples and interpolations to create lush soundscapes — there’s a ton of credits at your fingertips.

“It makes a lot more sense than people on social media are letting on. Beyoncé sampled three different songs, and with that, she has to include all of the songwriters for those three songs. That’s why there are 24,” says Brooklyn-based entertainment attorney Adam Freedman.

Let’s break down “Alien Superstar”. The track’s intro samples the 2008 song “Moonraker” by John Michael Holiday, who stars as Foremost Poets, while the outro is a spoken part of the 1973 speech “Black Theatre” by Barbara Ann Teer, a writer and teacher who founded Harlem’s Black National Theater in the 1960s. Then, in the song itself, Beyoncé interpolates Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” as she sings “I’ m too classy for this world, forever I’m that girl”. Those three samples add up to seven credited writers right there.

Beyoncé bringing in a slew of collaborators is nothing new; in fact, we almost had this exact conversation back in 2016, when she released Lemonade. This album had 72 songwriters in total, plus Beyoncé, in its credits, prompting many thoughts on whether or not her work had been diminished by enlisting so many accomplices.

In reality, however, all of this has less to do with artistic integrity and much more to do with something far less sexy: intellectual property law. The roots of this mostly go back to 1991, with two seminal (and very expensive) court cases that changed the way we define songwriting. That year, the Turtles triumphed in a sampling trial against hip-hop duo De La Soul, who had to pay the group $1.7 million. Then Biz Markie had to pay Gilbert O’Sullivan $250,000 in damages in a separate costume later that year. Both cases made it clear that the sampled acts held the power over the samplers, and ultimately the solution was that the sampled songwriters had to be assigned as songwriters on the new compositions.

That said, the sheer number of people credited on “Alien Superstar” may not be for the best for everyone involved. Karl Fowlkes, a New York-based entertainment and business attorney, says, “Music in the streaming world can be hugely lucrative, but when you start to really carve it up, it can get very small very quickly.

Speaking specifically about “Alien Superstar,” Fowlkes explains, “There are a lot of people with probably 1% posts on that song. The bucket is not that big. There’s still probably one or two main producers for this song, and you have to tell them, ‘Hey, I know you produced this record but you’re only going to get, say, 5% release.’ (Always, as Freedman points out: “Even two percent of a Beyoncé song that gets a billion streams will make me a lot of money.”)

“Even two percent of a Beyoncé song that gets a billion streams will make me a lot of money.”

Fowlkes compared the ‘Alien Superstar’ situation to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Die Hard’, on the rapper’s recently released album. Mr. Morale and Big Steps. This song had two samples and 14 credited authors, including one represented by Fowlkes. “A lot of people would be like, ‘Please throw this song away because it’s going to be too complicated. But Beyoncé and Kendrick can do whatever they want,” he said, adding that it’s easier for big-name artists like them to deal with the legal headaches of sampling. And because he is such a nuisance to use multiple samples on a single song, he doesn’t foresee it becoming a trend in the music world.

“In terms of samples leading to 24 songwriters, it doesn’t happen that much. It’s a bad business decision, because everyone gets less of the pie. I don’t think that’s our tendency. I know there is data it says there are more songwriters per song now, but you’re talking about five or six or seven, not more than 10,” he says. “Producers are probably dependent on royalties for their income, so imagine saying to a producer who has produced the majority of a record, but there are two samples in it…it’s just not lucrative. no Sens.

All legal bureaucracy aside, it could be argued that Beyoncé’s propensity to sample on Renaissance should actually be a point of celebration. An ode to black and queer music history, Beyoncé uses the album to honor some of the artists responsible for that history – liner notes include credits for legendary ballroom DJ MikeQ, ballroom pioneer Vjuan Allure, drag icons Kevin Aviance and Moi Renee, and more. And “Alien Superstar” is perhaps the most egregious example of this homage to ballroom culture: a bold, self-celebrating anthem that makes you think the more creative influences involved, the better the music. .

“Maybe she meant well with them,” Freedman points out, adding that Beyoncé’s apparent pursuit of giving credit where credit is due is actually something of a rarity in the hip-hop world. , where sample compensation is “handled much looser”. than in other genres.

“I work mostly in hip-hop, and most artists wouldn’t have cleaned everything up beforehand and done it right,” he says. “They would have waited for you to know and approached them. For example, Migos releases an album, they didn’t pay the producers before it was released. It’s always after.

“The main reason one would reach out to erase a song would be to negotiate a lower rate than what’s required,” Freedman says, adding that Beyoncé probably got ahead “because she’s such a big company. , at the end of the day. I think Beyoncé did everything right and people are trying to make an argument out of it.”

And while we don’t know of his specific contributions to “Alien Superstar” or any other track on Renaissance— for example if she wrote entire verses or just changed a word in the booth — Fowlkes says it’s foolish to question her songwriting credits on every track on the album. “Beyoncé is the one who performs the song all over the world. It’s her branding that even gives the edit any value. So if she wrote half a lyric or 10 bars on it, she’s justified .

Warren, for his part, eventually changed his mind about questioning the “Alien Superstar” roster and the superstar at its center, Tweeter“Okay, I didn’t mean to disrespect @Beyoncé who I’ve worked with and admire. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.

We have to imagine that Bey doesn’t care much about it; as she tells us herself on “Alien Superstar”, she remains “flying over bullshit”.