Kanye West’s Backstreet Boys Song ‘Everybody,’ Explained



There were any number of notable moments in Kanye West’s public listening session for his new album, “Vultures,” in Miami late Monday night — which included Nazi imagery, a lyric referencing antisemitism and West donning a black Ku Klux Klansman’s hood — but one of the most striking was his use of the Backstreet Boys’ 1997 hit “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” in the first song he played, titled “Everybody.”

The legalities around that use are more complicated than they might seem. Instead of mining a sample from the boy band, the song features a recreated chorus from Charlie Wilson, who joins West, Ty and Lil Baby on the track — i.e. an interpolation, essentially a cover of a segment of a song re-sung or re-played in another song.

While a sample would require permission from both a record label and a publisher (or whoever those rights holders may be), because an interpolation does not use a recording, only the publisher’s permission is required.

The Backstreet Boys are not writers of the song, which bears the credits of mega-hitmaker Max Martin and his late mentor, Denniz Pop; Martin’s publishing is handled by Kobalt. Thus, the group had no control over the use of that song, or any other on which they are not credited songwriters; Martin or Pop’s estate presumably could have but apparently did not.

Reps for Backstreet, Martin and Kobalt either declined or did not respond to Variety’s requests for comment on the song’s use, with Kobalt’s rep adding simply, “We do not comment on legal matters.”

West’s album, titled “Vultures,” is presumably dropping late Thursday, although it remains unclear who its distributor will be. West parted ways with his longtime label, Def Jam, and publisher, Sony Music Publishing, in 2021 at the conclusion of his contracts with both, although that news did not become public until he began airing unapologetically antisemitic comments, which resulted in the loss of multiple lucrative business deals, last year.


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