Taylor Swift accused of ripping off Beyoncé at Billboard Music Awards

Some Beyoncé fans accused Swift of cultural appropriation and being a copycat after her performance drew comparisons to Beyoncé's 2018 Coachella festival set.
Image: Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift performs onstage during the 2019 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 1, 2019 in Las Vegas.Ethan Miller / Getty Images

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By Janelle Griffith

Taylor Swift is drumming up controversy.

The pop star's performance Wednesday night at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards, in which she incorporated a marching band, has drawn comparisons to Beyoncé's 2018 Coachella festival set — and led some social media users to accuse her of cultural appropriation and being a copycat.

Swift opened a debut performance of her new single "Me!" with a marching band dressed in pink. She then appeared on stage, striking a pose.

Both women have a loyal legion of fans, known as the Beyhive and Swifties, respectively, who went on the attack on social media.

Fans of Beyoncé, who did not attend the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, were quick to speculate whether Swift ripped off her April 2018 Coachella set, in which the R&B megastar transformed the stage into a "Homecoming" celebration. Beyoncé was the first black woman to headline the festival.

Beyoncé, in tradition with the culture and pride of historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, was accompanied by uniformed marching drummers, majorette dancers, steppers and other performers. The almost two-hour performance was the subject of a Netflix documentary, "Homecoming," that debuted last month.

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In the documentary, Beyoncé explains where she derived inspiration for her show at Coachella.

"When I decided to do Coachella, instead of me pulling out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella," she said, referring to black American culture, including HBCUs.

"I always dreamed of going to an HBCU," Beyoncé said. "My college was Destiny's Child. My college was traveling around the world, and life was my teacher."

On Wednesday night, Beyoncé fans attempted to school Swift and her supporters.

Wanna Thompson, a freelance writer and hip-hop critic in Toronto, said the resemblance between Swift and Beyoncé's performances was no coincidence.

"Stop being daft with this Beyoncé/Taylor drumline thing. Yes, artists have incorporated marching bands/drumlines in performances before but TIMING is everything. The world has been BUZZING since #Homecoming. This ain't no coincidence," she wrote on Twitter.

Swift's performance inspired the hashtag, #Mayochella, a play on Beychella, which Beyoncé's Coachella performance was nicknamed.

Some social media users and fans of both women noted that they are both successful, and said that people should not compare the artists.

Swift's Billboard Music Awards performance was not the first time she was accused of copying Beyoncé.

When Swift released her video for the song "Look What You Made Me Do" in 2017, some said it appeared to mirror parts of Beyoncé’s 2016 "Lemonade" visual album.

As was the case Wednesday night, fans and critics alike defended Swift over that accusation.

"I'm not Taylor Swift's biggest fan by any means, but saying she ripped off Beyonce?? Come on. Talk about a reach. People look for drama," one Twitter user said at the time.