Leonard Cohen in 2008 by Rama.
This Christmas, music took a strange turn towards the democratic, at least in the UK. And it did so in a fairly unexpected way: not in iTunes or because consumers voted with their credit cards at retail (music retail sales are down 20% year over year). Music took a democratic turn when fans of Jeff Buckley decided they had to put a stop to Alexandra Burke’s inevitable ascent to the top of the British charts and set about organizing the digital resistance.
Burke is the winner of ITV’s X Factor, a British talent search reality show. Her version of the Leonard Cohen penned song”Hallelujah” looked poised to be in the top spot in the UK singles chart, when a group of dedicated, self-appointed entertainment activists decided to take matters in their own hands and save us all from the inevitable triumph of Simon Cowell produced starlets. (If you’re interested, you can hear Burke’s competent but somewhat soulless and loud version on Youtube.)
The Facebook group “Jeff Buckley for Xmas No 1” currently has more than 124,000 members (and appears to be growing by 5,000-10,000 members a day). The idea is that everyone who joins the group buys a copy of Buckley’s acclaimed (and very beautiful) version of “Hallelujah” online, from UK digital music outlets such as HMV or iTunes UK. The group creators write:
We can make this work, and make a huge statement against the barrage of cynical manufactured pop dirtying up our charts. I am willing to download this version the week the X factor version comes out, and I know others will be too.
It seems that the whole thing has sort of taken on a life of its own: today (on the Friday before Sunday’s chart publication), another group has organized a flash mob in Trafalgar square in support of the Jeff Buckley for UK #1 initiative.
The Guardian, in its thoughtful report on this year’s odd Christmas chart, points out that both Cohen and the record company are the real winners here:
A spokesman for Sony BMG, which counts Cohen, Buckley and Burke among its artists, said the company hoped Burke would take the top spot, but conceded: “Obviously it would be brilliant if Jeff got to No 2.”
Cohen, who reportedly was swindled out of millions by his manager, can certainly use the additional royalty revenue.
I, for one, am rooting for Jeff Buckley. His version, without a doubt, is the definitive Christmas single. Or should be. Vive la résistance!
Sky News has a fun report about the whole affair, available on Youtube here.