Martin Bandier hails million-selling 'Hallelujah'
Alexandra Burke cover spends three weeks at No. 1LONDON -- Sony/ATV Music Publishing chairman and CEO Martin Bandier has spoken of the longevity and current success of "Hallelujah," which is No. 1 in the U.K. singles chart.
The cover of Leonard Cohen's 1984 song by Alexandra Burke, winner of the TV music talent show "The X-Factor," will officially become a million-sellling single by the end of the week. After three weeks at No. 1, the Syco/Sony Music Entertainment release had sold 992,387 copies by Jan. 3, according to the Official Charts Co.
The publishing rights to "Hallelujah" are controlled by Sony/ATV. Bandier said it belongs to a select group of compositions that have the "ability to evoke emotion and memories and create something that is lasting."
"Hallelujah is one of those songs, it's been around for a while and it never ceases to catch the attention of people when it's played and performed," Bandier tells Billboard.biz.
While Burke's single was the biggest-seller of 2008 in the U.K., according to the Official Charts Co, it was one of a number of versions in the chart. When Burke secured the Christmas No. 1 on Dec. 21, Jeff Buckley's version from 1994 album "Grace" (Columbia) was at No. 2 -- the first time the same song has held the first and second positions on the U.K. chart since 1957. Cohen's version made No. 36, while Bon Jovi's version and Kate Voegele's also made the Top 200.
Bandier said the song will always make a connection with the public. "I think that's what happens whenever it's performed and wherever it's performed, whether Leonard Cohen does it himself or whether you hear a version by Jeff Buckley," Bandier said, "it's one of those truly emotional songs that cuts across all genders, genres, religions, it feels very spiritual."
The success of the song will benefit Leonard Cohen, following a widely reported fraud. A court ruled in March 2006 that $9.5 million was stolen by an ex-manager of the veteran Canadian artist and it then emerged that Cohen was unlikely to recover the money.
Cohen staged a successful comeback tour last year, promoted by AEG Live.
"It's kind of interesting that this year Leonard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, which again is a real tribute to him and I think in a certain manner it's almost a tribute to that song ("Hallelujah")," Bandier said. "Because it does cut across all borders. There are no limits to that song and what it can be used for and who would like to hear it, or who would like to become emotionally attached to it."
He adds, "This is one of those songs that we very carefully guard in terms of how it's used and who it's licensed to for product endorsement and anything like that. I think that there are wonderful things that are out there where the song can be used. We're not against it but I do think that we carefully watch it. To put it in today's parlance it's protecting the brand. 'Hallelujah' is a brand."
Although no approval was necessary for the song to be released by the winner of "The X Factor," the Sony/ATV boss was happy to see it being chosen by Simon Cowell, one of the show's judges. His company Syco is also behind the TV format and signed Burke.
"Simon Cowell is one of the great song people in the world, there's no question that he has the ability to recognize incredible melodies and lyrics and knows what works," Bandier said. "So I think that for him to pick this song, I think first of all it's a tribute to him and I think we're proud of the fact he would pick that song. But we're also proud of the fact that we're involved with that song and his selection of it only reinforces our own view about how spectacular the song is."
Bandier said that Cohen is being regularly updated on the current success of his song.
For more on Alexandra Burke and "Hallelujah," see the current issue of Billboard magazine.