And Finally Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #72: Avicii v Leona Lewis

By | Published on Friday 22 July 2011

Leona Lewis

If you know Avicii, it’s most likely for his instrumental track ‘Penguin’, which has gradually been picking up attention over the last six months or so, thanks to radioplay from the likes of Pete Tong, Annie Mac and Scott Mills on Radio 1.

But to really send this track into the mainstream, Avicii and his label, Ministry of Sound, realised it was going to need vocals. If only to disguise the fact that after about ten seconds the piano riff that runs throughout becomes incredibly tedious. So, they duly sent the track out to various music companies seeking a vocalist to add words, ready for its re-release on MOS under the name ‘Fade Into Darkness’.

And so, last week a version of the track with vocals premiered. But the track was credited to the vocalist, one Leona Lewis, rather than Avicii, and her label, Simon Cowell’s Syco, rather than Ministry Of Sound. And it was now called ‘Collide’, rather than ‘Fade Into Darkness’. Strange, but surely all above board?

Not so, says Ministry. The company issued a statement saying that they had “signed Avicii a year ago and have been working on vocal ideas for over six months on the ‘Penguin’ track … but this week we’ve realised Simon Cowell and Leona Lewis have stolen the record”.

The label’s lawyers were consulted, but a rep for Syco reportedly claimed that there was “zero legal case to answer” because “Avicii is already credited as a songwriter on Leona’s song, it’s a case of sour grapes from Ministry Of Sound”.

But, of course, a mere credit (or, for that matter, royalties paid through collecting society MCPS) is not enough if you want to take someone else’s music, drop your own lyrics on top, and release it as a record. Therefore, for Syco’s claim that there is “zero legal case to answer” to be true, Avicii or one of his representatives would have had to have given permission for his music to be used.

And, they all say, no such permission was given. Indeed, they add, they didn’t even know about the Lewis track until it was played on the radio. Responding to reports about Syco’s response, Avicii himself took to Twitter last weekend to say: “To answer everyone, the first time I heard Leona Lewis ‘Collide’ was today. I didn’t produce it and neither me nor my manager could approve it. I’m just upset for someone taking credit of our idea before I had a chance to release it. And for the time and effort that has been put into this by my manager and label”.

Meanwhile that manager, Ash Pournouri, released his own statement, saying: “We never got to hear the track before it was promoed on radio, how could we clear anything? We’re not amateurs – we don’t sign papers without knowing what we’re getting into”.

Being a nice sort, Lewis attempted to clear things up and calm the situation down, tweeting this week: “With regards to my song, Avicii was aware and [agreed] publishing splits for himself and his manager. When Avicii sent his track out to have a song written over it I totally fell in love with this version and I think he’s super talented”.

That actually goes further than the statement previously released by Syco, implying, as it does, that some sort of licensing deal had been struck. But Avicii and Ash had already denied that was so. And despite the flattery, the former went back on Twitter to have another rant at Leona, writing: “Thanks for accusing me of lying and speaking on my behalf. Since we never met or even spoke, please let me and my manager know who told you that and what confirmation they gave you”.

So there you go, then. Everybody’s angry. Though you can see why Avicii and his team might be pissed off. I’ve no idea what ‘Fade Into Darkness’ would have sounded like, but Leona’s version adds some of the worst lyrics you’re likely to hear all year, delivered equally badly by Lewis. If you thought it was tedious as an instrumental, trying to get through this new version is going to feel like pushing your way through a wall of sponge.

Avicii – Penguin

Leona Lewis – Collide