Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hallelujah - Which Version?

I was lying in bed yesterday when I heard from downstairs a song I recognised but a version a didn't. Yes it was the X-Factor winners version of Leonard Cohen's song Hallelujah. Personally I am a great fan of the definitive version, in my view, by Jeff Buckley. Buckley's voice here is perfect for such a song with the raw emotion he manages to muster.

Now this is song everyone knows, or at least has heard somewhere along the way. However if you listen to the lyrics you find that what the song is about is not what the melody itself would bring out. It is a very catchy chorus that seems quite positive. Hallelujah means 'Praise the Lord' after all. However it is a deeply subversive song about emotional and sexual torment and even violence among other things. Very cleverly written by Cohen.

This leads me on to the X-Factor version. Well all I can say is:


Another clone comes out of the manufactured pop factory of Simon Cowell and his cohorts. Yes she can sing, that is obvious. But to do that to the song! I know she didn't write that version so she is not totally to blame. But please! To design a competition so that it guarantees the Christmas #1 is frankly criminal and then to do it with this song deserves a criminal record. Which it is, do you get it ;-) Ho Ho!

Anyway for a good article about the songs History click HERE!

For Buckley's version on youtube Click HERE!

1 comment:

Nick Payne said...

I don't like the X Factor version either. She sings it as triumphant ballad but it's a song about the relationship between spirituality and sensuality and how men of conviction can come undone at the hands of women (the obvious allusions and parallels to David and Samson are the key).

It has two ways of being looked at (often one becomes more prominent depending which version is sung), secular or spiritual.

There should be a degree of brokenness to it... but she doesn't carry that at all.

I'm a bit sexist about this song, I don't think there are many women who can carry this off because it's sung largely from a male perspective (women are generally more collective and have others to fall back on, men tend to deal with their emotions in more solitary fashion... the lucky and blessed ones have God to fall back on too). I'm a big fan of Katherine Jenkins... but I think the only female version I've heard that's worth it's salt, is by Alison Crowe.

Cohen is a traditional songwriter, I've heard it said there are about 90 verses to Hallelujah and only a handful made it (although other versions do use a couple of different or extra verses and Cohen does modulate between them and even invent new ones for his tours).