Wednesday, January 7, 2009

song of the day - 1.7.09: hallelujah

As I eagerly await the new American Idol season (yeah, I said it!), I've been reflecting on the highlights of last season. Besides lamenting the defeat of David Archuleta at the hands of the much less talented emo-comb-over-boy David Cook, the most memorable moment for me was when the goofy, dreadlocked Jason Castro sang a passable version of one of my favorite songs of all time, Hallelujah.

The song, originally written by the greatest Canadian ever, Leonard Cohen, has been covered by pretty much anyone who can carry a tune, from Imogen Heap to Bob Dylan (ok, Dylan can't really carry a tune, but you know what I mean). It was used in Shrek, Scrubs, Dateline, Third Watch, Basquiat, Without a Trace, and a whole bunch of other TV shows and movies, especially when someone has died.

Apparently Cohen wrote over 80 verses, most of which he scrapped, but about 15 of which are mixed and matched by the various cover artists in their attempts to bask in the light of someone else's masterpiece. Only a few of the verses are Biblical references. Other verses imply a more sexual meaning. Apparently, Jeff Buckley described his version as an homage to "the hallelujah of the orgasm."

There's plenty of argument over who did the best cover of this song. I say it's Jeff Buckley. His version really is something of a spiritual experience. It's so moving and beautiful, I dare you to listen to it and not get goosebumps. Try it! John Cale did a great version too, and some say his is the version that everyone else bases their covers on, not Cohen's. I can see that. Rufus Wainwright does a great cover too. You can judge for yourself. I've posted 15 versions of Hallelujah here, and I dare you to listen to them all back to back. Ok don't, and definitely don't start with U2's version, because it's horrible.


lac582 said...

I too love Jeff Buckley's version of that song, and thought Castro did a good job. But Archuleta over Cook? Please.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to say John Cale's version is my favorite,you get a different vibe.Cohen saying "hallelujah" sounds so cynical,which is his thing,while Cale's sounds like it is being performed in a church.

Bret said...

I really like Castro's version -- that's the persona he should have continued to cultivate on the show, and by deviating he ended up screwing himself. I'll listen to all versions when I have a chance, but of course Buckley's is a classic. I've also listened to, and like, Rufus Wainwright's version as well, but it lacks the uniqueness of Buckley's. What do you think of Wainwright's cover of Across the Universe (another one of my favorite songs)?

Bret said...

And I have to agree with the "But Archuleta over Cook? Please" comment. Cook can actually write music, which was extremely refreshing. My favorite was his rendition of Billy Jean (cribbed from Chris Cornell, of course).