Music/Popular Culture

TunesDay: Hallelujah

And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

In Saturday’s tribute to Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili I noted the heartwrenching beauty of kd lang’s rendition of “Hallelujah” at the Olympic opening ceremonies in Vancouver on Friday night. I’ve long thought Leonard Cohen’s masterpiece, which binds together untold depths of hope, joy, sadness and loss, was as perfect a song as it is possible to write. It seems to bring out the absolute best in every singer who covers it.

Today we’re taking a few minutes to honor Cohen and “Hallelujah.” I hope you enjoy these performances, which are simply transcendent in their beauty.

We begin with kd lang at the 2005 Juno Awards:

The song’s greatness isn’t just recognized in North America Espen Lind, Askil Holm, Alejandro Fuentes and Kurt Nilsen are four talented Norwegians who get its magic, as well. The kid who sings the anchor leg here is Nilsen, who I guess was a World Idol contestant. And as bad as I hate the prefabrication those Idol put-up jobs, he can absolutely sing.

The late Jeff Buckley turned in one of the most famous versions.

As Alexandra Burke demonstrates, “Hallelujah” is so beautiful it can even momentarily transcend the cynicism of a Simon Cowell dog and pony show.

Cohen’s Canadian countrymen, and Canadian artists in particular, seem to take particular pride in “Hallelujah,” and that’s certainly the case for Allison Crowe.

Here Il Divo perform “Hallelujah” live at the Arena at Pula, one of the most well-preserved Roman Coliseums in the world.

John Cale’s intimate chamber arrangement takes the song to a slightly different, and perhaps even more melancholy place.

Imogen Heap does a haunted little a capella take.

I’ve never had much time for Justin Timberlake, but his duet with Matt Morris at the Hope for Haiti concert was quite nice.

The most famous version, by virtue of its prominent placement in Shrek, is probably Rufus Wainwright’s. If you don’t think that Jeff Buckley or kd lang have the greatest cover, then odds are good you favor this one. Here’s Wainwright performing “Hallelujah” live.

Here’s a quiet acoustic version from Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge.

Finally, let’s close with the man himself.

Happy Tunesday.

11 replies »

  1. Thank you for this collection. And thank you Leonard Cohen! Hallelujah is magnificent and ypu’re right it brings out the best in performers and all people. I love many of these versions. Allison Crowe is a particular favorite.

  2. A lovely collection, Sam. Thanks! I always love hearing Leonard himself.
    kd’s version of Neil Young’s Helpless is pretty amazing too.
    Although she can do whatever she wants as far as I’m concerned.

    • Heh – a Hallelujah ToR. We could probably just go directly to the semis: Cohen, lang, Wainwright and Buckley. If we took the trouble of posting it to a Jeff Buckley fan board, we could skip the voting and just crown him the winner. Of course, if any of them got to snooping around and discovered that Buckley didn’t win the Legends contest we’d never hear the end of them….