The Resurgence of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
Post Reply
User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 7221
Joined: Thu Jun 27, 2002 1:01 am
Location: Espoo, Finland

The Resurgence of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"

Post by jarkko » Fri Feb 26, 2010 3:57 pm ... [quote]The Resurgence of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"
by Maura Johnston February 26, 2010, 12:01 AM

Photo illustration by Hamish Robertson. Leonard Cohen photograph by Rama.

In the past month, Leonard Cohen’s 1985 composition “Hallelujah” has experienced what seems like its fifth resurgence of the past 10 years. Cohen’s ode to sex, transcendence, and key changes appeared on three major television events of varying levels of gravitas: Justin Timberlake, sitting at a piano, performed the track on the Hope For Haiti Now telethon with the assistance of a former Mickey Mouse Club co-star; k.d. lang, alone on a podium in all white, crooned the track during the Olympic Games’ Canada-saluting opening ceremonies; and the American Idol producers scored a montage of this season’s finalists celebrating their triumphs to Jeff Buckley’s cover, which appeared on his 1994 album, Grace.

This isn’t the first time that Cohen’s song—or, rather, others’ interpretations of it—has seemingly blanketed the airwaves. In 2007, music writer Mike Barthel wrote an analysis of the song’s popularity with music supervisors, particularly in situations where sincerity was a prerequisite. Barthel notes that, in the early 2000s, ex–Velvet Underground member John Cale’s take appeared alongside Smash Mouth’s peppy “All Star” on the soundtrack to the animated-gnome film Shrek, after which the song took on a life of its own on TV; different versions of “Hallelujah” were employed as signifiers of serious business on youth-leaning shows like Scrubs and The O.C. (The latter utilized Buckley’s cover and one by quirky songbird Imogen Heap.)

And there’s more: The rock band Fall Out Boy sprinkled the song’s chorus into their 2007 track “Hum Hallelujah”; FOB cohorts Paramore also integrated it into their live show (as a way of introducing their own track with the same name). “Hallelujah” got what was arguably its biggest Stateside exposure in the spring of 2008, when the dreadlocked American Idol hopeful Jason Castro meticulously covered the Buckley/Cale interpretation on the televised talent show—causing Buckley’s version to soar to No. 1 on the U.S. Digital Tracks chart.

Idol’s cantankerous Simon Cowell took note of this success, subsequently declaring Buckley’s take “one of [his] favorite songs of all time” and lining up the rights for “Halleljuah” to be used as the “coronation song” for the winner of his British talent show The X Factor later that year. (That version went to No. 1 on the U.K. singles charts and helped Buckley’s cover vault back into the top five.)

Shows like Idol and The X Factor place a premium on a singer’s ability to “connect” with a song, and “Hallelujah” definitely has lots of places where a singer can grab on. The song’s pre-Shrek history—written by the serious troubadour Cohen, covered by the underground-rock pioneer Cale, and remade once again by the gone-before-his-time Buckley—implies a place in the firmament just as much as the lyrics, which meld together the sacred and the profane in different ways depending on what verses are employed. (Cohen apparently wrote about 80.)

Watching performances of “Hallelujah” by people who aren’t Cohen—whose original take has an archness that’s wiped away by the clear-eyed sincerity offered up by his successors—you see one common thread: each singer really feels the song, closing their eyes at least once in every performance to properly communicate that what they are singing is Serious Business. This despite the cut-and-paste nature of the covers, some of which elide the song’s more disturbing imagery (“She tied you to her kitchen chair / She broke your throne and she cut your hair”) in an effort to expedite the journey to the song’s hymn-like, catharsis-providing chorus.

“‘Hallelujah,’” Barthel wrote in 2007, “offers all those great, resonant Biblical signifiers and intense religious emotions without the proselytizing or the attempt at a modern updating.” And it’s telling that the first major usage of the song in 2010 was in the context of an oustretched hand; proceeds from the studio version’s iTunes sales went to help victims of the January earthquake in Haiti. When Timberlake was asked why he took on Cohen for charity, he told MTV, “The way that it’s written can be interpreted many different ways. But the emotion that comes through—the chords, the melody, and also what’s being said in the song—it just kind of fit for the telethon.” (He, like Cowell, cited the track as one of his favorites, although it’s unclear whose version he prefers.)

Cohen himself seems somewhat bemused by the New Sincerity–boosted success of “Hallelujah,” which didn’t even rate a mention in his 1996 biography. Shortly after last year’s release of the comic-book adaptation Watchmen, which uses “Hallelujah” in a widely derided love scene, he told the CBC: “I was just reading a review of a movie called Watchmen that uses it and the reviewer said, ‘Can we please have a moratorium on “Hallelujah” in movies and television shows?’ And I kind of feel the same way.”

But singers who want to establish themselves as serious artists do not, and neither do consumers, which has at least given the people administering Cohen’s publishing rights something to herald. On the digital-songs charts released Wednsday, Buckley’s take on “Hallelujah” re-entered the fray at No. 147, selling 13,000 virtual copies, while lang’s version, included on her new greatest-hits compilation, Recollection, vaulted from No. 122 to No. 17, moving 71,000 units. A group called The Canadian Tenors is also currently charting with a melodramatic version of the song that makes Buckley’s take seem downright subdued.

Cohen’s original, however, did not sell the 10,000 copies required for it to break into the charts.[/quote]
1988, 1993: Helsinki||2008: Manchester|Oslo|London O2|Berlin|Helsinki|London RAH|| 2009: New York Beacon|Berlin|Venice|Barcelona|Las Vegas|San José||2010: Salzburg|Helsinki|Gent|Bratislava|Las Vegas|| 2012: Gent|Helsinki|Verona|| 2013: New York|Pula|Oslo|||
User avatar
Posts: 4110
Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:50 pm
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Re: The Resurgence of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"

Post by sturgess66 » Fri Feb 26, 2010 5:39 pm

And I say - it’s time for Leonard Cohen’s magnificent “Hallelujah” to receive the Grammy Hall of Fame Award.

“The GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Award was established by The Recording Academy’s National Trustees in 1973 to honor recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25 years old. Inductees are selected annually by a special member committee of eminent and knowledgeable professionals from all branches of the recording arts.” ... l_Of_Fame/
User avatar
Posts: 6745
Joined: Sun Jun 07, 2009 4:49 am
Location: Q'ld, Australia

Re: The Resurgence of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"

Post by B4real » Sun Feb 28, 2010 2:08 am

sturgess66 wrote:And I say - it’s time for Leonard Cohen’s magnificent “Hallelujah” to receive the Grammy Hall of Fame Award.
All I can add to that is HALLELUJAH :D
It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to B4real ~ me
Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy ~ me ...... The magic of art is the truth of its lies ~ me ...... Only left-handers are in their right mind!
User avatar
Posts: 2068
Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:49 pm
Location: Los Angeles - ex Toronto

Rufus Wainwright Regrets Covering Leonard Cohen's Halleluja

Post by bridger15 » Sat Mar 13, 2010 6:51 am ... um=twitter
Rufus Wainwright Interview with Nylon; mentions 50 Cent and regrets covering Leonard Cohen

"I'm the Activia of songwriting!"

The musician Rufus Wainwright has conquered indie record stores, film and TV soundtracks, and the main stage at Carnegie Hall, where his legendary serenade of Judy Garland’s famous hits inspired designs from both Viktor & Rolf and Marc Jacobs. He was even a radio voice on Frasier (jealous). So when the New York native announced his latest album – All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu – we pounced on the chance to speak with him.

So who’s Lulu?
From the album? Well, our Lulu is… I mean, I have personified her with this actress Louise Brooks from the ‘20s, who was in Pandora’s Box, where she played Lulu. But it really could be for anyone, she’s a dark, brooding, destructive, gorgeous force that kind of haunts your sweet little life, and on the one hand you adore her, but at the other hand, you fear her at the same time. It’s a dangerous woman!

Is Lulu like your music?
No, but it’s definitely an aspect that I try to encourage in my music; I think all art should be a little dangerous.

Do you feel danger when you begin writing a new song?
Unfortunately, in a kind of boring way, I’ve turned songwriting into kind of a bodily function, you know, there’s shitting, eating, writing songs – it’s kind of a regular function. So albums come regularly, like planting bulbs in the fall and waiting for them to bloom in the spring. It keeps me regular. Wait, what’s that Jamie Lee Curtis Yogurt?

I’m the Activia of songwriting! Okay, but, this is important, I try to practice at least 2 hours a day; I try and hone my ability to take a craft that needs to be maintained and improved constantly, and there’s no room for comfort, so I’m always trying to throw wrenches my way to keep it interesting. But you do have to keep it regular. The more you do it, the better you get.

Where do you write?
Well, I have a wonderful new relationship with Steinway – I’m sleeping with Steinway as well as my boyfriend! They send me these incredible pianos, so I get up every morning, have a cup of coffee, put on my frilly bathrobe, and serenade the neighbors.

In Manhattan?
Usually, but right now I’m in Montauk.

How do you know a song is ready to get recorded?
Probably when I can’t perform it live! Especially with this album, I mean, I really wanted to highlight my pianistic intentions, meaning that on one hand, it’s really simple arrangements, but also very complicated ones, so I’ve tried to create a full spectrum for the instrument. I tried to offset those with real bombastic numbers, so I can’t make it too easy on myself. But this album is really about highlighting the piano.

So Amy Winehouse is launching a clothing line…
She is? Clothes? Wait, shouldn’t it be underwear? I mean isn’t it her specialty? Should she call it “Wine Stains!”

Would you ever do a clothing line?
I’m a double-edged sword with clothes, I’ve looked pretty and great, but also ridiculous. I think I should stick to music.

What about a Broadway musical?
Yes! I have to write a musical at some point, it would be pretty stupid not to, considering the narrative possibilities of my music. I haven’t started anything yet, but Ethel Merman is calling from the grave. I must appease the Merman within a song. I’m gonna do it.

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
Probably to sing that song Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. Great song, but I’m so sick of performing it.

Name five things you’re obsessed with. Don’t think, just go.
Well one of them is this amazing singer Lhasa De La Sela. She died on the 1st of January, she was my age, late 30s, but I’ve been able to deal a lot with my mother’s passing through her music. And I’m obsessed with 50 Cent; I want to have a tour affair with 50 Cent and my boyfriend says it’s okay! So 50, if you’re out there, you can get two gays for the price of one. Okay, what else… I love fried artichokes, and I’m going on this strict diet where I can’t eat anything, really, so I’m really obsessed with them right now. And then I’m also obsessed with my stomach. I’ve hit the 36-year-old border where I’ve gotta get obsessed with my stomach; it’s over. Really boring but it’s true.
2009-San Diego|Los Ang|Nashville|St Louis|Kansas City|LVegas|San Jose
2012-Austinx2|Denver|Los Ang|Seattle|Portland

Arlene's Leonard Cohen Scrapbook
Post Reply

Return to “Leonard Cohen's music”