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Hallelujah!
December 20, 2012 11:13 AM   Subscribe


 
I am fairly sure that everyone in my generation knows of this song through Shrek.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:18 AM on December 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Just once I would like a singing show participant to get up on the stage, whisper they'd like to sing a song by Leonard Cohen, clear their throat, and sing this.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:19 AM on December 20, 2012 [13 favorites]




Much has been said about this song, but by far the favorite thing I ever heard anyone say about it was a comment left on a blog I had for a while. I was talking about how some cheeseball community-theater revue show closed with a bunch of people singing "hallelujiah," and said I had no idea why. A playwright I know from Alberta said:
It is a little-known Canadian statute, but you legally do not need to have a reason to sing "Hallelujiah." Also, anyone singing "Hallelujiah" outside of Canada's borders temporarily converts the immediate area to Canadian territory for the duration.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:22 AM on December 20, 2012 [22 favorites]


Hallelujah is a moving, awesome and wonderful song, one of the best ever written.

And I don't care if I ever hear it again, at least sung by anyone but Cohen. It's been covered too many times by too many contestant singers who think they are being oh so outre, that it has now become a cliche.
posted by The Deej at 11:25 AM on December 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


I like Leonard Cohen, and I like the song Hallelujah. But I sometimes feel that folk who are covering the song are actually covering Jeff Buckley's version, without a great deal of regard for the original. That's fine, by the way, but at this point it's really a Buckley song, and not a Cohen one. I suppose art isn't genealogical, and doesn't just have one creator like we think.
posted by Jehan at 11:26 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Stranger Song > Hallelujah.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:27 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Previously on Metafilter Music, for that matter.
posted by cortex at 11:29 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


wow, we almost made it through 2012 without our annual hallelujah FPP, that would have certainly been the end of the world, Mayans be damned.
posted by HuronBob at 11:29 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


"The Buckley version has been widely featured in film and television dramas, including the series The West Wing, Scrubs, Crossing Jordan, Without a Trace, The O.C., House, Cold Case, Dirt, Criminal Minds, ER, Third Watch, Ugly Betty and LAX, and the films Feast of Love, The Edukators, Vinterkyss and Lord of War."

I'm pretty sure there's no way you could use the song for your soundtrack non-ironically anymore. But I'd almost be impressed if somebody tried.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:31 AM on December 20, 2012


In the US, this song did not come out. It was on Various Positions, which Columbia refused to release domestically. It was pretty hard to find in record stores.

Ironically, it has Hallelujah, and If It Be Your Will, which are arguably among his finest.

At some awards ceremony, Cohen got up and recognized the "modesty" of Columbia's support, through the years. Gracious and damning, as only Cohen can be.
posted by Danf at 11:31 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]




Bono's version is definitely not a cover of Buckley's version.

Whether is good in an experimental way or the worst dreck you've ever heard is something you'll have to decide for yourself.

(Personally I think it's an interesting experiment, though not in the upper tier of U2/Bono covers like Night and Day.)
posted by kmz at 11:35 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]



I'm pretty sure there's no way you could use the song for your soundtrack non-ironically anymore.


Have you not seen Watchmen movie?
posted by dortmunder at 11:35 AM on December 20, 2012


Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.
Hmmm... a Metafilter Hallelujah chorus...
posted by aeshnid at 11:36 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


My favourite version (in my opinion the definitive version) is Buckley's. I'm biased as I'm a guitarist and it's quite frankly a brilliant piece of playing and singing. It's a lightning rod in an otherwise mediocre album.

It's my mom's favourite song, and I feel a tug of melancholy every time I hear it because I know that one day probably sooner than I'm ready for I'll be playing it at her funeral.

Everything about this song, to me, is a contradiction. It has classical references but is underpinned with very colloquial language - 'ya' for instance, which Buckley understood and nailed. It intertwines religion and sexuality and is really about transitions and contradictions - rising and falling, the interplay of modern society with spirituality remaining. It's so elegant and complex that I hear different things every time I listen to it.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:37 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe there's a God above
But, as for me, all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew ya


I have heard this song countless times, and seen Cohen do it live 5 or 6 times by now, and this verse kills me every time I hear it.
posted by Danf at 11:42 AM on December 20, 2012


PS - don't slag me for thinking Grace is a mediocre album. Others may love it; I'm less enamored.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:44 AM on December 20, 2012


Bono's version is definitely not a cover of Buckley's version. Whether is good in an experimental way or the worst dreck you've ever heard is something you'll have to decide for yourself.

Bono himself now leans towards the "dreck" opinion.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:49 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


You put the single word "Hallelujah" into a song about faith and music and despair and fucking and transcendence, and lots of people then think it's a pretty little hymn suitable for all kinds of occasions, including a tribute for murdered children. (Thank you, CBC, for your breathless reporting this morning. I could have lived without knowing this.)
posted by maudlin at 11:56 AM on December 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Several months ago, I added this to the set of songs I sing to my toddler at bedtime. At this point, she'll rarely let me sing anything else.

I, uh, don't sing the sexish verses.
posted by gurple at 12:05 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


What the fuck? How is this song an appropriate choice to sing at a memorial for a bunch of little kids killed at Sandy Hook? Isn't that kind of like the whole RAH RAH USA crowd adopting Springstreen's Born in the USA, except more tragic?
posted by Justinian at 12:18 PM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've heard this song so many times.
I've heard the way that it falls and climbs,
And I never did like Buckley's version.
It goes in fits - it goes in starts -
And I suppose it moved some hearts,
Or else the song would still be Leonard Cohen's!
Now the chorus. Now the chorus. Now the chorus. Now the chorus.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:27 PM on December 20, 2012 [20 favorites]


I never hear anyone comment about the wicked prosody in the first verse:
                         F (IV)      G (V)       A minor            F major
"It goes like this / the fourth, the fifth / the minor fall and the major lift"

That Cohen guy, he knows what's up.
posted by blue t-shirt at 12:28 PM on December 20, 2012 [33 favorites]


I like Leonard Cohen, and I like the song Hallelujah. But I sometimes feel that folk who are covering the song are actually covering Jeff Buckley's version, without a great deal of regard for the original.

More like Buckley's version of Cale's arrangement of Cohen's song. But it's still a great song.

I've always wondered just how much in royalties Cohen collects for the song. Because it seems like it should be enough to fund his retirement all by itself, between radio play and the number of times it has ended up on movie and tv soundtracks.
posted by tavella at 12:30 PM on December 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


"It's still seen as kind of a sacred pop song, a modern hymn."

Within the context of the rest of the songs on Various Positions (and Cohen's reputation as a not-exactly-pious guy), the reverence people have for this song is hilarious.
posted by Rykey at 12:37 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


DAD'S CRAPPY CAR -- INT, NIGHT

CU of a GIRL'S HAND shoving a clear blank cassette tape into a car tape deck.

DAD, a man in late middle age, sits in the driver's seat. He has hair like Doc Brown, acne-pocked skin, an impressive Fu Manchu; dressed in a red-and-green flannel shirt and denim jacket, a cigarette hanging off his lower lip. To his right, a GIRL in her late teens; over-short bangs, lank brown hair, dressed in a puffy winter coat and an ironic tee shirt.

It is the NIGHT of NEW YEAR'S DAY 1997. Christmas lights flicker off for the last time in the season. Sparse snowflakes stick to sparse front lawns and slide down the window on the passenger side.

The Girl slides a Sunday newspaper into a big plastic sleeve and ties it shut, then hands it to her father. He rolls down the driver's side window, THROWS the newspaper out, and flicks his ash out the window after it. Psychedelic 1970s-sounding HARD ROCK plays under this scene.

The car takes a left onto a fork in the road. A pair of WATER TOWERS looms on the right in the distance. Hard rock fades out to a looping riff on the acoustic guitar. A man's voice, warm and pure of tone, fills the car.

MAN
This sounds familiar.
The car drives onto the shoulder of the road so gradually, the girl doesn't notice at first. She looks first at the curb and then peers at her father's eyes to make sure he hasn't fallen asleep.

GIRL
Dad? Dad, are you --
Dad rests his hand on the stick shift and gazes at the tape deck with a sense of wonder. The girl's face relaxes. Her gaze drifts out to the snow, as she realizes her father is listening to this for the first time.

A smile plays at the corner of his mouth, his upper lip drawn low from his embarrassment about his front teeth. His eyes sparkle in the streetlight. The song FADES OUT, but before the next one can start, he instinctively hits the stop button. He EXHALES, smiling, and looks at the Girl. Pause.

DAD
Someone really cared.
...and, scene.

About six months later, my dad died. When I was in the hearse at his funeral, news came over the radio that Jeff Buckley had drowned and was presumed dead. I don't know if my dad believed in the afterlife, but I like to imagine him and Jeff Buckley hanging out there.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:45 PM on December 20, 2012 [29 favorites]


Huge, huge Cohen fan. Not so much a 'Hallelujah' fan, partly for my preference for other songs on that album, but largely on the basis of its having been overdone.

That said, I picked up Light's book on Hallelujah, out of a sense of completist duty. And while it is a book about just one song, the font size is substantial. If I do decide to read it, it sure won't take very long.

Seeing Leonard perform the song last week (if I may gloat for a moment), he sang it well, but it seemed to weigh on him like an obligation. I suppose he cannot not do the song anymore. He showed much more verve for the other songs from Various Positions (Dance Me to the End of Love, Heart With No Companion, and If It Be Your Will). Heart, especially.

Even better were his songs from the new album, which, now that the band has had a chance to live with them for a while, had a new breadth to them which made it clear that they're worthy members of the canon.

Leonard seemed to be most excited by his cover of La Manic, the magnificent song by Georges Dor. Apparently, he's been working on an English translation for years, but isn't yet happy.

Anyway, I could ramble on and on when it comes to Leonard, and I'm rambling already...
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:03 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


My new gf is a major Cohen fan, and actually a personal friend of the man. She relates that he hates this song. She was nice enough to take me to see him in the Garden the other night. I've been a respectful 'fan' since the 70s, now I am a fan. What a great show, and what a graceful and elegant man.

Capt. You should meet Leslie.
posted by sfts2 at 1:09 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used to hold little regard for Cohen's actual singing voice (while respecting the hell out of him as a lyricist), until I saw him in concert in 2010. The man was well into his 70s and had the sort of stage presence that made you feel like you were experiencing something so beautiful that it was almost otherworldly. I can say, without qualification, that it was the best concert I've ever been to and that hearing his version of Hallelujah in person was a revelation. I had previously much preferred Buckley's cover (which I still think is lovely, if overplayed).
posted by Defying Gravity at 1:37 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


But why does he pronounce it "you" instead of "ya" these days?
posted by blue t-shirt at 1:43 PM on December 20, 2012


But why does he pronounce it "you" instead of "ya" these days?

Hallelu-you? Yeah, that does sound weird.
posted by The Deej at 1:52 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Haha. I meant the words that rhyme with Hallelujah. "you don't really care for music DO YOU?" actually doesn't rhyme with "hallelujah".
posted by blue t-shirt at 1:56 PM on December 20, 2012


I mean, hallelu YOURSELF!
posted by blue t-shirt at 1:56 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


It just occurred to me that he sang it "Do ya?" so that it would rhyme with "Hallelujah." Thanks for noticing that, blue t-shirt.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:59 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


and on Live in London, he very clearly enunciates "do youuuu/through youuu/outdrew youuu" as if it were somehow an act of defiance. very clearly intentional
posted by blue t-shirt at 2:00 PM on December 20, 2012


"...including a tribute for murdered children."

Yes, an entirely appropriate song for people who were shot.

"Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you"

So nice try, thanks for coming out, parting gifts, etc, blah, etc.
posted by Zack_Replica at 2:32 PM on December 20, 2012


I consider it a modern prayer, and there's damn few songs that do that. It's broken and messy and confused, and with the exception of the whole 'outdrew ya' line, it's beautiful and human enough to mark a tragedy.

I don't have a problem with it being played in response to the recent shootings, and if it offers some solace to those that are hurting, fair play.

Sometimes beautiful things can stay beautiful without becoming clichéd.
posted by zoo at 2:39 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


John Cale all the way, for this listener. Three reasons: Jeff Buckley's version doesn't really add anything to Cale's arrangement, Cale's arrangement is better than Cohen's original, and Cale's voice appeals to me in a way that neither of the others' does. But then, Len wrote the damn thing, so hallelujah him.
posted by Prince Lazy I at 2:46 PM on December 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


I rather like Rufus Wainwright's version.
posted by Danf at 3:41 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


If not Leonard himself, I'm partial to Willie Nelson's. Concentrates on the words themselves, resists the easy trap of the singing showcase. But more than that, it's the uneasy prayer of a sinner.
posted by Capt. Renault at 4:44 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have to say Cale's version is my favorite, and I think it's what made the song what it is today, since it's his arrangement that everyone covers.

I do like the silly irreverence in the original though. My girlfriend surprised me with tickets to see Cohen on my birthday just earlier this month. He must be sick of performing Hallelujah, but he still did it well. It was an amazing show, but we were both disappointed he didn't do "Don't Go Home With Your Hardon", even though we both knew how unlikely that would have been. Now I'll just have to get it out of my system by drunkenly blaring it out at some coffeeshop open mic in the manner Alvy suggested upthread.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 5:14 PM on December 20, 2012


Adam Sandler — Sandy Screw Ya.
posted by unliteral at 5:33 PM on December 20, 2012


Jeff Buckley's version doesn't really add anything to Cale's arrangement

Jeff Buckley's version, as is often remarked, is Cale's arrangement. It's a cover of Cale's arrangement of Cohen's song. It's disappointing that Buckley and not Cale is in the title of the book.
posted by kenko at 5:36 PM on December 20, 2012


Whenever I hear Hallelujah, it seems to me like an half of a dialogue, someone trying to explain love to someone who's just had their heart broken, then sliding into self justification when the explanation doesn't go down too well.

It's why I don't like most of the covers I suppose. They're far too self assured for a conversation that I cant help but imagine occurring after midnight and many strong drinks.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:30 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


PS - don't slag me for thinking Grace is a mediocre album. Others may love it; I'm less enamored.

I don't know, man, if you don't love "Last Goodbye"...

But anyway, yeah, "Hallelujah" is about SEXY SEX and it weirds me out seeing it at funerals and such.
posted by naoko at 6:50 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Count me as another Cale-cover-all-the-way; however, his version is over-played, too. Why they used it in Shrek, I'll never know because, really, it's not a song that you can pull a few verses out of and call it good; the picture is too incomplete and inaccurate, like a 2" square sample of a Seurat.

Re: the Newtown references, it never ceases to amaze me how people can know all or most of the lyrics to a song, and not have thought about what they really mean. Hallelujah is a song about adult love and mess and loss, which is completely inappropriate for that situation. Gah.
posted by smirkette at 7:00 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does anyone have a link to the video of the women/girls singing at the beginning of video in the OP's link?
posted by HuronBob at 7:44 PM on December 20, 2012


How is this song an appropriate choice to sing at a memorial for a bunch of little kids killed at Sandy Hook?

Ke$ha's stupid song about dryhumping a stranger got the hook because of its title; together, the two songs are sort of bookends for vague sympathy, good intentions, and not paying that much attention to what a song is actually about.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:38 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


k d lang's performance of it at the Winter Olympics opening was wonderful.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:22 AM on December 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Hallelujah" is good, but "Democracy" is better.
posted by pashdown at 6:20 AM on December 21, 2012


The earworm's Earworm.
posted by Twang at 9:55 AM on December 21, 2012


Huh, Alvy, I had no idea they pulled "Die Young". And apparently Ke$ha has now apologized for it. That's ridiculous. This is a theme that's been around as long as humans have been making art and music and now Ke$ha was forced to grovel for it?

If anything she should have been apologizing for her music being crappy, not for it being inappropriate.
posted by Justinian at 10:40 AM on December 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm way out there, but I always thought this song has the greatest insult. Paraphrased "Music, including mine, is among the highest accomplishments of humanity ... but you are too insensitive and stupid to get it".

But it seems 90% of the covers and understanding of it is that this is "The Sad Song". And it's just not. It's funny and life affirming in a way that's old and wise enough to see that everything dies. It's a little like "Closing Time" which is much more up front about its whimsy.

As an aside, I think that the greatest songs for *Idol from Cohen would have to include "The Future", "Teachers", and "Democracy".
posted by jclarkin at 4:17 PM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lovely song, but as others have said, I never need to hear it again in this lifetime. (Unless, of course, Leonard wants to bring his guitar over to my place some evening...)

Haven't seen Shrek, but can't imagine how this could be appropriate or relevant in a children's movie. Kids shouldn't be spoon-fed lines like "all I ever learned of love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you". True bitterness must come from experience.

Also, I'm with those who think it is wildly inappropriate for a funeral.
posted by she's not there at 7:08 PM on December 21, 2012


ART! You will experience it as we tell you. You will not have your own interpretations; you will not use it in non-prescribed ways; you will not wear it out with your enjoyment. You will not focus on the music when we would have you focus on the words and you will not focus on the words when we would have you focus on the music. ART! is unambiguous and the reason you think otherwise is stupidity. You may want your own opinions about ART!, but to do so is an imposition. ART! is for us to decide. Your low culture opinions have no place in the world of ART!

Thank you for experiencing ART! the correct way. Fire Exits are to the left and to the right. Please do not view or lick the paintings. You will be told what to feel when you exit the building.
posted by zoo at 7:25 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I the song works at least in part because so many people don't get it. They hear the musical form that is manipulating them (even elucidated in the lyrics) and the word they associate with spirituality and get little else. The lyrics are subversive because they take a word that was originally intended to praise God ("Praise Jah" is therefore a shortened form of "Praise Yahweh" or, in another transliteration of the name, "Praise Jehovah".) and turns it into a metaphor for orgasm.

Inappropriate at a funeral? Only for those who get that.
posted by spock at 4:58 AM on December 23, 2012


Yeah, it's way easier than it should be to get people to Show Appropriate Somber Recognition via cultural markers like songs and catchphrases (seriously, do slogans like "God bless America" and "Support our troops" even mean anything besides an opportunity to signal alignment with a particular point of view?). It seems like for most people, a song like "Hallelujah" is just a bunch of babble with a Judeo-Christian dog-whistle punchline:

Hrrrz mrrrg brrrr drrrr di hrrzrrrrmrrrr
Brrr drrrr gurgur zrrr brr-brrr,
Gur-durrr mrrr-zrrr vrr drrr grr-grr
zrrrr-hrrr?

Mrrrr mrrrr zrrr-drrr vr br-br-br
huh-duh mrrr duh
brrr lr-gr-gr
huh-drrr vrrr mrrr guh-dr-gr-gr
buh br-brrrr

HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH! HALLELUUUUUUU-JAH!
posted by Rykey at 7:11 AM on December 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I filled two notebooks with the song," he told a British newspaper in 2008.

"And I remember being on the floor, on the carpet in my underwear, banging my head on the floor and saying, 'I can't finish this song.'"


I would love an album of just him reading from his notebooks.
posted by the_artificer at 9:12 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


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