Hallelujah, I'm a Bum
From Shrek to One Tree Hill to the Vancouver Winter Olympics and beyond, is there a song in the English language more overused, over-covered, and over-relied-upon-for-surefire-gooseflesh-catharsis than Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"? And yet...is there a more infallibly affecting, more amazingly adaptable, indeed more beautifully written song? I can think of few, if any. There's just something about it: the lulling structure, so hauntingly simple; the words teetering between the exaulted and the sacreligious, somehow capturing some universal conception of love and sex and all the rest of it. The thing of it is, it just fucking gets you. Every time. Whether it's Rufus Wainwright or Jon Bon Jovi or any number of minor American Idol contestants delivering it.
Oddly enough, Cohen's original performance has always struck me as one of the least remarkable renditions, and while I'm probably a philistine for admitting as much, I suspect, at the same time, that I'm not alone in that sentiment. Of course, Jeff Buckley's version has become recognized as the gold standard for "Hallelujah" covers and rightly so, but John Cale's eerily mannered take is, in its way, almost as sublime. And Kate Voegele's (of One Tree Hill fame) has grown on me considerably; her delivery is idiosyncratic and vulnerable in a way that recalls the '90's coffeehouse folk scene that's she far too young to have been a part of but that made Buckley, briefly, a star.
So keep 'em coming, folks--just so long as we don't have to hear Justin Bieber sing "remember when I moved in you / and the Holy Dove was moving too / and every breath we drew was Hallelujah".