So I was watching CBC News last night and a story popped up that Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" is the Christmas #1 in the United Kingdom. It's also #2 and #36.
I first heard about the particularly big deal it is to have the #1 song at Christmas from the movie Love Actually. It's the song that sells the most copies during Christmas week. And this year, a version sung by Alexandra Burke, is the #1 song.
Here's the problem. Her version of the song is monstrous. And while there are songs I frequently don't like, I don't drag out words like that except for special circumstances. And this is a special circumstance. Burke is the winner of the X-Factor competition in the UK - basically the same thing as American Idol. It even has Simon Cowell involved in it. I'm not a fan of these shows to begin with. Geoff Meeker, media columnist with the Telegram, asked me to write a few words about the recent "death" (please God let it be permanent) of Canadian Idol which you can read here, if you wish.
But this is evil. I reserve those words only for covers of songs that never should have been made. You know, like Madonna's version of "American Pie". This, this is just....she has back-up dancers in the video, for Christ's sake. For "Hallelujah". There should be no back-up dancers for a video of this song. I mean, just watch this thing and tell me you don't want to physically harm every one in the production of it.
So amidst this Christmas despair, is there any good news? Well, several actually. First, enough people in the UK shared my horror over the popularity of this song and tried to get other version to chart. And so it was that Jeff Buckley's classic cover of the song made it to #2. And in a nice twist Leonard Cohen's original also charted, making it as high as #36.
So there is some hope for taste, I guess.
But Cohen is the real winner. Because while Burke might get the fame and glory of a Christmas #1, Cohen actually owns the rights to the song, so he gets most of the money (or so I thought. This story makes me wonder). Which does put a bit of a smile on my face. And it is nice to see Cohen reach a new, younger audience at this stage in his life. And the English as just fascinated by this strangeness, with no shortage of articles about the song. Here's one of the better ones.
I just wish it was a better version of the song. I mean, if you have to listen to a young woman wailing away at that song, may I humbly suggest Allison Crowe's stellar version of the song instead?
1. Hallelujah - Leonard Cohen*
2. Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley
3. Hallelujah - Allison Crowe
4. Hallelujah - John Cale
5. Hallelujah - Rufus Wainwright