I am clueless about music. I rarely listen to it and most of the time it's just intrusive background noise to me, but there was a story in today's Inquirer about this song (which I do happen to like) that I found fascinating. Here's the story in a nutshell.
"Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen, a song that is almost 25 years old, rose to #1 on the charts in the U.K. this Christmas season. The most downloaded version is by a woman named Alexandra Burke who was a contestant on a U.K. show called The X Factor (brought here as American Idol) and she won with "Hallelujah" as her final song. She obviously has a good voice, but the video on YouTube is painful to watch, so if you want to see it, you'll have to find it yourself. The second-most popular is by Jeff Buckley, above. Jeff Buckley was a singer from California who drowned in the Mississippi River in 1997 and this fact seems to make his version even more moving and poignant. In fact, a lot of people have recorded this song to varying degrees of success. I didn't listen to all of them (that would be too much punishment for me), but I listened to a few, and this was the one I liked third best. Leonard Cohen himself also recorded it here.
I kind of like his version too. It's strange and rather dirge-like, but I like the oddity of how he whips around to look at the chorus when it's their turn. Anyway, here's the really interesting thing about this song, for me at least. What's it about? The religious imagery refers to the story of David and Bathsheba and their illicit love. What's more, it mentions Samson and Delilah and the way Delilah cut off Samson's hair and robbed him of his incredible strength. Whatever love is going on in this song has gone terribly wrong. So does all this reference to sad Bible stories classify it as a Christmas song? I think it has something to do with the melody more than the words. It just sounds holy. I guess I'll have to go along with the author of the Inquirer article who says that it "delivers uplift and consolation, enlightenment and the recognition of shared experience." A song that can do all that works any time of year.