Friday, July 21, 2006


(In quotation marks as a song title, and lest you think I have something unusual to rejoice about, which I don't, but that would be nice, wouldn't it?)

A post over at Althouse alerted me to several online discussions about this song, originally written by Leonard Cohen, and covered by everyone and their uncle in the last few years. I first heard the version by Rufus Wainwright, which Heidi had on the Shrek soundtrack. Justin had the Jeff Buckley version, which is probably the most famous. We both found it moving--it makes us cry if we're in the right mood--and it became "our" song, insofar as we have a song, and insofar as it isn't really more depressing than romantic exactly. One of Justin's friends asked me what our song was and offered to sing it at our wedding, and I was like, "Ummm...."

The post links to a site with a bunch of versions of "Hallelujah," so I tried out a couple I hadn't heard. Leonard Cohen's original version flew under the radar for years after it was recorded, and, well, I can kind of see why. I like the piano accompaniment on the Wainwright and John Cale versions, although vocally I haven't decided whether I prefer one of those or Jeff Buckley's rendition. Buckley's seems slower and a little more contemplative, which I like.

After some searching, I also discovered that Over the Rhine has covered "Hallelujah" in their live performances, so I downloaded a couple of recordings. Now my life is complete! Well, unfortunately aren't as high quality as I'd like, but are pretty good. Though I'm not sure I like their version better than the others. I always think there are songs I'd love to hear Karin Bergquist sing, but their covers are never as good as their own songs.

Aside from being lovely musically, and lines where the music does exactly what the lyrics say...

it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth,
the minor fall, the major lift

(okay, I don't know much about music theory, but I know what fourths and fifths are, and I can guess about minor falls and major lifts)'s lyrically dense. For one thing, there are infinite redactions of the song, depending on what Cohen felt like singing when he went into a concert, although the later covers established a canonical version. Also it has the neat spiritual/erotic love thing going on. It strikes me as more erotic than spiritual for the most part, but it kind of depends who's listening and which version you're listening to, I guess.

The lyrics are probably why Justin likes it so much. I can listen to pretty much any garbage as long as it sounds pretty. This is why I'm not always in 100% agreement with the content of Indigo Girls songs, for example, but man, they're good singers and they're good together. Justin actually pays attention to lyrics, and will comment on a song we're listening to, and I'll say, "Huh?" because most of the time the words are a blur. (Which may be why I don't care that "someone's circling" in "All I Need is Everything" by Over the Rhine sounds like "someone's snerdly.") This may be why I cannot always fully appreciate the Song Poems, which deserve a post of their own, but I'll have to do some googling first.

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