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‘Hallelujah,’ bore us: How Leonard Cohen’s sensation wore out its welcome

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Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 09/20/16

From The New York Times:

Leonard Cohen’s

ballad “Hallelujah”
has become so inescapable that the songwriter once asked for a break from his own track. “I think it’s a good song, but too many people sing it,” he told the Guardian in 2009, agreeing with a critic who asked for “a moratorium on ‘Hallelujah’ in movies and television shows.”

It appears that the producers of Sunday night’s Emmy Awards were unaware of the unofficial ban. When the In Memoriam segment began, it was accompanied by Tori Kelly’s gentle acoustic guitar strumming as she started its first verse: “Well, I heard there was a secret chord.”

The reaction on Twitter was less cryptic: Another “Hallelujah” moment?

Few people noticed “Hallelujah” when Mr. Cohen released the track — part hymn, part love song — on Side 2 of his 1984 album “Various Positions,” but over the next few years, it caught the attention of artists like Bob Dylan (who played it live) and the former Velvet Underground member John Cale, who attempted his own version on the tribute album “I’m Your Fan.” In 1994, Jeff Buckley included an impassioned version on his LP “Grace,” which has become the cover that is most often imitated.

The song has since become a contemporary standard, performed everywhere from subway stops to synagogues, where its melody is often transposed onto the lyrics of the Sabbath liturgical song “Lecha Dodi.” Bono, Bon Jovi, Willie Nelson, Paramore and Celine Dion have all recorded it.

But “Hallelujah” is most familiar from film and TV, where it has soundtracked dozens of deaths and breakups, and been belted in too many singing competitions to count. Because it telegraphs emotion — both mournful and hopeful — and involves some vocal acrobatics, it has become shorthand for Big Emotional Moment and employed by performers looking to stamp themselves with authenticity.

Read on for links to some well-known renditions—good, bad and ugly.

Below is an unusual interpretation that garnered some attention a couple years back; the words have been recast to tell the story of Christmas.

Photo: Wikipedia

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