Friday, May 11, 2012

I Think You Should Know Thursday

This Thursday I think you should know a song, but for many it is a song that you already know: "Hallelujah." Many may know it, but do you know the original? Or have you only heard one of the numerous cover versions?
The song was first written and performed by Leonard Cohen for his album "Various Positions" (1984). I first heard the song in the movie Shrek where it was performed by Rufus Wainwright. "Hallelujah" seems to be one of the most covered songs, performed by everyone from Bob Dylan to Paramore in their live album and almost everyone from any reality singing show ever.
It is understandable why singers would want to cover this song. It is beautiful and evocative, with imagery of both love and the Bible. Depending on the emotion of the singer it can sound equally romantic or desperate, like a cry for help. Depending on the instrumentation the preference of the singer the song can have a simple piano (like the well known Jeff Buckley version) or a more widely ranging set of instruments.
Here are a couple of versions to compare and contrast:
1.) Leonard Cohen
You cannot compare covers without listening to the original. This is not my favorite version of the song, it seems too spoken and choppy. Not to knock on the original, the man did write the song, but I believe others  have performed it better.
"Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah"

"Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah"
2.) Rufus Wainwright
I had a really hard time deciding if I should share this version or Jeff Buckley's. Both are very emotional and have the potential to make you cry, but Rufus is the one that made me fall in love with song in the first place. I think the song fit into Shrek perfectly (the soundtrack was great overall in that film). Definitely check out Buckley's version too. Just not if you are feeling sad.
3). Imogen Heap
I like this version of the song because it is so different from the others. Besides the fact that it is sung by a female, the yearning of the lyrics comes through most clearly in this song. Without the background instruments Heap's voice shines. I think this version is simple, but beautiful.

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