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March 22nd, 2006

(no subject) @ 08:06 am

sapphires13:
I'm currently feelin: uncomfortable uncomfortable
I'm currently hearin: Hallelujah - Bono

And now for something completely different... I mulled over doing this song as my next SOTD several days ago, and even as soon ago as an hour, I began having doubts about it, and tried convincing myself to do a different song, fearing I wouldn't have enough to say about this song. But, as longwinded as I can be, I ultimately decided I'd find plenty to say.

"Hallelujah" from Tower of Song: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen

Not a U2 song, not even a U2 cover, this is a Bono cover. Does that still count? It hasn't been covered as a SOTD yet, and I figure it's about time I did something unique, so why not?

This is Bono's Numb, so to speak, this is Bono monotonously reciting lyrics. The cover is from 1995, and you may recognize Bono's low, sexy, gravelly, whispery voice from other songs from the Passengers-Pop era, like Your Blue Room and If You Wear That Velvet Dress, the difference is, while in those versions he's hitting notes and sort of singing, in Hallelujah, he's simply reciting. Unlike Numb though, he's not deadpanning, Bono recites this song as though reciting poetry.
The music is somewhat unimportant. We have this repetitive tribal beat throughout the entire song, and that strange brass wavering in and out. There's not really a tune, just a rhythm, and there really doesn't need to be. All we need is that beat and Bono's voice. It brings to mind a clichéd beatnik poetry club, dark and smoky, with some guy in a beret playing the bongos while Bono stands and quietly recites. While the music is mostly unimportant, something about it creates a sort of creepy intensity.
At this point, I should probably point some things out. Bono is using Leonard Cohen's orignal 1984 lyrics. Cohen recorded this song twice, first in 1984, and again in 1988. The second time, he used an alternate set of lyrics (some were still the same though). The original lyrics are full of biblical and religious imagery, the song is somewhat of a prayer. The 1988 lyrics were changed to reflect a more worldy interpretation of the song, there were still religious undertones, but the song became more about a relationship between a man and a woman. (I should also probably note that most covers use a combination of the 1984 and 1988 lyrics. This combination was first used in John Cale's 1991 cover, and later by Jeff Buckley (1994) and Rufus Wainwright (2001), among others.)
While Bono is using the original, and somewhat more overtly religious lyrics, he still manages to make it sexy. It's as though he's whispering in your ear, and at some points, his voice sounds a bit strained, as though he's running out of breath, or just somewhat emotionally overcome (particularly the last syllable of the "Hallelujah" at the end of the third verse).
And thus far, I haven't mentioned the chorus. While the verses are recited, Bono pulls out his falsetto and sings the "Hallelujah"s in his "fat lady" voice. I normally like his falsetto, but it's sort of warbled here, and it just seems a bit strange here, especially in contrast to the deep recitation of the verses. Also, I've noticed that during the final Hallelujah choruses at the end of the song, Bono's voice seems to be layered over other "Hallelujah"s, they could quite possibly be part of the chorus from Cohen's original version, but I can't be sure.
Overall? I like it, I suppose. It's different, that's for sure. I really like the song itself, and have for a long time, even before I cared anything about U2 or Bono. My favourite version is Jeff Buckley's (most of my friends like Rufus Wainwright's, but I think the tempo on that one is much too fast, and I can't figure out why Wainwright's in such a hurry O_o), and I would've much preferred something similar from Bono. There's probably little chance he'll cover it again, but I'd love to hear Bono actually singing the song, maybe even with the rest of U2 playing the music (the actual music, rather than the creepy "music" we got with this version).

I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played to please the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you
It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composed Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah

You say I took the Name in vain
Well I don't even know the name
But if I did, well, really, what's it to you
There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy, or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I learned to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah

Now maybe there's a God above
But all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
And it's no complaint you hear tonight
It's not some pilgrim who's seen the light
It's a cold and broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah

Favourite lyrics:
And even though all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah

That's somewhat inspiring to me.

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From:lovedstrangely
Date:March 22nd, 2006 04:04 pm (UTC)
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I'm actually a big non fan of bono's cover, but i love how you pulled this out of the bag and wrote about it, it really is unique! :)
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From:davefilkins
Date:March 22nd, 2006 04:25 pm (UTC)
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I love this song... it breaks all the rules for popular music, especially religious music. It sounds so sad, so hollow. Yet, through the worst of it, he's singing "hallelujah."

Like you said, it's inspiring... =) The music is so creepy and sad... for some reason, it reminds me of a circus being torn down (how weird is that?!). The magic that was once there is now gone as everything is being put away. But, there is always the hope of the next performance.
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From:rockstarsex
Date:March 22nd, 2006 04:30 pm (UTC)
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Enjoyed your write-up! Hallelujah is of the most beautiful songs ever written, in my opinion.

I LOVE Leonard Cohen with a passion but my favorite version of the song is not his nor Bono's. I like the Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright versions much better. >_>

Leonard Cohen is God, though.
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From:canadanne
Date:March 22nd, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC)

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This cover seems to get a bit of a slagging by some, but I love it (no prizes for guessing why). Will write more when I have time...

Oh, and solo projects definitely count, IMO!
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From:wydok
Date:March 23rd, 2006 05:51 am (UTC)
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I just don't like this cover. I think the original is better. :)
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From:reecord2
Date:March 23rd, 2006 06:27 am (UTC)
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There are so many versions of this song! Even Leonard made two. This is the first version I've ever heard. I didn't really like the song at first but it dug itself a unique hole in my heart after a while.
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From:boriel
Date:March 23rd, 2006 07:32 am (UTC)
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bonos cover is the first i'd heard of this song so i have nothing to compare it too but i absolutely love it. i put this song on a mixed cd when i went in for an angioplasty a few months back, and the doc allowed me to play the cd on the equipment in the room out loud... when this song came on, and the falsetto Hallelujah kicked in, one of the nurses commented on how fitting the song was (it came on as they were nearly done the procedure) It holds a special favor in my heart from the moment i heard it.
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From:kashmir87
Date:March 23rd, 2006 07:50 am (UTC)
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I'd love to hear Bono actually singing the song

I agree with that. This cover is not my favourite either, but that's also probably because I'm too partial to Jeff Buckley's version, IMHO it doesn't get better than that.
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From:canadanne
Date:March 23rd, 2006 11:34 pm (UTC)

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Well, I heard Bono's cover long before I heard anyone else's version of this song, and so not having any expectations or preconceptions, I was able to appreciate it fully on its own merits. And I thought it was wonderful. I've only recently heard Jeff Buckley's much-acclaimed rendition (and bits of Leonard Cohen's original on the Shrek soundtrack, etc!).... I guess I can understand why people would be disappointed if they were hoping Bono would sing it like those artists did, but honestly, I don't think it would have been half as good if he had done. If Bono did actually sing the whole thing à la Jeff Buckley or whoever, I'm sure it would be pleasant - but I doubt it would be really *striking* like this one is.

The falsetto chorus is, naturally, what grabbed me... I know what you mean about it not sounding as full-bodied as usual, but I still think it's gorgeous!  Plus those icy, tremulous vocals kind of fit the lyrics, anyway - "It's a cold and broken Hallelujah". Certainly sends a shiver down this listener's spine.... (I love that crescendo of blips building up to the first chorus, too, and the crashing drums that kick in each time.)

But what makes it so very effective is the contrast between the low murmur of the verses and the wrenching melodic wail of the chorus; it's the earthly juxtaposed with the celestial. I can't imagine Bono being able to incorporate that chilling falsetto into the song (at least not as powerfully) if he'd sung the verses as well. And personally, I'd take Bono's drawn-out cry of "Haaalleluuuujah!" over Buckley's wearily sighed chorus any day. (Not to take anything away from his interpretation; it's easy to see why people rave about it!  I just think Bono's version puts a stunning new spin on it.)

Commenting on the lyrics wouldn't really be relevant, considering Bono didn't write them, but still - they're bloody good aren't they? Amazingly poetic in every sense, from the rhyme and rhythm to the incredible imagery it evokes. I do think that aspect of the song is probably better conveyed in Buckley's version, as it gets a bit lost in Bono's mutterings.

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