When it comes to showbiz, I like schmaltz. I’ve liked schmaltz even more since I learnt it was a jewish/yiddish term for goose, chicken or pork fat. That’s what you need to add a bit of fun, luxury, shine and excitement to a dish. Showbiz is the same. I like schmaltz.
So, I’ve been enjoying the X-Factor these past weeks. A guilty pleasure, frankly. Like meat fat, I know it isn’t good for me, but it’s irresistible: dramatic, exciting, trivial and so warming.
But when I heard that the winner’s single would be, regardless of the result, a take on Leonard Cohen’s classic Hallelujah, my heart sank. I love that song. I like Cohen’s original but I love Jeff Buckley‘s (definitive IMHO) cover.
I think we know that Simon Cowell doesn’t ‘really care for music’ as much as he cares about cash. But despite all that, it seemed a crass choice. A bad choice for mass appeal surely? JLS proved me wrong. They made a good fist of it: brilliant even. Alexandra Burke is a great talent (and the deserved winner) but her Hallelujah wasn’t so good. But I’d venture, non-sexistly, that it is really a song for men to sing.
It’s just a bit of shame that both of the last two X-Factor hopefuls seem to have missed the point of this sometimes sombre, rather bitter and definitely reflective song. The title Hallelujah is, after all, a little misleading. But the show was good. It was so good. Cowell knows his schmaltz.
And then I thought of Guy Garvey. Yes, him out of Elbow. Just a few weeks back he presented a great show about Hallelujah, talking to artistes and charting its genesis and history. It was a brilliant bit of radio. So, I have an idea for those sages at the BBC: if you know which side your artisan loaf is organically buttered on, there’s a BBC Radio 2 programme you need to rerun on the ole’ iPlayer. But that might be too schmaltzy an idea.
(An aside: It was rather good to note that the last 5 artistes (Alexandra and JLS) were all British black, mixed race, asian and complex â€¦ the BNP is fighting a losing battle. Happy day.)