The X-Factor: Hallelujah.

xfactorWhen 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 … the BNP is fighting a losing battle. Happy day.)

3 thoughts on “The X-Factor: Hallelujah.”

  1. Well, 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 her kitchen chair
    She broke your throne and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    This is the second verse of the Hallelujah song.Jeff Buckley who described the song as “the hallelujah of the orgasm”. His cover of the Leonard Cohen song is presently at No.43 in the charts & is from his 1994 album Grace (a song which he vertially made his own – Leonard Cohen has said that this is his favourite version as well).The track was released in opposition to X-factor announcing it will be their Christmas single.The christmas/religious association with the song is dubious to say the least – some say it is anti-religiuos (certainly slightly sexually deviant connitations within the lyrics).Jeff Buckley drowned in 1997 due to a depressive disorder (walked into Mississipee fully clothed/with boots on).His version is vertially unmatchable in most peoples minds – possibly Simon Cowell has a high regard for his cover.A contestant on American Pop Idol also covered the song.There have been 170 covers of the song to date (including Rufus Wainwrights,Buckley inspired cover which featured in Shrek !).
    I think the selection of the song is a bit contraversial to say the least.

  2. I agree: I don’t think that Simon Cowell, or indeed the contestants, really get the song. (And I think Guy Garvey’s show “The fourth, The fifth, the minor fall” (see link below) was a really excellent exploration.) And the lack of intellectual rigour does concern me a little. It certainly isn’t a celebratory hymn.

    My favourite lyric is:

    “Maybe there’s a god above/ but all I’ve ever learned from love/ was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you.”

    I may well buy the Buckley version this week on iTunes. Even though I have “Grace”.

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