X – Factor

Toby Smith 15 January 2009

Alexandra Burke

‘Hallelujah’ (Syco Music)

Released Dec 15

Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen fans were up in arms following Simon Cowell’s announcement that Cohen’s Hallelujah was going to be the song chosen as vehicle for the X-factor winner’s triumphant march to the Christmas number 1. A grassroots campaign was launched encouraged fans to purchase the Buckley version of the song rather than the Burke (of course no one would encourage anyone to purchase Cohen’s own abysmal version of the song).

Okay, so the song lacks the understated and gorgeous guitar accompaniment of the Buckley version, instead putting in an empty, by the numbers, guitar line in. So the version lacks any degree of subtlety, including a Westlife-style modulation and full gospel choir. So Burke’s warbling and variations distract from the melody. So the ‘cold and broken hallelujah’ comes off as a celebration but …

I don’t really know where I’m going with this.

I guess the bottom line is that, of course it’s not as good as prior versions of the song. It has followed Cowell’s own ‘making no. 1 singles for Dummies’ handbook. But the melody and the lyrics are still as wonderful as when they were first penned by Cohen. Burke’s voice is undeniably striking, even if her variations not to my taste. The single pleased the Grannies, filled the stockings and reminded us all of what will be remembered as one of the greatest songs of the 20th century. No amount of cynical production and marketing will ever take that away.

Toby Smith