Monday, November 24, 2008

X Factor 2008 - Hallelujah

I’ve managed to avoid mentioning The X Factor this year so far but now that we’re getting near the final, I thought I’d say a few words. Alexandra is the best by far, although nowhere near Leona two years ago – that about sums up this year’s series.

It’s reported that the other contestants are unhappy because the song chosen for the winner’s single release will be Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. They’re not unhappy with this song but because one contestant, Diana Vickers (people keep saying she is original – to me she sounds like Dolores from the Cranberries), sang it at bootcamp to qualify for the show.

On the evidence of that performance, Alexandra and the rest have nothing to be worried about. Horrible!

Compare it to this rendering by Leonard himself - altogether more believable. Add in this one by K.D. Lang, a more understated Damien Rice, and several more versions from a blog post I made last year (not all the links there still work, but you can find the song by all those people at YouTube), and you can see how Diana suffers in comparison (at least, I hope you can).

The X-Factor, the very fact that Diana is taken seriously as a ‘great talent’, really makes a mockery of all that’s vital in music. The show still works as entertainment, of course.

14 comments:

Harry said...

"people keep saying she is original – to me she sounds like Dolores from the Cranberries"

I guess originality is relative, and if the comparison is with JLS...

deemikay said...

I prefer John Cale's version (the first one I heard) and the version that started the whole fascination with the song... Wouldn't it just have been another Lenny album track if John Cale hadn't got his hands on it? But oddly, even though I love Leonard I really don't like his arrangement of his own song. To me it's just so, mmm, ploddy.

But I'm also getting to the stage where I don't care if I never hear the song again. Too many! I've even heard Katherine Jenkins(!) do it...

Claire A said...

Didn't have you down as an X Factor fan, Rob!

Alexandra is just ANOTHER Leona/Beyonce/Solange/Alesha etc etc etc. The X Factor is just a giant cookie-cutter, so she ought to win and do well for a couple of singles, then disappear into obscurity, when the next Alexandra-alike comes along.

Personally, Diana is the only one of the remaining lot whose single I might consider buying. She's the only one I can imagine doing any justice to Hallelujah (I mean, that little Irish kid?? Please), although it's a ridiculous song to pick. I actually think the best singer is Rachel, who was voted off this week. She had her pitchy moments, but I think she was potentially the next Aretha. Shame no one wants to listen to real R&B like that anymore, they just want to settle for the manufactured Leona-style stuff.

As for Diana's originality - she sounds like Norah Jones, Eva Cassidy, Kate Bush, Melanie Safka, Nanci Griffith etc etc. Like I say, the X Factor is nothing more than a cookie-cutter. For them to claim that anything they produce is original is just ridiculous!

PS: Jeff Buckley's is the best version of Hallelujah... hands down! But John Cale's is pretty nice too.

Duncan said...

Try listening to Tina Dickow singing "Hallelujah".

Bernardine Evaristo said...

I agree with you, Rob, that Alexandra is the best singer although I actually think I prefer her voice to Leona's. It's richer, deeper and stronger and more emotive. But yes, they're all generic: Beyonce et al. The XFactor is never going to discover any of the true originals who make music worthwhile.

I loved Diana's quirkiness at the beginning but now find her incredibly irritating when interviewed with her gushing 'poor little girl act - I want this sooooo much'' (yes, dear and you've dreamt about it all your life -- all 17 yrs of it), and her singing voice sounds like she's trying to sing while being throttled and shaken by a big pair of hands. All personal taste, though, huh. At least Daniel has now gone, and sad to see Rachel go but she only shone once when she did that big bluesy number in the green dress with the 20s hairstyle -- that WAS amazing.

Roll on Saturday. I've even starting voting!

Claire A said...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2008/nov/25/x-factor-leonard-cohen-hallelujah

David Floyd said...

As far I know, Cohen isn't upset about the covers of Hallelujah.

In fact, the X Factor one might even bring in enough cash for him to finally end his 'my manager nicked all my savings tour' which seems to have been running for about three years.

I think hearing Jeff Buckley's version was what introduced me to Cohen for the first time. In a general sense, I now like Cohen's music much more but Buckley probably did a slightly better Hallelujah.

Kathryn Williams does it very well, too.

apprentice said...

I agree Alex's is the best. Jeff Buckley's is the best version ever, on the Grace album.

I think someone should take out an injunction preventing them from murdering it!

Rob said...

Plenty of interesting thoughts, everyone.

Harry - How JLS are still in the competition is a mystery to me.

Deemikay, I'm glad to say I haven't heard the Katherine Jenkins version. I hate hearing opera singers covering pop numbers. I cringe. They can't ever pull it off.

Claire - I watch the X-Factor. It's a Surroundings tradition. I'm not sure whether I'd call myself a 'fan or not! Thanks for that link. Interesting.

Duncan - I'll do that right now if I can find it.

Bernardine - yes, I thought Rachel was unlucky.

David, yes, I'm sure Leonard will be happy enough.

Apprentice - It wouldn't be so much fun to watch if they didn't murder it...

Rob said...

Just heard this version by Bob Dylan. I often get the feeling Bob has continued doing live gigs a couple of decades too long, even if he comes up with an occasional good song – his voice has packed in.

Bernardine Evaristo said...

As for JLS, it's the teenies and the grannies who are keeping them in, although from what I can see, little do they know....

Rob said...

Well, Alexandra won the X Factor and her performance of Hallelujah was astonishing. She saved her very best for last, that's for sure!

Anonymous said...

Lyrical interpretation (wikipedia)
The original recording is noted for containing biblical references in the lyrics, alluding to David's harp-playing used to soothe King Saul (I Sam 16:23), and his later affair with Bathsheba after watching her bathe from his roof (2 Sam 11:2). The line "she broke your throne and she cut your hair" is a reference to the source of Samson's strength from the Book of Judges chapter 16. The third verse mentions "the name" (Tetragrammaton). In these instances, the lyrics are overtly sexual. Jeff Buckley called his own rendition of the song an homage to "the hallelujah of the orgasm"

i heard there was a secret chord
that david played and it pleased the lord
but you don't really care for music, do you
well it goes like this the fourth, the fifth
the minor fall and the major lift
the baffled king composing hallelujah

hallelujah...

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

hallelujah...

baby i've been here before
i've seen this room and i've walked this floor
i used to live alone before i knew you
i've seen your flag on the marble arch
but love is not a victory march
it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

hallelujah...

well there was a time when you let me know
what's really going on below
but now you never show that to me do you
but remember when i moved in you
and the holy dove was moving too
and every breath we drew was hallelujah

well, maybe there's a god above
but all i've ever learned from love
was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
it's not a cry that you hear at night
it's not somebody who's seen the light
it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

hallelujah...

Rob said...

Thanks Anon. Religion and sex are two of Leonard's favourite subjects. I think the fusion of imagery is less to do with Jeff B's "hallelujah of the orgasm" (bit reductive, that) and more an "orgasm of a hallelujah," one that hasn't arrived easily.