Look what they done to my song, Ma!

December 26, 2008

Before you read this piece, I want it to be known that I do not watch The X Factor. I watched the closing stages of it last night, but only because I had been told that one of my favourite songs was to be sung by the finalists. The song is Hallelujah, a Leonard Cohen composition. It is beautiful and moving. More than anything, it is imbued with Judaism.

Knowing something about the pop industry today (for “pop industry”, read Simon Cowell), I had very low expectations for the way the two finalists, a boy band and a girl belter, would render the song, and yet I was still appalled at the way it was butchered and abused. If Hallelujah were a pet, the RSPCA would be calling for Cowell to be banned from keeping animals for the rest of his life.

As I watched the performances, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up at the crassness of it all. Children singing a grown up song like this is just wrong. It was like turning up for the school concert and hearing the choir singing a version of “Je t’aime (moi non plus)”.

Even more upsetting is that the song has now been appropriated as a festive song. It’s almost certain to be at number 1 in the charts this Christmas and it shouldn’t be. Just because it’s called “Hallelujah” they decided to add some bells to it, so to speak, and turn it into a gospel carol. On the set of the show the singers performed before a big pine tree with a star atop, in the shape of a great big cross. They stole it. It’s a Jewish song. Hallelujah is a Jewish word. It’s a song about David and Saul. It’s about Bathsheba, Samson and Delilah and God. And sex. It’s about as far from a Christmas song as you can get.

The only saving grace for this tawdry affair is that Leonard Cohen is set to make about a million quid from it and he deserves it for such a masterpiece. Simon Cowell, on the other hand, ought to be ashamed, but instead he’ll be wringing his hands at a Christmas windfall he doesn’t deserve.Then again, he don’t really care for music, do he?

Originally posted December 14th 2008

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