So after managing to ignore X-Factor for the entire series, I flick round to see the absolute murder of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” by the winner. Perhaps the thing I dislike most about the show is that it promotes the idea that to be good at singing you need powerful vocals and a smooth style. In this case, all it accomplishes is to overwhelm the song.

Jeff Buckley’s more delicate, emotionally honest take below the fold. For my money the best version, it still has the capacity to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

Update: Great blog of different versions here

There is also a neat live version kicking around You Tube, but it isn’t allowed to embed it.

  • Harry Flashman

    Jeff’s old man wasn’t half bad either;

    Wow, just wow.

  • iluvni

    It is better than kd’s version?

  • Ammanfordian

    John Cale.
    Enough said.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    >>the absolute murder of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” by the winner.<

  • I think of the three finalists, Eoghan would have suited the song the best. But what can you do when the promoters decide on a particular song to be released beforehand, no matter who wins?

    Alexandra seems to be just another Leona – the question is, is the music industry big enough for two of the same artists?

    Me, I would prefer to hear them sing the tune well than all the big high-falutin bits…

  • Alan

    Sat through 4 hours of emotional turmoil with my teenage daughters watching X Factor last night.

    It was all smiles and hope until Cowell dumped Eoghan. Now the knives are sharpening and plans afoot to make Geraldine’s the Xmas number 1. The race will be won somewhere out in cyber reality.

  • Rory Carr

    It’s all very well this Jeff Buckley rendering making the hairs stand up on the back of one’s neck, but what I want is a tune that will make some hair stand up on the crown of my head. Any ideas?

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    To be fair the wee Ony boy had run his race, rotten last week and rank rotten this week. Some of his biggest fans were in ma hoose, ma wee fella is an Eoghan as well. And if this lassie is indeed another Leona then the world is going to be enriched.

    That beyoncie wan was class as well, absolutely brilliant!

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    >>what I want is a tune that will make some hair stand up on the crown of my head. Any ideas?<

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    I never watch the X Factor at all, I avoid it like the plague, I can’t stand all that over commercialized stuff from ITV…Simon Cowell, the cheesy Ant & Dec, wall to wall inane soaps etc…
    But as it was the final last night, decided to flick over, and I must say that the girl who won, Alexandra, thoroughly deserved her victory. What a big professional voice she has, with a great vocal range, able to hit those high notes no problem. And with her dark exotic looks, she is a superstar in the making, another Beyonce, another Leona Lewis….Well done to herself!

  • kensei


    I am a big fan of that song too.


    Listen to the lyrics. The song needs some emotional depth behind it. No amount of vocal range can give you that.

  • Comrade Stalin

    kensei, thank you for blogging this. Going to work every day and hearing everyone burble about Eoghan and X-Factor for the past few weeks has led me to believe I might be going insane. I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t get it.

    X-Factor – a show whose entertainment value is derived from ridiculing people as they perform music written by other composers – is not about music at all. There’s more feeling in a stuffed toy sheep.

  • Dave

    John Cale’s version is wrongly proffered by music pundits as a reconstruction of the song, when those who saw Cohen in concert during his 1985 tour will be aware that it is a Xerox of Cohen’s live version. Buckley does not add anything of additional value in his (excellent) interpretation, but I like his spare guitar arrangement that, like the song it itself, lingers on the wrong side of hope and heaven, finally reconciled to accepting shabby human limitations despite striving (unconvincingly) against them. Cohen also did a great performance of it in Dublin in June.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    Methinks sometimes just sometimes we don’t need to look to deeply into thing bhoys.

    Just enjoy!

  • The Raven

    I’d love to see an end to these “talent” competitions. In my day – which isn’t all that long ago – talent was outed in bars and recording studios; by sending your stuff into radio stations and getting airplay; battles of the bands weren’t done like X-factor-esque shiny happy things.

    It tool hard work and real talent. I was in a couple of bands – we were very part-time, and were only in for the £50 each we got paid for playing in a couple of local bars. Others, however, were dedicated, and properly talented – they learnt to play, write and record. Some of them are still within the music industry now, though mostly in small labels, or working with young bands/singer songwriters to develop their skills.

    While I realise X Factor is a nice bit of fun, and doubtless will encourage other kids to discover their creative side, I see no long term gain from catapulting a 16 year old from schoolboy to recording artist in 12 weeks.

    I often wondered what would have happened, if with a little bit of creative licence and a TARDIS at hand, what would have happened if Tom Waits, Freddie Mercury or Robert Plant had been placed in front of an X Factor “panel”? By the way, before anyone says it, yes – the Beatles WERE an early boy band.

    But I doubt Ronan Keating will ever turnout a Sergeant Pepper.

  • Kensei


    The number of different covers of this song attests that here you are very, very wrong


    I disagree that Buckley’s version doesn’t add anything; his vocal style is very different from Cohen’s and the sparse guitar arrangement you mention is fantastic. I could listen to the intro on loop, nevermind the song.

    I do like Cohen, though, Suzanne and Famous Blue Raincoat are also excellent songs.

  • Kensei

    The Raven

    Hard work can still get you places. Josh Ritter is an American, had a chance meeting with The Frames, came to Ireland and did a hell of a lot open mic nights to hone his craft. He became very popular here, and worked up from there to wider success – he’s reasonably popular in the US now. The Euro exchange rate nixed my chances of seeing him in Dublin, sadly.


  • Prionsa Eoghan

    Dontye jist hate music snobs, I’ve suffered from the tyranny of these baskets all my life.

  • Dave

    Kensei, Buckley’s vocal style in his rendition is a duplicate of how Cohen sings it in his live version (lonely, hurting, uncertain, broken but reconciled and made all the more appreciative of fleeting graces by recognition of how fleeting they are). If in doubt, Cohen released a live version of it on the album ‘Cohen Live’ circa 1994 (and you can probably download it somewhere). Likewise, Buckley’s sparse guitar style on his recording of the song is also a duplicate of the sparse arrangement that Cohen used on his live version (and, indeed, of the sparse musical arrangements that Cohen uses throughout his songs). It is Cohen’s style, not Buckley’s. The particular arrangement of the guitar on Buckley’s version is, I agree, quite magnificent and transcendental in an appropriately muted manner (if you know what I mean). As Cohen sang on another song “There is a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in” and “Every heart to love will come, but like a refugee.” And again in the song you mentioned (Suzanne), “And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him…” When you’re talking about that kind of transient imperfect grace and the long broken road to it, you don’t want to go and ruin the sentiment with gorgeous perfect arrangements, do you? Buckley understood that (as an artist should), and he got it just right. I think it is sublime.

    Unfortunately, great songwriters are doomed to hear their art violated as it is repackaged as factory pap for the new (and ever dumber) generation who never heard these songs when they were first released and who probably think that the songs are the creation of the vacuous tossers who are butchering them. The Beatles ‘Jude’ song, for example, is typical fodder for that business model.

  • NP

    Jeff is the MAN

    backstroked into the mississippi singing “whole lotta love” paddle steamer took him out. What a way to go.

  • The Raven

    “Unfortunately, great songwriters are doomed to hear their art violated as it is repackaged as factory pap for the new (and ever dumber) generation who never heard these songs when they were first released and who probably think that the songs are the creation of the vacuous tossers who are butchering them.”

    Hear, hear. Except the “new generation” is very much divided up into that which you describe, and those that have the gumption to look beyond that vacuum. Alas, the latter are much outnumbered by the former. Though the myriad youngsters using myspace as a means of marketing their own music is offering some hope there.

    I am already half-filling my ten year old’s niece’s iPod nano with stuff that will never feature in the so-called charts. One can only hope.

  • kensei


    It is ultimately Cohen’s song, so I don’t think you can escape having a piece of him in it. I had read he was influenced by Cale’s version though. I don’t think I have heard that version from Cohen, but its the “transcendental” nature that I was talking about.

    I think even the ages of the singers play into it — Cohen was 50, I think, when he released it, whereas Buckley was a much younger man. Those lyrics coming from men with that kind of age difference has a greatly different effect to my ears. From someone of Cohen’s age, those fleeting moments are more distant, less likely to be repeated, more sorrowful and wistful. For Buckley, it’s closer to hearing someone’s first real love, the pain in the song more more immediate and more acute.

    I think I may have strayed into babbling territory.


    It’s not all bad. Of all the people caught up on this, a small percentage will investuigate the other versions because of it, and expand their horizons.

  • edward

    Concrete blondde does an excelent cover of Cohen’s Everybody Knows

  • Rory Carr

    Don’t worry guys – come the next X Factor, I’m a shoe-in. I’ve already done a deal with my Morrocan, Swedish trained dentist to fiddle the teeth transformation on the NHS and I’m learning to synch the banjolele, so when you see the spitting image of George Formby doing When I’m Cleaning Windows, that”l be me.

    No need to beg for your votes out of loyalty – talent will out.

    p.s. Thanks Prionsa Eoghan for your tips on hair regrowth. I can’t wait.

  • pith

    I’ve never seen the X-factor but I have seen Eoghan Quigg sending up Geraldine brilliantly in a ‘Goes Home’ “”””news report””””. That Simon Cowell is reported to have said Quigg could leave with his head held high. Having seen Eoghan get lost in his school principal’s belly button, I doubt it.

  • pfhl

    On another topic anybody heard the mark viduka lyrics? Well wortha google funny if nothing else.

  • brendan,belfast

    In the States, ‘American Idol’ used the song the same way that Cowell is now on X Factor. The result was that the Jeff Buckley version went to #1; not a bad outcome.

    If you don’t own the album ‘Grace’ please do yourself a favout and buy it tomorrow.

    Best use of a song on TV; Jeff Buckley’s version on the West Wing.