Thursday, 18 December 2008

"But you don't really care for music, do you?"

It's a really good job I never published the version of this post I had in mind on Saturday night. Partly because we'd had the neighbours over, the evening had gone downhill rapidly in a haze of Martin Miller's gin and the resultant fuzz would have caused unwarranted randomness.

It would have been the typed equivalent of: "I lurrrve're mah besht mate," or: "Leave it Darren, he's not worth it". I'm not certain I'm even spelling 'hiccup' properly.

But that's not the main reason why it's better I waited. The other reason is because I was a lot angrier on Saturday evening. Before the gin turned the anger into sodden melancholy.

The 15-week talent-vacuum that is X-Factor finished at the weekend, with one particularly bland singer winning out over several other bland singers.

Battle of the blands, if you will.

It wasn't the fact that it was over that made me angry. If anything, I was glad it had finished. I only really pay attention to it in the opening stages, when it's more a human zoo than anything else. (Does that make me a bad person? Thought so).

It wasn't the choice of eventual winner that made me angry. She seemed like a perfectly nice girl, if somewhat taken to Whitney Houston-esque histrionics. Not my sort of thing, but it appears to be popular with people who wear a lot of man-made fibres, so there you go.

No, it was the song choice of the show's svengali, the oddly-trousered Simon Cowell, for the afore-mentioned winner's debut single. That made me angry. That and the fact that it will no doubt trouble the no. 1 position of the charts at Christmas. A cover of 'Hallelujah', the Leonard Cohen number.

I seem to remember using phrases like 'cultural vandal'. I may have asked: "Is nothing sacred?" I talked about how the song can only be sung by someone who'd been round the block a bit. A little damaged. A bit windswept and interesting. I could well have rambled about how a song that spoke eloquently of the mixture of exultation and despair that comes with passionate love couldn't be sung by someone whose idea of personal tragedy was running out of credit on their Nokia. I may even have offered to play the Jeff Buckley version for my neighbours. Which would have brought the party mood down a notch or two, had Katie not wrestled the iPod out of my indignant fingers.

I am quite keen on 'Hallelujah'. I like the story behind it - Leonard Cohen apparently agonised over it for two years before completing a version with 80 verses. I am quite keen on the Jeff Buckley cover, or, 'the one they play on the OC when someone dies', as it's now known. And although I don't like her that much, I have a copy of it done by kd lang that I have to go for brisk walk after playing, making sure to avoid eye contact with other people.

Since Saturday, however, my mood has changed a little. The purists are angry now - and they're sober. There's a campaign to get other versions to number one instead. The story has been covered by papers, radio and TV. A lot. There is even a swathe of Facebook groups campaigning, as only Facebook groups can. Every man and his dog has written a blog post about it (many of whom used exactly the same line from the song as the title - I'm just following the herd here).

And you know what? It's a song. A great song, but just a song. It's been covered by about 150 people at the last point, so moaning about another one is a pretty good example of the stable-door-horse thing. It turns out a certain L. Cohen gets some benefit from the royalties. A whole bunch of people will get to hear the original and other 'definitive' versions as a result of the publicity. And I realised that a lot of musical snobbery was being displayed.

So has my opinion changed with regards to the Alexandra Burke version? Have the scales lifted from eyes? Have I learned to accept this mainstream recitation?

Oh God no, it's bloody awful.


David Edgar said...

I have just scanned You Tube and there is an endless supply of 'versions' of this song. I think we can confidently claim that... well most are ruddy awful. But there's no accounting for taste I guess.

Having said that, there are some rather good efforts, and some from complete unknowns (to me at least) - as just one example.

But don't bother trying to continue the search. You will very quickly come to hate the song hearing it over and over again in a variety of different versions.

Merry Christmas anyway.

David Edgar said...

Oh the embarrassing thing on that link... is that it is described as the Shrek song.

Its just wrong.

Three Legged Cat said...

If Mr Cohen was most people, he'd be laughing all the way to the bank. Does he laugh though?

Perhaps he will just look enigmatically miserable all the way to the proverbial bank.


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