Cohen's Hallelujah and Why It Requires Experience (Not Only a Nice Voice)

Like Rilke's "The Panther," Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" has been endlessly "translated." Which is great! If sometimes confusing. 

I mention in a previous post that I'm a fan of K.D. Lang's rendering of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." As a reviewer to the video remarks, K.D. Lang is one of the few singers who seems to comprehend the sense of the song. If hymns can use secular iconography to communicate spiritual ideas (and they do), why can't secular songs use religious iconography to communicate passionate, painful elements of the human experience?

They can.

Consequently, I find the use of "Hallelujah" in religious settings--or weddings--to be bizarre in the extreme, at least those settings (and presumably weddings) where the song is being used as a cheerful message (no dark side). Do people ever listen to lyrics?

I have high expectations for the song (though in all honesty, I enjoy Rufus Wainwright's version on the Shrek soundtrack as a good introduction since it is sincere and unshowy). So when I saw that Colm Wilkinson had included it on his album Broadway and Beyond, I was skeptical.

Don't get me wrong: Colm Wilkinson has a stunning voice. But, well, the song requires powerhouse PLUS.

I am officially impressed. Colm Wilkinson takes the Meatloaf approached--the song is a duet with a female singer. The female singer is not as strong. BUT. The song is interpreted, not merely sung. What is equally impressive is that Wilkinson captures both the argument of a broken heart and the passion of the artist who pleads to God, the muses, for inspiration.

The song requires experience, a past that has undergone the good and the bad and the weird and the everything else. Age and maturity. Colm Wilkinson brings it to the table.

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