Sunday, December 21, 2008


So the X-Factor's Alexandra Burke has made it to Number One with her over-the-top version of 'Hallelujah'. For the first time in ages, I've actually been mildly interested in what the UK's top song was. But mostly because I wanted the top spot to go to the Jeff Buckley version. I didn't think it was possible, as I've been watching I-Tunes during the week, and Alexandra was up there.

But you might be wondering what the song is all about. Leonard Cohen's own version of the 'Hallelujah Chorus' might seem straightforward enough, but what about the rest? Well, we actually have some biblical events sneaking into the chart-topper. David's secret chord refers to his lyre, which he played for King Saul (when Saul was still the king of Israel), when Saul was afflicted by an evil spirit. 'And whenever the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.' (1 Samuel 16:23).

David also features in part of the second verse, where he sees Bathsheba bathing on the roof. That is, when David should have been off leading his troops into battle (2 Samuel 11:2). One thing leads to another, in a slippery slope of sin, from seeing her bathing, to having her in his bed (adultery), to making her pregnant, to trying deception by recalling Bathsheba's husband Uriah the Hittite from the battle in the hope he would have sex with his wife. Uriah, however was more noble than David, and refused to enjoy conjugal rights when his brother-soldiers were still encamped in the fields around Rabbah. And so David turned to murder - albeit by the hands of the Ammonites. (And they allow this stuff to be in the Bible! It's like a Christmas special episode of Coronation Street or Eastenders...)

Cohen mixed his biblical allusions, though, because I don't think that Bathsheba was known as a hairdresser. She didn't cut any hair, but over in Judges we find a famous chop. Delilah was a Philistine, and she seduced Samson, who was one of the Judges of Israel - the God-empowered leaders who delivered God's people from their enemies. He had long hair, which was the secret of his strength - it being a visible sign of the vow he was under as a Nazirite, and eventually after a lot of nagging, Samson told Delilah his secret. So she cut his hair, and he lost a lot more than his flowing locks - his freedom, and his eyes.

So there we are - it's a cold and a broken Hallelujah - the cost of love, it appears. Something which is overwhelmed by Alexandra's powerful voice, and so the song isn't presented as it should. Buckley all the way, even if it's just Number 2 this Christmas time!

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