Jeff Buckley / Rufus Wainwright / Imogen Heap, “Hallelujah”
A fitting selection for a Sunday, Leonard Cohen‘s classic “Hallelujah” has been covered by half the world by this point. There’s a reason for that: It is one of the all-time great songs. It makes my top five without a second thought. However, it is also a song that has the unique distinction of being done better by artists other than the original creator. Sure, Cohen is brilliant and his version is wonderful, but anyone who has heard the late Jeff Buckley‘s cover on his debut album, Grace, knows what the song can be.
That being said, I’ve included three cover versions of the song below. Each is unique and great in its own right. Buckley eschews Cohen’s traditional piano in favor of his trademark electric guitar and croons the tune like no one before or since. He owned this song, which has become his most iconic recording in the time since his tragic death. Rufus Wainwright also turns in a stunning performance in the way that only Rufus can. Accompanying himself on the piano, Wainwright’s heavenly tenor breathes an air of desperation into Cohen’s words of love, loss, faith and doubt. Though the arrangement follows the original more closely, Rufus makes the track his own. Lastly, ex-Frou Frou songbird Imogen Heap provides the most starkly different take on “Hallelujah,” singing the song a capella in her digitally enhanced warble (and with only a handful of the original verses.) Without accompaniment, Heap strips the song down to its barest elements: Cohen’s simple melody and beautiful words. Though the recording is rough (it never appeared on a major release, but did score Marissa Cooper’s death on The O.C.), the imperfections seem to augment Cohen’s message of human imperfection and weakness even more so. Each version is special in its own way and worthy of a listen on your Sunday afternoon. These artists’ great performances are a testament to the genius of Leonard Cohen and the masterpiece that he penned so many years ago. Take the time to listen to each and let us know which you prefer in the space below.
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