On last night’s American Idol we had Lee DeWyze cover Leonard Cohen’s”Hallelujah” on last night’s American Idol at Simon’s request. “We always talk about the moment. I wanted him to do something that shows he has the potential to be a great artist.” Cowell said. Like “All Along the Watchtower” (which everyone seems to do as well) I have heard dudes at bars play “Hallelujah” and no big moment has come from that.
The idea that a great song will be a great performance is laughable. If nothing else, my post on Bad Bob Dylan Covers reflects that. It’s not so much the song, but what you do with it. “Hallelujah” has now become the new standard for wannabes to think they can achieve credibility. Whether or not Cohen views it this way or not remains to be seen, but he has definitely gotten tired of the countless covers – last year he asked artists to stop performing it. It becomes a cliche – “oh this guy covered ‘Hallelujah’ so we must pay attention.” The original loses its power and resonance as a result. When I saw Leonard Cohen perform “Hallelujah” last year, I had to remind myself I was seeing the guy who actually wrote the damn song performing it live, otherwise I might have groaned.
Some might say I’m being too cynical about “Hallelujah” and that I shouldn’t blaspheme a great song. (It is by the way.) And I’m all for introducing great songs by great artists to new audience. But dig a bit deeper, and discover some of Leonard Cohen’s dozens of other great songs. Covering “Hallelujah” doesn’t bring you rock glory. Just ask that to the next guy who performs at an open-mic night.
And for starters on Leonard Cohen, here’s one of my favorites by him: