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The history of 'Hallelujah'

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The history of 'Hallelujah'
When Alexandra Burke sang 'Hallejujah' on Saturday's X Factor final, she joined an impressive list of artists who have covered Leonard Cohen's 1984 classic. Bon Jovi brought their overblown stadium rock sound to the song, Bono gave it a bizarre trip-hop reworking and The Velvet Underground's John Cale performed a moving rendition for a 1991 Cohen tribute record.

However, the most famous - and, according to Cohen, definitive - version of 'Hallelujah' is by the late Jeff Buckley. Appearing on his only complete studio album, Grace, it ditched Cohen's chintzy eighties production and replaced it with sparse, ethereal-sounding guitar work and Buckley's angelic, idiosyncratic vocals. It wasn't the American's finest moment, but it is his best-remembered.

Consequently, it wasn't surprising that followers of the Californian were up in arms when they heard Simon Cowell had picked the track for his latest X Factor victor. Although the line "you don't really care for music, do you?" may seem strangely appropriate for the reality show judge, many fans declared it musical blasphemy that the likes of Eoghan Quigg could end up releasing a song which Buckley believed to be about the "hallelujah of an orgasm".

Alexandra Burke, for her part, thinks the song is about "love" rather than "sexual positions". She may have trouble justifying that when she's singing the line about being tied "to her kitchen chair", but her rendition is nowhere near as awful as it could have been. Its choir-heavy crescendo may grate on those who prefer their ballads with a modicum of subtlety, but perhaps the reason the song has become uch a modern classic is its malleability. Whether you think it's about sex, romance, triumph, failure or something else entirely, the track's hymnal beauty remains constant.

While the Facebook campaigners and Buckley obsessives may not succeed in trumping Burke for the Christmas number one spot, they shouldn't consider their efforts a total failure. Cowell Towers may have won the chart battle, but it is Cohen and the late Buckley who are the real winners, with millions of young fans hearing a great song performed by a great singer for the very first time.

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