It’s looking more and more likely that one song could occupy number one and two in the Christmas singles chart this year – an unprecedented achievement at this or any time of the year.
What’s more uncertain is which version will pip the other to the festive top spot: X Factor winner Alexandra Burke’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s exquisite, Old Testament-informed love song ‘Hallelujah’, or the late American singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley’s version, which has already been held up as one of the finest covers ever recorded.
Buckley’s version was catapulted back into the charts thanks to a Facebook campaign by fans presumably terrified that such a perfect song could be ‘tarred with the X Factor brush’.
But the general public, who’ve probably never heard of Buckley (or Cohen for that matter) and probably don’t use Facebook, and probably don’t care about such things as a song’s reputation, are already snapping up Burke’s version in the thousands, to the extent that it is already seen as an unstoppable Christmas number one.
The cynical view is that the whole ‘controversy’ is not about artistic integrity though; it’s intended to get people to buy records, so the PRs will be rubbing their hands with glee while millions of people debate which version should win, and put their money where their mouth is.
Personally, I think Burke’s warbling effort is a bloody travesty, and I’d like to see anything but an X Factor drone win Christmas number one. Alternatively, I’d like to see someone actually make a Christmas record, although ‘Hallelujah’ certainly has a Christmassy feel.
But in the end, perhaps the most important result of all this is that Leonard Cohen, one of the greatest songwriters of the past fifty years, gets a little financial boost this Christmas after his manager nicked his retirement fund.
Which is the best ‘Hallelujah’? Compare below…