Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An X-Factor Christmas: What are we to make of "Hallelujah"?

Anyone who listens to Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah needs to bear in mind what he said about it himself: I filled two notebooks and I remember being in the Royalton Hotel [in New York], on the carpet in my underwear, banging my head on the floor and saying, 'I can't finish this song.' and you get the impression he's not entirely sure what it's about. Nonetheless thanks to the Simon Cowell everyone will be singing it this Christmas with over 100,000 copies sold in the first day that Alexandra Burke's cover of it was available.

Cohen picks up on the stories of David and his adultery with Bathsheba and Samsons fall that cost him his hair. Stories worth re-reading. Hallelujah is a song of for the baffled and the broken. That's a bit odd since Alexandra sings it like some kind of power ballad - I can't help but think that the faltering Diana Vickers version possibly fits a bit better (though it wouldn't sell so well).

The music is sweet while the words are bitter, captures much of our experience. An experience that isn't just for Christmas but is for life. An experience we find articulated by Qoheleth in the book of Ecclesiastes. Something akin perhaps to the experience of an X-Factor winner who just had "the best moment of her life". That might just be as good as it gets long-term...

The song taps into something that most of us feel - the sense of bitterness, loss, bafflement, emptiness that life throws at us, that we just drift into - and the desire for some kind of transcendence, something more, something that can lift us. Few can embrace an entirely bitter reflection, most of us hope for something that cal extract a 'hallelujah'. The question for most of us, is what reason have we to think that there is any such distinction as bitter and sweet? We feel bitter and we want the sweet but in a meaningless world don't we just have to be indifferent? Indifferent unless we find good reason for more.

And it's not that being a Christian dissolves the bittersweet sense of life yet. Life is still vapour. It's still Abel. The creation still groans. Life still breaks. We need a story like the story of Mara who is redeemed to be Naomi in the book of Ruth... a story of a woman and a son. The coming of a son who redeems what was lost and gives good reason to sing Hallelujah.

Zoomtard: The Scriptures tell the compelling story of a man who let’s his lust serve his insecurities and he loses a son, a soldier and almost loses his Kingdom. Alexandra Burke sings it as a hymn of thanksgiving to a plastic god that made her famous. And people buy this s****?