Five years ago I heard a group of college students perform an a cappella version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and was spellbound.
Newsweek recently ranked 60 versions of the song, from best to worst. I disagree with the magazine’s No. 1, John Cale (“Shrek,” the movie). My vote goes to Jeff Buckley, with k.d. lang’s live versions (the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2005 Juno Awards) a close second and third.
I confess I haven’t heard many of the other versions of Cohen’s once-obscure 1984 song, so this is hardly scientific. But apparently I’m not alone favoring Buckley — the linked version above has more than 51 million hits on YouTube.
In the end, it doesn’t matter which is your favorite. The point is to appreciate Cohen’s composition, and the varied interpretations of it by so many talented artists — even a bunch of college kids giving it all they have.
I still marvel at that performance and the effect it had on me, so I guess that puts their version near the top of my list.