My Brain is Mostly Song Lyrics


November 20, 2016 | No comments


Yesterday, I mentioned some of my favourite lyrics by the late Leonard Cohen. Number four on my list was Hallelujah. This song took Cohen about four years to write, with draft versions of 80 or so verses. The original recording from 1994 had four verses, and in 1988 he sang an alternative version of three of them.

Of all his songs, Hallelujah is probably the most well-known and it is definitely the one that I listen to the most. If you are like me, and don’t actually like listening to Leonard Cohen singing, there are hundreds and hundreds of cover versions to find a favourite among. The cover versions span the range from hideous and hated to brilliant and adored. No matter what musical style or mood you prefer, there is surely to be a cover version for you. Unfortunately, searching for Hallelujah on for example youtube can lead you to some scary places. To save your ears (and your sanity), I’ve made a list of both the good and some of the bad to get you started.


John Cale | Cale re-arrangement using two verses from the original 1984 version and three from the 1988 version is probably my favourite (although the new music video linked above gives me chills – and not the good kind).

Jeff Buckley | Jeff Buckley’s recording from 1994 is probably the most popular cover version, and is mostly based on Cale’s version with the same verses. Unless you’ve actually heard Cohen’s or Cale’s recordings, this is probably the one you are most familiar with (or blasphemy, even think is the original). I love this for how sorrowful the song has become.

Rufus Wainwright | Wainwright’s version, which was featured on the 2001 soundtrack to the film Shrek (although Cale’s version was used in the film) is another classic. It’s a bit of mix between Cale’s and Buckley’s versions.

k.d. lang | I my opinion, k.d. lang’s version from 2004 combines the best of Cohen’s original with Cale’s and Buckley’s covers, and using two of the 1984 verses and two of the 1988 verses.


Pentatonix | Penatonix’s version from last month is one of the most recent. It uses the same verses as k.d. lang. At first, I wasn’t sure if this belonged in the hate or love category, but the more I hear it, the more I like it.

Peter Hollens & Jackie Evancho | I usually like both Peter Hollens and Jackie Evancho, but their version of Hallelujah did not impress me.


Côr Glanaethwy | This version with the Welsh choir Côr Glanaethwy is absolutely amazing.

Il Divo | Best version if you’re in the mood for Hallelujah in Italian.

Peter Jöback | Plenty of artists have performed Swedish covers of Hallelujah (with different translations). This is one of the better.


Brooklyn Duo | I have a soft spot for this version, with a piano and cello, based on Buckley’s version.

Roy & Rosemary | This version, with a piano and violin (and an orchestra), is lovely.

Chris Botti | Hallelujah on trumpet? Yes, please.

Brian Crain | There’s plenty of great pianists that have recorded Hallelujah. This is one of my favourites.

Lindsey Stirling | I’m usually a big fan of Lindsey Stirling, but this arrangement did not work for me (it starts nicely but then it goes downhill fast).


Gregorian | The German bad Gregorian’s rendition, using two of the 1984 verses and one of the 1988 verses, is big and magnificent. It’s actually one of the versions I listen to the most often.

Espen Lind, Kurt Nilsen, Alejandro Fuentes and Askil Holm | The 2006 acoustic version by a Norwegian quartet, using two of the 1984 verses and only one of the 1988 verses, is worth listening to just to hear Kurt Nilsen singing the last verse. It gives me chills (the good kind).

Justin Timberlake & Matt Morris | This heartfelt cover from the Hope for Haiti Now concert following the 2010 earthquake is worth listening to.

The Canadian Tenors | The orchestra is a nice touch, but this rendition is quite forgettable. (And part of the arrangement doesn’t work for me.)

Sam Tsui, Alex G, and Casey Breves | Sam Tsui and Casey Breves’ voices are perfect, but I’m not a fan of Alex G.

Vocal Majority | Hallelujah with a big choir? Yes, why not.

Choir! Choir! Choir! | Another big choir (1500!), this one singing with Rufus Wainwright. I love it.

Jake Hamilton | I’m all for people reinterpreting songs and making them their own, but this one makes my ears hurt (and my heart ache).

Shawn Mendes | This is probably one of the worst covers of Hallelujah I have ever heard. You have been warned.

What’s the best (or worst) cover of Hallelujah you have come across?