The Top 10 Most Popular Hallelujah Renditions on Youtube.

Via on Jun 12, 2010

The most beautiful word: Hallelujah.

The most beautiful song, originally written and sung by none other than Buddhist, and Ladies’ Man, Leonard Cohen.

“And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand right here before the Lord of song, with nothing on my tongue but ‘Hallelujah’.”

It’s, as I say, a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion…It’s a rather joyous song. I wanted to write something in the tradition of the hallelujah choruses but from a different point of view…It’s the notion that there is no perfection—that this is a broken world and we live with broken hearts and broken lives but still that is no alibi for anything.

On the contrary, you have to stand up and say hallelujah under those circumstances.

~ Leonard Cohen

Then, most memorably, sung by a young man who would, tragically, stay young forever, who would breathe out at the beginning of the song, and finally, never breathe in again. This was the version I first go to know, when, five years ago, my designer Pam Uhlenkamp and I played it again and again in her second floor flat just off downtown Boulder, as we worked endless days and night putting together an issue of elephant.

And, then, most famously, by Rufus Wainwright, a version that made it into Shrek, the blockbuster children’s fave movie.

I heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do ya?
Well it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who out drew ya
It’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not someone whos seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Here are the top ten most popular versions, as picked by We the People across the World, on youtube. The only editorial privilege I’ve exercised is selecting the top 10 that have kept some of the original heartache and space within each word…there are many pop, casual, speedy, shmaltzy versions that exhibit breathtaking vocal range and a decided lack of heart. Fuck ‘em.

Skip to two minutes in—a surprisingly chill-inducing version, given the context:

The most popular version, surprisingly. The blonde man (?) has an amazing voice:

YouTube Preview Image

Buckley:

American Idol Hallelujah, not my fave:

With lyrics:

The man himself. Those lyrics, from that voice. The original:

I love Rufus:

Awesome:

Imogen Heap:

Regina Spektor:

About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | facebook.com/elephantjournal | twitter.com/elephantjournal | facebook.com/waylonhlewis | twitter.com/waylonlewis | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom

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62 Responses to “The Top 10 Most Popular Hallelujah Renditions on Youtube.”

  1. Ramesh says:

    Waylon, I am honored to have my article Why Yoga? placed in the same line-up as Leonard Cohen and all these beautiful renditions of Hallelujah, including one from a fellow Norwegian singer, the hobbit-looking fellow second from the top.

    Here's a Cohen anecdote for you: I grew up just outside Fredrikstad, on an island. Back then, Fredrikstad was home to the late Norwegian writer AxelJensen, whose best friend Tore Bernitz Pedersen, an artist and illustrator, was my friend, even though he was 20 years older than me when I was a 19 year old hippie in the mid 70s. Once, at Tore's home while looking at some of his art work, he put on a Cohen album and started telling me about his time in Greece when he, Axel Jensen and his girl friend Marianne Ihlen lived in Cohen's neighborhood on Hydra. When Axel left Hydra, Marianne and her little son hooked up with Cohen. The rest is history, as they say.

    That love relationship, of course, became legend in the famous Cohen song "So Long Marianne." In return, Jensen fell in love with Cohen's old flame Lene.
    Hallelujah to all that!

    Read an interview with Marianne here: http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/marianne2006.htm
    And about the remarkable, bohemian author Axel Jensen here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axel_Jensen

  2. Mary says:

    K. D. Lang at the Junos. Period. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_NpxTWbovE

  3. Anais says:

    Allison Crowe. Absolutely.

    There is a video @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIMOdVXAPJ0 though my favorite, aside from experiencing Crowe's transcendence in concert, is this audio-only version http://music.allisoncrowe.com/track/hallelujah

  4. Brent says:

    What's the criteria for calling these the ten most popular versions of Hallelujah on YouTube? They are not the most popular chosen by "we the people" according to the YT filter options of views, relevance and rating.

    Any Hallelujah discussion should include John Cale's rendition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckbdLVX736U

    Yes, it has over three million views… many more than some of your choices. More importantly, Cale took Leonard Cohen's song and formed it into the shape in which it's performed by almost everyone since. Without Cale you don't have the same top ten however you choose to pick 'em!

    • I said the criteria in the blog, above–I basically just selected from the top 20 or so those that were my favorite. Totally subjective, for better and worse–so links here are most welcome!

      I listened to Cale, did see that it was hugely popular. I was mainly selecting for ones that had a lot of heartache in them, and weren't too speedy (Cale's was great, as evidenced by the views, just didn't hit me).

      • Katie says:

        It's MEANT to have the heartache. Anyone who's ever followed Leonard Cohen knows that he, his music and especially his lyrics (he is a poet, after all) are complex, often deeply poignant, and never ever "pop".

      • Jason says:

        it should be noted that without the Cale version, the Buckley version (which is the absolute best and always will be) wouldn't exist. Jeff made it well-known that Cale's was the version he heard first and based his cover on.

    • Gae says:

      Fully agree with you Brent.

  5. Tee says:

    I adore this song and am enjoying the many renditions, but I have to agree…no one sings it like Ms. Lang. She has the perfect voice for any song because there's nothing gimmicky about it…it's pure in the way that few voices are. Karen Carpenter had the perfect voice, too…bet she would have sung this amazingly. Thanks for all the videos in one place…the song is just so powerful for me and always has been.

  6. Kelsi Coia KelsiC says:

    Awesome post!!! I love this song, and it's so fun to hear the different renditions!

    I'd like to add the Damien Rice version : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEKCsSlK3jg&fe

  7. Glenn says:

    wow… many great versions out there, but I have to say I agree with the other that kd lang is my fav and it was sooo moving when shed did it at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVq0L4kkpKM

  8. Stephanie Potter says:

    I hear America singing. Would love to see additions (Like the Lang) and maybe this could be a signature of what elephant can do? Love the Buckley, shivers, o-o-o-o

  9. Holly says:

    For emotional authenticity, I love the newest recording by the song's creator, Leonard Cohen, and of all the interpreters, I also find Allison Crowe's performance most moving. It is a song that has been performed so many different ways, and each deserves its own audience.

  10. Atz says:

    Allison Crowe is my favorite artist for this and many other songs she performs. I appreciate that Hallelujah can be enjoyed in many voices. None is "best". All have a place. Thank you Leonard Cohen!

  11. Judi Baker Howell says:

    Thanks, Waylon, for putting that together. I was just starting to do the same thing using the same criteria and now can go find renditions of Sweet Memories to make a similar list.

  12. emotive says:

    As much as I love this song, and most of the artists on this list, there is an amazing version most people haven't heard. Kate Voegele's version of this song gives me goosebumps every single time I hear it. <3
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v22NMAG1k18

  13. denise says:

    Wow how do you not like Jeff Buckley. Watch the tribute to 9/11 with Jeff Buckley singing and if you are an American you will never have second thoughts

    • elephantjournal says:

      Apparently you didn't read the intro, which is half about Buckley. His version, which I agree is wonderful, raw, riveting…is and always has been the third one down. More time enjoying the post, less speedy commenting.

  14. elephantjournal says:

    Ohh…don't forget this live version by Allison Crowe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thNVaVfCQEo

  15. Fred says:

    This song has always been so powerful and moving to me — just the sound, not the lyrics. Then a few months ago, a friend sent the youtube link below to me with Alexandra Burke's rendition providing accompaniment to the video. This video-Hallelujah combo drove me over the edge and to Google. I studied it for hours — the lyrics, Leonard Cohen, opinions about the meaning of the lyrics, etc. And I watched the video and listened to the music over and over and over. AWESOME.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=hN8CKwdosjE

  16. [...] most painfully lovely songs about love, loss, and spirituality. Quebecois-born to Jewish parents, Cohen has studied Zen Buddhism extensively, and its influence is evident in many of his songs. His latest [...]

  17. Brandi says:

    Time for Three does a not to miss rendition, instrumental, absolutely beautiful!!! http://youtu.be/K_SZp_L3q4c

  18. Love Rufus, Love Jeff Buckley…love the original obvs. But Damien Rice…amazing

    live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbk8JnzvUX4&fe

  19. Emerie says:

    Jeff Buckley’s version will always be the definitive one for me. There is so much emotion in his voice. I “discovered” him when “Grace” was released, and have loved his voice ever since. His voice is so haunting that it almost “hurts” to hear it – especially given the tragedy of his being taken from us.

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  21. [...] to eight million versions of it until you’ve inoculated yourself against earworm (and annoyed the hell out of everyone around [...]

  22. Stacey says:

    Check out Brandi Carlile's version…it is pretty amazing as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvUfq2UslOM

  23. karlsaliter says:

    Wow, Regina!!!!

    Didn't even know ahe had covered this. "That Time" crushes me, and this one is a slam dunk too. Brilliant compilation, Way.

  24. Aladour says:

    Most recent and very beautiful rendition by Carly Rose Sonenclar http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDh30jpSALk

    KD lang and Jess Buckley still tops, a special thanks to Jason Castro for bringing this song to my attention!

  25. Donna says:

    Here's my latest fave version from Switerland http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=4YYfqiUu6eQ&de
    This young guy is just as awesome live :-)

  26. nina gouveia says:

    Check out Alison Crowes version

  27. Guest says:

    The best version of this, hands down, is done by Miljenko Matijevic; blows all of these away…easily.

  28. Jason says:

    i would add Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris's cover to this list. They did a very respectable cover for the Hope for Haiti benefit a few years back.
    http://youtu.be/n1LOm69hpR0

  29. Lisa says:

    I love this version by Kate Voegele: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k29JxVCKBBM

  30. Esha says:

    Tom Waits

  31. Kia says:

    If we want to go quirky and have some fun, here is the Italian Divo band singing the song in Spanish (don' t ask..) if anything, they are very easy on the eyes…: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VzB8xC_CwH8
    That said, the more versions I hear, the more I like Cohen ' s new version and of course larger than life KD Lang cover of it. But please, who are we to compare the different versions, right?
    Athens, Ga, Us.

  32. Andrea Jenison says:

    First heard this song while watching the "West Wing". I started to cry…just like that. Recently heard it performed at a children's Xmas concert by a very talented member of the school. Made the difficult trip to get there during a New England snowstorm completely worth it.

    Probably one of the most beautiful songs ever written as well as complex with meaning on so many levels. Always be grateful to the man who created this amazing song.

  33. Paula says:

    How could you leave out KD Lang's version?

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  35. Michael Pahl says:

    I came across this version – don't know who she is and who the guitarist is but it's haunting me – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zEqWw4IQWA

  36. Toni says:

    Cohen and Buckley do it for me.

  37. Anna says:

    Tehres a version THE BEST EVER https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llyADThAg5o
    you should add and give it your attention ;)

  38. Theresa says:

    Was disappointed not to see K.D.Lang in your "10 Most Popular" as she did a beautiful version honoring Lenard Cohen!

  39. Sue says:

    This is my favourite version ever. I watched this broadcast live, and it was made all the more astonishing by the fact that it was an early morning performance on Australian breakfast television : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikdLBQACC74&f

  40. Katie says:

    I remember that too.

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