Hallelujah

Album: Overcome (2008)
Charted: 1

Songfacts®:

  • On Sunday 14th December 2008, just a few hours after Alexandra Burke was announced as the winner of the 2008 UK X-Factor reality show, her version of this Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley song was released online. It immediately began shattering records for the fastest selling download in the UK, selling 149,546 downloads in two days. The previous record holder, Leona Lewis' version of Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This, shifted 139,000 in seven days. By the following Tuesday the song was also available physically and by the end of the week its combined sales had reached around 576,000 copies, more than the rest of the Top 20 singles put together. This was the highest single week sale of any single since December 2005, when X-Factor winner Shayne Ward's debut single "That's My Goal" sold 742,000 copies in its debut week. It also became the fastest ever-selling single in the UK by a solo female artist.
  • This was chosen as the X-Factor winner's debut single, after Simon Cowell noticed the enthusiastic reaction that American Idol Jason Castro received when he performed this song during one of the heats. In the immediate aftermath Buckley's version began selling in huge quantities as a download, topping the US iTunes chart at one stage.
  • This slightly differs lyrically from both Cohen and Buckley's versions. Before he edited it down, Cohen wrote around 80 verses for this song in total, dealing with both spiritual and sexual matters. His original studio recording was more biblically based than many of the subsequent recordings, alluding to a number of Old Testament stories. Jeff Buckley's interpretation was more erotic, being based on some of the more sexually orientated verses that Cohen wrote, as have many of the other 170 or so covers that have been made of this song. Alexandra Burke's version is more toned down than Buckley's and omits a couple of verses. She told The Sun newspaper: "I didn't know it was about sexual positions. I see it as a love song. The words capture me but I don't automatically think of sex. I think of love."
  • Prior to this version entering the UK singles chart, three previous Leonard Cohen compositions had done so. Ian McCulloch's take on "Lover Lover Lover" reached #47 in 1992, Jennifer Warnes peaked at #74 with "First We Take Manhattan," and The Neville Brothers reached #72 with "Bird On A Wire."

    The same week that Alexandra Burke reached #1 with her version, Jeff Buckley's rendition sold in large quantities as well, thanks principally to an online campaign, and ended up in the runner-up spot. Even Leonard Cohen's original version made the Top 40, giving the Canadian singer-songwriter his very first UK Top 40 hit under his own name, at the age of 74.
  • Alexandra Burke is the daughter of UK soul singer Melissa Bell, who in 1993 contributed uncredited vocals to Soul II Soul's UK Top 30 hit "Wish."
  • This was the biggest selling single of 2008 in the UK shifting 880,000 copies. The second biggest seller was the charity recording "Hero" by the X Factor finalists, which sold 751,000. This meant that Burke achieved the remarkable feat of singing on both the two biggest sellers of that year.
  • As a result of the song's success, Alexandra Burke became the first ever solo British female singer to have a million selling single in the UK. The previous best selling single by a solo British female was Julie Covington, whose 1977 rendition of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" fell just short of the million mark with 993,000 copies sold.

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