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Thursday, December 16, 2010


Halleluiah performed rufus wainwright.

This may be the most beautiful song I have ever heard. It has everything from biblical allusions with stories of love and loss, faith and betrayal doubt and denial. Every one of its verses has a story that is beautiful in itself but even better when taken as a whole. And as it goes on the song takes on a decided tinge of sadness, as he moves on from faith to despair, from love to hate. It chronicles the destruction of a beautiful relationship, or tells about the end of things, the death of all as the singer sings of memories so timeless they cannot be captured in anything more complex than the battle cry halleluiah.

From a refrain of praise at the beginning by the time the song winds down it’s a cold and broken halleujah sung by a cold and broken man. A man broken by a woman, by his love for her, by his faith and it’s a beautiful thing to hear such brokenness in a song to see the process. Its as if all that is born of beauty is despair but even the birthing of that despair is beautiful.

I can never remember the first time I heard this song, I just remember that it always symbolized endings. In a time of my life when I watched a lot of TV this was the song that was used to put a beloved character to death or to say goodbye at a time when words were not enough to convey the emotions that the screenwriter needed the tool used best was this song played over a montage of images..

It would start, (and they would always use the rufus Buckley version). The most emotionally wrenching one, with extended soulful instrumentals and a voice that seems to be breaking with sadness. The first verse would start about David and his secret chord, perharps the only hopeful verse in the song as we hear about the boy king and experience the love that god feels for him above all others. The montage would begin; this may be the place where the tragedy takes place there is still a chance the character isn’t dead there are still vague stirrings of hope that are mercilessly crushed by the time the song moves on to the part about Bathsheba as we see the beginning of the end of king David and hear about the betrayal of Samson by Delilah it becomes clear that there is no coming back from the end.

By the third verse the singer starts to sing about the past “I used to live alone before I knew you.” It sounds like he’s convincing himself that he can live alone once more. Refusing to accept that the world has changed and that he has changed too much to live alone as he did before. At this point the character is most assuredly dead, by the end of this verse there is an acceptance of the sorrow as there is a “cold and broken halleluiah”. Hope has left the song and the lives of the people on screen all that is left is memories and sorrow. We are at this point provided with a tearful close-up, the song fades into the background as sounds of sorrow come to the fore.

The next verse speaks to the real end. As the memories of a better time are visited “there was a time you would let me know what’s really going on below.” The halleluiah in this verse is pure nolstalgia. When one can’t accept grief or sorrow they bargain. Thinking the memories of a bright yesterday can bring light to a dark today. The emotional connection continues to deepen. Who of us hasn’t held on to the good times when we are confronted by the reality of what’s happening, what’s happening on screen or in our lives. At this point in the song the words take a break and the instruments get a chance to shine. The guitar wails with sorrow. The montages continue to appear on screen and we feel as if we have lost someone. When the lyrics pick up again they speak of something dark and sinister. We learn that love can only teach to kill “all I ever learnt from love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew ya.” The bitterness is palpable. Sometimes this verse is cut off. Most times it is. A TV show isn’t going to play the whole 6 minute thing.

But this may be the most poignant verse; it speaks for the first time of doubt in god “maybe there’s a god above.” It speaks about the destructive nature of love and is a mirror image of the beginning. From hope comes despair, from love death, from god disappointment. Only beauty begets more beauty.

That song tells a beautiful story and it does it so well. Perharps even better than we were four.