I’m still in this dream world called Sin-e’, and I came across a few people who insisted that the song “Hallelujah” is a Christmas tune — even fighting tooth and nail just to have Jeff Buckley‘s version dominate the UK Christmas Charts (but it only reached number two, as another version of the same song topped the list).
The thing is, the only “carol” that he recorded was “Corpus Christi Carol” — and no, it’s not applicable to the holidays as well (note: carol = hymn)!
The lyrics speak of a man who, in the present times, is trying to make some sense out of the things that have happened, struggling to understand why, all of a sudden, everything came crashing down.
As part of his reflections, he talks about men who were strong and were committed to their beliefs, but were weakened by the women they loved (this is where the allusions to some biblical accounts come in). He enumerates the fates of those whose convictions – strong belief in a higher being (Hallelujah = Glory to God) – were almost destroyed –
There’s King David, who, as what numerous religious hymns would say, always played a special tune on the harp to honor God –
I heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord.
Realizing that his analogy may not have been clearly stated –
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
He starts explaining that even if David’s faith has been firmly established…
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…
A woman was still able to post a threat to it –
Well your faith was strong but you needed proof.
You saw her bathing on the roof.
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you.
Then there’s Samson, a man with incredible strength, who was overpowered by the woman he loved –
She tied you to her kitchen chair.
She broke your throne and she cut your hair.
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah.
Back to the present time, the man remembers how he was before he met her.
Baby I’ve been here before.
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor.
I used to live alone before I knew you.
And when she came into his life, his life was shaken –
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch.
But love is not a victory march.
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
At first, things were good… until she changed –
There was a time when you let me know what’s really going on below.
But now you never show that to me do you.
He couldn’t help but reminisce because they used to have the same degree of passion toward each other, they felt the same kind of love, the same kind of admiration and awe. Everything in his life came in sync with hers. She made him feel stronger and more alive – a feeling he described using another biblical moment –
But remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too?
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah.
He then relates himself with David and Samson, whose strong faith was weakened by Bathsheba and Delilah… men who were left being fearful and helpless. But as what the last few lyrics suggest, the song is indeed about his own grief –
Well, maybe there’s a God above.
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you.
He feels lost and dejected –
It’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
Because he, for someone who used to be his own man, has lost everything that he stood for… and there’s nothing else he can do, except cope –
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
There is nothing Christmassy about the song, it’s not even about singing praises to the Lord amidst the trials. Simply put, it’s about a man whose heart was broken.
It’s a sad song.
Honestly, as I end this post, I clearly understood the pain that the character was trying to communicate… as my heart feels heavy right now. And I’m sure that’s what Leonard Cohen (who created it) wanted me to feel.
– except, of course, if this is really a song about that wonderful, yet blush-worthy, subject that Jeff mentioned in the past – if that’s what it really means, then I give you license to throw my interpretation out the window.