Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hallelujah for Saturday night TV

Confession: I have been known to get a lump in my throat during the X-Factor. Okay, maybe once or twice I might have got a little moist in the corner of my eyes too. Yes, I know, street cred in tatters etc etc. Last night, as most of the nation knows, was the grand final of the 2008 series, and round at the Wilson household events were carefully planned around it. Would the night end in the indignity of a little Irish munchkin scooping the prize or would a contestant with a bit of genuine talent eventually triumph?
Well, as it happened the former scenario was thankfully evaded as Eoghan was ditched at the first hurdle leaving solo artist Alexandra and boy-band JLS to battle it out for the top spot. And then things got interesting. For some baffling reason (perhaps the same baffling reason behind last week's performance of 'Amazing Grace' by Italian quartet Il Divo?) the final head to head song turned out to be Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah'. The classic Simon Cowell line, "Who on earth chose that song for you?" does spring to mind at this point. And yet it was a truly inspired song choice. Yes, this dark/light, folk/gospel, poem/ballad seemed to totally make sense, even on prime time Saturday night TV. The response of the studio audience and the judges to wave after wave of the song's 'Hallelujah' chorus belted out with passion and sincerity was probably the closest most people in this country are going to get to Christ this Christmas. Unless they go out and buy the single that is; because then they could have their very own dark/light, folk/gospel, poem/ballad worship time in the comfort of their own home. Which is actually quite exciting.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


john lee said...

But Matt - Why is it 'inspired' or 'exciting'? Does it matter what Cohen meant by 'Hallelujah'? When Christians, or anyone sings along to it, what do they think they are doing? Are they identifying with what some have referred to as the 'orgasmic' refrain?

Whilst emerging from a Judeo-Christian culture, he appropriates biblical imagery as metaphors for the sad trajectory of a couple in lust that ultimately and inevitably ends in cynicism and suspicion. It is clear he didn't in any sense mean the chorus literally or religiously, rendering it ironic and mocking in some way. His own rendition makes that clear. The song is poetic, deliberately elusive and ambiguous, but certainly does not honour God.

Christian hymns and spiritual songs properly praise our God - don't applaud our culture for their vacuous 'Lord, Lord'.

john lee said...

...and within half an hour of commenting, Handel's Messiah began on BBC4 - isn't that a true hallelujah? Meaning, intent and Spiritual inspiration matter, no comparison. Happy Christmas!

Matt Wilson said...

Oh John, what a pity you insist on being so cerebral about these things. You and I both know that there are few, if any church worship leaders in this nation who can even come close to generating this kind of emotional, dare I say 'spiritual' power - no matter how 'holy' the lyrics of their hymn books.
But to take a jaded, cynical song and revitalise it, redeem it in this way, in a sense to 'mock its mockery', that's actually straying beyond worship and stepping into the realm of mission.