Somehow, in this post, I got talking about Cohen and someone commented:
What makes his Hallelujah so great? (It is great.) I don't consider the original lyrics a big deal - though they rank among his more aenigmatic poems. Is it the melody? Some other musical characteristic that I don't know how to hear? Really. Asking.Here is "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen:
And here is the Wikipedia article. A great many artists, including Bob Dylan, have performed the song. In the classical world it is perfectly normal for performers to play music by anyone they like because the functions of composer/performer have been largely separated in the last couple of centuries. In the pop world, prior to the Beatles, this was also the case. But since then, popular musicians have tended to write all their own material. The two exceptions are 'covers' of songs for commercial reasons, i.e. sales--"Yesterday" by Paul McCartney is probably the outstanding example with over 2500 cover versions--or simply out of admiration for the song. I think that most of the covers of "Hallelujah" are for the latter reason. So, as my interlocutor asks, what is so great about "Hallelujah"?
I think it is the feeling of inevitability that the song projects. I was arguing about Bach and Beethoven with a violinist a while back and he said that he preferred Bach because of the feeling of inevitability that his music has. Everything happens just as it should. My friend had played the violin for 90 years, so I suspect there is something to that. But there is inevitability and predictability and they seem almost the same. Take this, for example:
That does have the feeling of inevitability about it, but for most musicians it is just a tad too inevitable, i.e. predictable. Same goes for a lot of Vivaldi. But Bach, on the other hand:
Ah, there's that inevitability. But at the same time, we are never quite sure where he is going next, we just know it is going to be the right place.
I'm afraid that I can't answer the question of my commentor. As Cohen himself said, "if I knew where the good songs came from I would go there more often." It has to do with the perfect co-ordination of melody, harmony and rhythm so that they form a whole that is both inevitable and fresh. You can play a piece by Bach a hundred times and it will still seem fresh. This song probably cannot survive that much exposure, but yes, it is a good song. Leonard Cohen has written a lot of good songs.