A few days ago, country star Eric Church treated a crowd at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater to a new cover: Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” He said it had special meaning for him there: “Last time I was here — this is a true story — I played here, and…I was leaving here, and we pulled out, and the light was still on the rocks, like it is right now, and this song was playing in my headphones.”
Church did the cover solo on electric guitar, and did a fine job. But “Hallelujah” has been covered thousands of times, and it’s hard to argue that this one adds much. Which isn’t to knock Church: it was probably exciting if you were there! And it’s fun to watch once even if you weren’t. But I doubt we’ll be playing this video again in a year’s time.
However, another new Leonard Cohen cover has emerged, and this one we will be playing in a year (or maybe even at the end of this year…). South African-Canadian singer Zaki Ibrahim took on a much less-covered Cohen song, his 2012 gem “Show Me the Place,” for a Polaris Music Prize covers series. And she reinvents the song entirely.
Cohen’s original is laid-back and tasteful, with him undersinging so much it almost sounds like a poem recitation. Ibrahim loses that subtle approach, adding soul, hip-hop, and gospel touches. Her tweaking of the melody showcases her beautiful voice (a more different singer than Leonard you’re unlikely to find) and the beautiful production combines cello, electronic beats, and a gospel chorus for a soaring take on a formerly somber song.
Watch Church and Ibrahim’s new Cohen covers below, plus check out the other two covers in the Polaris Music Prize series: The Arkells covering Owen Pallett’s “I Am Not Afraid” and Joel Plaskett covering Feist’s “Bittersweet Melodies.”
Leonard Cohen just announced a new album ‘You Want It Darker’ coming this fall – hopefully we’ll see equally-good covers of those tracks before too long.