So I was driving around the other day, jamming out to my new favorite band, The Head and the Heart (love them), and I realized I kept playing one song over and over: “Sounds Like Hallelujah.” Which got me pondering the word hallelujah and how many truly great secular songs, and actually some of my favorites, have the word at their base or in their choruses.

(I do some of my best pondering in the car.)

But before I share them with you, I want to give you a little lesson on the word itself, since I imagine that, like me, many of you shout it or sing it without much thought to its significance.

Hallelujah is translated from the Hebrew word halleluya, which means “Praise Yah.” (You will recognize ‘yah’ as being a short version of Yahweh,which we all know is one of the many names for God in the Old Testament. In Psalms, hallelujah occurs as a request for a congregation to join in praise toward God. It can be translated as "Praise God" or "Praise Yahweh, you people," and is usually worded in English contexts as "Praise the Lord". In modern days, the term is used more as an exclamation than as a call, much like “Praise the Lord!” and "Amen!" called out during services or after receiving good news or the like. (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

With that being said, here are three of my favorite hallelujahs. I hope you like them, too.
Ryan Adams - "Hallelujah"

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyKQ-A6JKkI]

Ryan is hands-down my favorite musician of all time. If you follow my personal blog, you probably are sick of me pushing him down your throat. But if you do not and are not familiar with his music, I'll say this: pick up Heartbreaker. Give him a listen.

 

The Head and the Heart - "Sounds Like Hallelujah" [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnUUgy0zPkM] As I mentioned before, this is my new favorite band. I've had their debut album (self-titled) on repeat for weeks now. If you like the song, give "Lost in My Mind," "Down in the Valley," and "Rivers and Roads" a listen. Or just buy the whole album. I highly recommend.

 

Leonard Cohen - "Hallelujah" [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrLk4vdY28Q] You've probably heard this song, or maybe Jeff Buckley's famous cover (perhaps more well known than the original).  The song has been interpreted time and time again, sung at both weddings and funerals, made its way to movie and television soundtracks (maybe you heard Rufus Wainwright's version in Shrek), and was made even more famous when the ill-fated Buckley worked his magic on it in just a few years before his death, leaving behind the haunting melody he'd later be known for. No one can deny it's a gorgeous song, and it comes as no surprise that it has been performed by more than 200 artists since it was first released in 1984.

And a non-musical bonus: Clarke Griswold's famous Hallelujah from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. You know you laugh every time.

 

What are your favorite hallelujah songs, secular or not? 

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