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Friday, April 19, 2024

Column: Hallelujah and gummy bears

I usually try to keep myself out of the loop when it comes to the Olympics, but I couldn’t help it this year. I don’t have cable or even a television for that matter, but on Saturday I somehow instantly learned that Donald Sutherland is Canadian, that there is such a thing as a women’s hockey team and that many of my female friends want to bone Apolo Ohno. Whatever.

Saturday night, I found myself sitting on my friend Kyle’s couch, watching the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics, drinking his leftover Superbowl Budweisers and eating from a gigantic bag of gummy bears. Kyle is the only person in the apartment who’s genuinely interested in the Olympics – the rest of us find ourselves more interested in how gummy bears taste when dropped in a beer bottle.

But the ceremony finally drew the our complete attentions as loitering rollerbladers and glowing balls took the stage, making the opening ceremony look like a Christmas spectacular at a local mall. I never saw Beijing’s opening ceremony, but I’m sure it lost to Vancouver in terms of corniness. Cirque du Soleil might be able to pull off suspended acrobats without making them look ridiculous, but this ceremony certainly didn’t.

So when k.d. lang came out onto the giant cake-stage (hey, remember when she performed at the Mondavi Center last March?), expectations were understandably low. Still optimistic, however, I expected anything besides a hearty rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” I was sorely disappointed.

The song that’s practically been covered as many times as “Yesterday” by the Beatles wormed its way into and onto that Olympian life-sized cake stage, sung to a crowd of athletes and electric candles.

Even though repetition seems like the lifeblood of the song, I’m kind of tired of it. I guess I was tired of it from the start, but that’s because I assumed it was a Christian anthem (and George W. Bush was president at the time). As I gradually grew appreciation for it, the multiple cover versions stood out – some more than others – and it seemed like a fitting honor to Cohen’s genius.

But after a while, it’s a bit tiring to hear the word “Hallelujah” hundreds of times over, sung by a hundred different voices in a hundred different movies. I’m not sure why they put Rufus Wainwright’s version in Shrek, because they could have just as easily put in anything by John Mayer and have been done with it. Alexandra Burke did a cover that I’ve never listened to, but I’m sure her version is equally unnecessary.

But honestly, I swooned a little back when I first heard the Jeff Buckley version. I’m not winning any originality points here, either. Years later, my roommate Mark and I successfully bugged the crap out of my friends by performing it non-stop with him on the acoustic guitar. Now they’re tired of the song, too.

k.d. lang’s rendition, though as redundant as most of the other cover versions, was a bit more bearable than the Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris duet. But by the end of it, it didn’t matter.

“I wonder what she’s going to say next,” Ben says. It’s the end of the song, and lang doesn’t want to stop. By this time, we’ve lost interest again. Beer-soaked gummy bears only taste like beer for a minute, and then they taste like gummy bears.

JUSTIN T. HO would have enjoyed “Hallelujah” a whole lot more if it were replaced with “Heligoland.” He also realizes the opening ceremony is old news. E-mail him with your reviews of the new Massive Attack masterpiece or muse about the strange new album by The Knife at arts@theaggie.org.


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