"Hallelujah" is a song sung by Alexandra Burke, the winner of the fifth series of the reality television show The X Factor.
The song is written by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen but achieved little initial success. The song found greater popular acclaim through a cover by John Cale, which inspired a cover by Jeff Buckley.
Many cover versions have been performed by many and various singers, both in recordings and in concert, with over 300 versions known. The song has been used in film and television soundtracks and televised talent contests.
"Hallelujah", in its original version, is in 6/8 time, which evokes both waltz and gospel music. Written in the key of C major, the chord progression matches lyrics from the song: "goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift": C, F, G, A minor, F.
Cohen wrote around 80 draft verses for "Hallelujah". His original version, as recorded on his Various Positions album, contains several biblical references, most notably evoking the stories of Samson and traitorous Delilah from the Book of Judges ("she cut your hair") as well as the adulterous King David and Bathsheba ("you saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you"). Different interpretations of the song have included different verses, out of the over 80 verses Cohen originally wrote.
Alexandra Burke, the winner of the fifth series of the reality television show The X Factor, released a condensed cover version of the song as a prize for her victory. It reached Christmas number one on the UK Singles Chart on 21 December 2008.
The release of Burke's cover created interest in the previous versions of the song, including a Buckley fan campaign to take Buckley's cover to the top of the Christmas chart and therefore deny Burke the top spot. The campaign was fuelled by Buckley fans' dislike of The X Factor 's commercialism and the song's arrangement, as well as their desire to introduce younger people to Buckley's version. Burke herself was not enamoured of the choice of song, remarking "It just didn't do anything for me."
Burke's version broke a European sales record after selling over 105,000 digital downloads in just one day, breaking the previous record set by Leona Lewis. The song sold 576,000 copies in its first week, becoming the fastest-selling single released by a woman in the United Kingdom and the 2008 Christmas number one, while Buckley's cover charted at number two and Cohen's original version at number 36.
On 28 December 2008, the UK Singles Chart listed Burke's version as the biggest selling single of the year, with NME announcing sales of over 1 million copies since its release. It has sold 1.28 million as of December 2014, making it the biggest selling X Factor winner's single to date.