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The minor fall, the major lift

February 17, 2010

In my previous post I mentioned that I had been touched – briefly – by Olympic excitement here in Canada. I watched the freestyle moguls, both men and women – partly because we had top medal contenders, and partly because I don’t think I’ve ever watched the moguls before, and found them a weirdly fascinating event. Anyways, a girl won silver, and a boy won gold – I was visiting my parents, and my mother and her sister started having a very excited phone conversation – hell, the entire country started having a very excited conversation, whether on the phone or Facebook or Twitter or whatever.

I did not watch the Opening Ceremonies, because, well, I had previous plans. Stuff happened; the flame was lit, sort of; people sang. k.d. lang sang “Hallejulah”, which apparently was a highlight of the show; I would link to it, except that the IOC has had it removed from youtube. Instead, all the musical performances are for sale on iTunes.

Yeah, now I remember why I hate the Olympics. As a Canadian taxpayer, I now have to pay $10 to listen to an event that I paid for in the first place. I think I’ll pass – there’s no shortage of recordings of “Hallejulah” available, thanks.

Which brings me to main point… it may be that “Hallejulah” has officially become Canada’s alternative national anthem, replacing the Barenaked Ladies’ “If I Had A Million Dollars“. I can’t think of anything wrong with this – Leonard Cohen is one of my favourite artists. “I”m Your Man” is one of a handful of “desert island” discs in my collection, and his debut album is just a hair behind. And “Hallejulah” might be the best song of the past 30 years.

Still, when I read that k.d. had sang it at the Olympics, I twinged a little. It has been overplayed a lot the past year – Simon Cowell is largely responsible for that (he apparently owns the song and rakes in the profits every time it hits the charts). But it was also in Shrek and, well, I hate the Shrek movies. And I hate the Olympics – and I fear that the song may lose its power as it becomes associated with more and more crappy cultural artifacts (how long before it’s sung at Super Bowl halftime?)

But maybe it will work out. Cohen is broke, and had to start touring again at age 74 to crawl out of the financial hole – but the chart-topping success of “Hallejulah” helped kickstart his triumphant world tour. Because of Shrek, my 7-old-niece is a fan of the song – though obviously not quite old enough to actually listen to the lyrics. And if the Olympics really have sealed its position as Canada’s alternative national anthem, then I approve of that as well.

And the fact that something good – really good – has found an audience is impossible to find fault with. In time, crap will go away; the Il Divo version and all the other pretenders will fade to black. The Cohen and Buckley and a few others will live on. k.d. lang has a studio version that is well-regarded. The Olympics version? Dunno, haven’t heard it – but the IOC’s ability to suck the joy out of anything makes me think that it’s not going to be remembered far past next Tuesday.

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