Alexandra Burke - 'Hallelujah'
Once again, ChartBlog's very own X Factor correspondent - Steve Perkins - gives his view of the winner's song. A song which adds even more baggage to the X Factor champion's situation than usual, as it is something of a modern classic. But can she carry it off? Over to you, Steve... - Fraser
Gosh, it really doesn't seem like a year ago that I volunteered to review the X Factor winner's single for 2007, only to discover it would be Leon Jackson and that I would be set upon by angry Leon fans when I came to the conclusion that it wasn't very good. Now, 12 months down the line, one underwhelming single and underperforming album later, at a point where he's been outsold by the runner-up despite having released his own album nearly a month earlier, to the extent where several people connected with the show have suggested that the wrong person won, I'm not going to sit here and say I was right, but... (I know it's a can of worms, but I just can't help myself.)
I did wonder if I'd be up for the same problem this year, especially at the point early in the run when Diana 'The Claw' Vickers and Laura 'Maternity Dress' White were the favourites, considering I found them both overly affected and in dire need of proper tuning, but thankfully they failed to last the course and the highly agreeable Alexandra Burke ended up scooping the title on Saturday instead. It was an interesting result, actually - when I saw the Top 12 revealed, I thought that one of the girls would be the winner, but I thought Alexandra would be the first one of them to go, despite being the one I liked best.
Since so much of the focus was on Diana and Laura and their "edgy realness", I did think Alexandra would probably end up being overlooked and get the obligatory shock early elimination. As it turned out, that honour fell to Laura (and provoked outrage in the press, though the recent reveal of the voting statistics suggests she wasn't nearly as beloved as the complainers would have us believe) and Alex went on to beat little Eoghan Quigg (clearly not the name of a popstar, is it?) and JLS in a not-really-all-that-tense final.
(Here's her winning performance, in case you didn't see it...)
There's been a lot of controversy over the choice of single for the winner this year, because rather than idly stealing an old American Idol coronation song or a track from the Prince of Egypt soundtrack, Mr Cowell decided in his infinite wisdom that it should be a cover of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah'. There are those who say that the original, and indeed the Jeff Buckley cover, are sacred and should be left as the only canonical versions, if you like, without being subjected to association with trash like The X Factor.
To be honest, I'm not one of those people, because considering the song has, by this point in time, been covered by about a gazillion people whether officially or unofficially, on a reality show or otherwise, and used to soundtrack just about every sad moment in a TV drama ever, I can't help thinking that complaining about its purity being somehow diluted is rather closing the gate despite the horse having bolted years ago.
If, perhaps, the show had been won by someone who did not have the vocal chops for the job in hand, I could understand (and I admit, there is a small part of me that's desperate to hear Eoghan's attempt at this song, if only for the comedy value). Alexandra, however, is more than up to the challenge. Admittedly her throaty, Beyoncé-esque style of singing may not be to everyone's taste, but there's little doubt here that she can sing.
I think what I like most about it is the fact that she's treating it like a real song rather than a talent show winner's song - she's tackling it with a degree of subtlety and moderation, paying attention to the lyrics and the overall tone of the song, without turning it into a kind of "I won The X Factor - hallelujah!" overblown self-tribute song. I know it sounds daft, but heck, in the wrong hands, it could've happened.
Unfortunately despite Alexandra's best efforts to keep it simple, the production goes into typical X Factor overdrive in the last minute and a half, because Simon Cowell never met a gospel choir or a key change he didn't like, and it runs the risk of becoming extremely treacly at that point, but Alexandra is measured enough in the first half that on balance, it stays just the right side of saccharine.
Whether she goes on from here to become a Leon or a Leona is a matter yet to be decided, but on the basis of this effort, I think she's off to a good start. Put it this way: this is the first X Factor winner's single where I was willing to pay money to hear it again. Fingers crossed the folks at her new label find the right material and angle for her and perhaps a star has indeed been born.
Here's what happened when Alexandra popped into Radio 1, for the Chart Show...