I visited the iTunes music store this weekened.   I was surprised to see that Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah was the number one song.  That certainly was curious since the song has been around for over 14 24 years and Jeff has been gone for over 10.  This morning I visited Amazonmp3 - and there I saw Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah at #3.  Wtf?  Why was a 14 year old song recording suddenly at the top of the charts?  A quick blog search gave the answer.  American Idol contestant (and next teen heart throb, dreads and all) Jason Castro sang "Hallelujah''  last week.  Jason almost seemed to be channeling Buckley with his ethereal singing voice.  American Idol judges Randy and Simon both stated that the Jeff Buckley version of that song was one of their all time favorite songs.  No doubt these comments drove thousands of idol viewers to iTunes and Amazon to check out Jeff Buckley's version of the song.  I am amazed that this little television moment had such an effect on the charts.  It is a good song .. and Jason does a pretty good 2 minute version of the song.

Here's the moment, captured on YouTube.


It's not a 14 year old song. It's a 24 year old song:


But the strange thing for me in this is that I hadn't ever heard the song myself, any version, until just a few months ago. Brian Ibbott played it on the Coverville podcast (the Buckley version, that is).

It makes me wonder: Why did Idol contestant Jason Castro decide to sing the song, in the first place? What put the song into Jason's mind? Maybe a friend of his heard it on Coverville?

And how does this relate to "machine" recommendation vs. "expert"/"friend"/"knowledgeable human" recommendation?

Posted by jeremy on March 10, 2008 at 03:56 PM EDT #

My guess is that Jason first heard the song when he was 13 years old while watching the movie Shrek. I trace my own first listening to ISMIR. Back in 2003 the paper: 'A Large-Scale Evaluation of Acoustic and Subjective Music Similarity Measures' by Berenzweig
Logan, Ellis and Whitman had a quote "Jeff Buckley sounds like
Van Morrison meets Led Zeppelin, but more folky”. That description intrigued me enough to stimulate me to buy Buckley's CD.

Posted by Paul on March 10, 2008 at 04:37 PM EDT #

Comparing Jason's performance with Buckley's is a mistake I thought only a machine would do :)

Posted by Pedro on March 10, 2008 at 07:46 PM EDT #


Hahah - yes, there really is no comparison - what I was trying to say was that Jason's performance was closer to Jeff Buckley's than to the various other performances of the song (Cohen, Wainright, Cale). And thanks for the youtube link, what a great video!

Posted by Paul on March 11, 2008 at 06:50 AM EDT #

Ah ha! Thanks for the investigative work. I noticed it suddenly on the top of Amazon's MP3 store (it was #1 for a day or two). I thought it was weird that it jumped that high without being a new release. Then a few days later I was on iTunes looking for free music or the iPhone SDK videos or something and I saw the song #1 over there as well. I assumed it was something like American Idol, but I wasn't sure.

Posted by Andrew Hitchcock on March 14, 2008 at 07:53 PM EDT #

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