51 Weeks: 51 Songs From The Past: Week 47: Pentatonix – Hallelujah

Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Donna Connolly from Retirement Reflections who, this week, is in charge of Hugh’s music time machine.

Thank you to Hugh for giving me the distinct privilege of flying his Music Time Machine. After revving up the engine, I initially headed out with gusto to a time far, far away. Being a novice pilot, I tragically lost control and we’ve crashed straight into 2016!

51 weeks 51 songs from the past poster

Yet all is not lost. Here, I ‘ve serendipitously found Pentatonix, the (then) five-member a cappella group who had just released their version of Leonard Cohen’s, ‘Hallelujah’ for their album, ‘A Pentatonix Christmas’.

I know, I know. Hallelujah has been covered a gazillion times before (Jeff Buckley, k.d. Lang, Rufus Wainwright, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Brandi Carlile, Bono, Justin Timberlake/Matt Morris…to name only a few). In addition, this song has been made popular by television (think ‘The O.C.’) and film (most notably, ‘Shrek’). If you have never seen the Pentatonix’s video version, it’s not to be missed. And if you have, I’m sure that you’ll want to experience it again. Go ahead, take a peek while I attempt to put Hugh’s music time machine back together…before he notices the damages!

Incredible, right?

The original three Pentatonix members, Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying, were schoolmates together in Arlington, Texas. They were later joined by Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola. Together they won the third season of NBC’s ‘The Sing-Off’.

After Sony’s Epic Records quickly dropped the group, Pentatonix formed their own YouTube channel, distributing their music through Madison Gate Records (a label owned by Sony Pictures). Their popularity soared, and they soon reached over thirteen million subscribers. In May 2017, Avi Kaplan left the group due to the demanding touring schedule.

And since Hugh always likes to include a bit of the chart history for the song that he is covering, here’s the scoop. Leonard Cohen first released Hallelujah on his 1984 album, ‘Various Positions.’ Incredibly, the album never reached the charts. Cohen’s version of ‘Hallelujah’ spent less than a week on a Billboard survey (reaching Number 7 of ‘Top Singles Sales’), until his death in November 2016. Then, sales of the original song and its many covers soared.

Timing is everything. ‘A Pentatonix Christmas’, released less than three weeks prior to Cohen’s death, hit double platinum by February 2016, becoming the highest charting holiday album by a group since 1962.

With their originality, stunning photography, and voices that meld together to bring shivers up your spine, the Pentatonix give honor to Cohen’s message that “many kinds of Hallelujahs exist, and the perfect and broken hallelujahs have equal value.”

Do you have a cherished version of Hallelujah? If so, please share a link to it in the comments.

Want to join Hugh in building up your 51 favourite songs from the past? There’s not much time left, but you can still leave a link in the comments section and showcase your next song. I look forward to meeting you there!


Donna lived in Beijing, China for fourteen years (her excuse for not always knowing Hugh’s featured songs)! Leaving international life behind, she and her husband retired to Vancouver Island, Canada, in June 2015. To document this transition, Donna initiated ‘Retirement Reflections’. Her favorite part of blogging is the interaction with others. You can connect with Donna in the comment section below, or via the following social media sites. She would love to hear from you.

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Blogger, Writer (and time machine driver) Donna Connolly

My thanks to Donna for taking the controls of my music time machine this week. I’ll be back behind the controls next week when we’ll be stopping off in the year 2000.

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90 thoughts

  1. I’m a big fan of Pentatonix and that song so when the two came together it was something to celebrate. I’ve sung that song in a quartet I used to participate in and it was fun to sing. The weird thing about the song is when you actually listen to the words and thinks about them they are somewhat nonsensical. But there is much forgiveness for the lyrics when the song resonates with your soul. Especially with the beautiful harmonies from Pentatonix.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Molly – I’m with you one-hundred percent! Hallelujah + Pentatonix is a beautiful thing. I am very impressed that you are a singer (along with your many, many other talents). Me singing ‘Hallelujah’ is a version that NOBODY wants to hear! Trust me!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha! I started singing after my son left home – took lessons and really enjoyed them. At one time I sang in four groups – the church choir, a quartet, a community choir, and an audition-only acapella choir. It got to be too much but I still sing in the church choir and long for the day when I can return the acapella group. Almost went back this year but then realized with the book release I wouldn’t have time. I LOVE choral music. It is my favorite.


    1. Hi, Robbie – Thanks for stopping by. Shrek did help to popularize this song even further — especially with younger audiences. I must admit, it is a bit disturbing to have young children singing Cohen’s lyrics.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry Donna, I can see from the other comments that i’m In a minority, but I don’t like it. l love Leonard Cohen (and saw him four times). I love Hallelujah. I even love some other people singing Hallelujah and have quite a collection of covers – but I won’t be adding this one. It seems too overwrought to me – I like the raw, simple versions.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m totally jealous that you saw Leonard Cohen four times, Anabel. I adore the Pentatonix’s version but definitely understand that it is not for everyone.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Donna, thanks for introducing me to the Pentatonix version of Hallelujah. I think my favourite cover of the song is by K. D. Lang. I especially like this version, which is quite similar to the version I have on CD: https://youtu.be/P_NpxTWbovE
    She also did a great rendition of the song at the opening ceremony for the 9lympics in Vancouver.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Jude – I have been a long-time fan of k.d. lang, and I adore her version of Hallelujah. Ultimately, the stunning photography, precise choreography and the perfectly blended voices of Pentatonix, combined with this beautiful song, is what caused me to choose the Pentatonix version for this post.
      BTW – I absolutely love that kd has chosen to go barefoot in the video that you highlighted!


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