Many singers have tried their hand at Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah”, but you’ve never heard it quite like this. Mennel Ibtissem delivered a beautiful and delicate take on the perennial hit on The Voice France, turning one of the judge’s chairs before she even finished her opening line.
The 22-year-old Mennel gave the song a soul-stirring gospel and R&B treatment and her flawless vocals soon captured the hearts of all four judges, who each turned their chairs for her before the song was done. Mennel is a French-Syrian Muslim singer and she added a totally new element to the song by singing in both English and Arabic, making her version quite the melting pot of influences.
The Arabic verses were drawn from “Ya Ilahi (Oh My Lord)” by Kuwaiti artist Muhammad Al Husayn, which itself was put to the rhythm of “Hallelujah”. The instrumentation also added a new flavour to Mennel’s cover, as it progressed from a solo piano rendition by bringing in an eight-string acoustic folk instrument, which played an exotic lead that weaved in and out with the vocal melody.
Mennel, who has Syrian-Turkish and Moroccan-Algerian heritage, caused quite a stir in the French media when her performance was broadcast. Fans not only commented on her remarkable vocals but also her regal features and the striking blue turban she wore, noting the significance of the representation for French Muslim women in the high profile contest. Mennel later appeared on America’s Got Talent and sang “Hallelujah” and A Great Big World’s “Say Something”, which you can watch below.
Mennel stated on her Instagram that she received four yes votes from the judges and progressed to the judge cuts stage, although she subsequently withdrew before her vocals could be evaluated.
This led to one of the most bizarre episodes on America’s Got Talent, where the footage was heavily edited to make it seem like Mennel failed her audition in order to explain her absence from the show. You can see this version in the second video in this article.
Cowell’s words don’t match his onscreen statements and a pair of black wristbands randomly appear and disappear on his left wrist during the segment, which seems to lend credence to Mennel’s assertion that the segment was misleadingly edited after the audition. Unfortunately, the full unedited footage of her audition was never made publicly available.
After her appearance on The Voice France, Mennel relocated to Denver, Colorado, with her husband at the time. However the couple would subsequently split and she would return to Paris. She has continued to develop her original music career in the time since, regularly updating fans with her musical activities on her YouTube and Instagram.
She has released a steady stream of singles as well as an eight-track album Ma voie. Her output would please fans of her The Voice appearance, as she continued to create catchy piano-based music with Eastern influences. If you would like to see more from Mennel, you can subscribe to her YouTube channel or follow her on Instagram.