News · Op-Ed

“The minor fall and the major lift”- Kate McKinnon covers “Hallelujah” on SNL as Hillary Clinton


Kate McKinnon is one of the funniest people on the planet. With the past year-and-change of McKinnon as a goofy, earnest, incredulous Hillary Clinton plus her time as the delightfully weird Dr. Holtzmann, I don’t even know how that can be questioned. She showed some of Clinton’s very real flaws (at times being stiff and unrelatable) while also normalizing the former Secretary of State. She was staunchly committed to doing this when so many other outlets from so many mediums and political persuasions were ab-normalizing Clinton.

Last night, while paying tribute to the recently deceased Leonard Cohen, she humanized Clinton in a way that no campaign video or DNC speech or guest appearance could. In a week that was filled with anger and confusion and uncertainty, McKinnon’s performance as Clinton was none of those things. It was strong and clear and true and vulnerable. It used a week’s worth of fragility as a strength. Her at that piano, in that white suffragette pantsuit, singing “Even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah” is an instantly crystallized iconic moment. It’s one that’ll show up in SNL highlight reels for years to come. Her solo turn at the piano as Clinton, perhaps her final turn as Clinton, is one that Cohen himself would perhaps be proud of (even though he’s on record as saying the song’s been overdone).

That particular performance hits so many of the notes that make “Hallelujah” so special. The song is one that looks toward a bright skyline from a floor of despair. Cohen’s track, five years in the making, acknowledges faults but isn’t overcome with them. So it is with McKinnon’s take. Saying “I’m not giving up and neither should you” at the end solidifies this. Among so many things, the song is about never surrendering to the peril of “now” because there’s a promising future peaking through the clouds. Every cold hallelujah will be warmed again. Each broken king and queen is going to be put back together.


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