I prefer the Cale, but enjoy the Cohen. (Never really sought out the Buckley.) I think I interpret the Cale very differently than Barthel does. He hears "utter despair"; I hear triumph (seriously!). It's a happiness that's neither perfect nor saccharine; a "broken" Hallelujah but it's still somebody standing up and singing "Praise the Lord!"
I've noticed an overall increase in both the quality and obtrusiveness of music in TV and movies lately (~5 years); it seems woven in more tightly. Instrumental isn't incidental music (BSG is very John Williams); often vocal pieces carry a substantial amount of action (e.g. the episode ending of several episodes of Lost).