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Album Release Date: October 21st, Columbia Records ; Image via leonardcohen. Leonard Cohen is one of several major celebrities who passed away inand like David Bowie and Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Questhe also released a final album of original material the same year he died.
However, unlike Bowie and Phife, both of whom recorded their last albums in secrecy and released them to fans' surprise and delight, Cohen's album was expected. Less than three weeks after the release of You Want It DarkerCohen's 14th studio album, he passed away at age 82, on November 7th, As a celebrated singer-songwriter whose spiritual, romantic songs continually resonated with audiences throughout his over year career, news of Cohen's death was certainly impactful if not ultimately less of a shock than Bowie's, who managed to keep his cancer private and out of the press, and Phife who—while openly diabetic for years—was nonetheless very young to pass due to complications from the illness at But Cohen had been vocal about his deteriorating health of late, suffering from multiple fractures of the spine, and commented in a recent New Yorker interview that he'd been in considerable physical pain for a long time and was "ready to die".
But in a later Billboard interview he said, "I think I I want something darker exaggerating. I've always been into self-dramatization.
I intend to live forever. The final moment came after Leonard had a fall in the night and subsequently died in his sleep. An appropriately ironic time for him to die—at night, in the dark—given the prominent metaphorical applications of light and dark on his closing work. Since his health prevented him from moving around much, the album was produced by his musician son Adam Cohen and mostly recorded in Leonard's Los Angeles home with contributing musicians adding their parts via internet correspondence. Leonard Cohen has been lauded as a poet whose lyrics encapsulate romantic longing, emotional honesty, spiritual enlightenment, and pleas for forgiveness, compassion, and love.
He was a hard-loving troubadour whose sensitivity to the suffering of others was matched only by the intensity with which he expressed and described lovemaking—whether yearning for love unrequited, reveling in love fulfilled, or reminiscing on love I want something darker. And while his songs have usually been downtempo and sad, his dreamy, hypnotic folk music-poetry took on another dimension mid-career with occasional turns to a more ironic, cynical sensibility.
Some of the aforementioned qualities remained, but songs like "First We Take Manhattan""Everybody Knows"and "The Future"showed a shift in attitude of Cohen's narrator. At this time the s and '90s his songs took on more overt political undertones with pieces like "Democracy" from 's The Future and "The Land of Plenty" from 's Ten New Songsbut the sarcasm lessened after that as he returned to the voice of a sensitive emoter for his last few albums.
These final albums make up a kind of trilogy in that they're similar in style and tone and each released two years apart, culminating with You Want it Darker. Leonard Cohen - Image via billboard. The man who penned the famous line "There is a crack in everything—that's how the light gets in" from "Anthem" on The Futurehas, like many poets, indeed written numerous lyrics about darkness and light.
Cohen once commented that he thought he'd finally realized the meaning of the word "enlightenment", concluding that maybe it just means to "lighten up". It's a subject that Cohen was well-equipped to comment on; he was born and raised as a practising Jew, studied Hinduism in India, invoked numerous Christian and other religious themes in his work, spent years meditating and studying Buddhism on a mountain monastery, and was ordained a Buddhist monk.
Enlightenment is a subject he's literally meditated on a lot. And here Cohen continues the examination of that theme in all its facets—light, dark, shadows, enlightenment, lightening up, and darkening down—immediately evident in the album's title and opening track of the same name, "You Want It Darker".
Among other things, it's a song about preparing for the end of religious devotion, and also, perhaps, preparing for the end of life. The chants and backing vocals are recordings of Gideon Zelermyer, the cantor at the Montreal synagogue which Cohen attended in his youth.
So the song, and whole album, is at once spiritual and grand while also personal and intimate, and as such is a fitting final work for the master artist who paradoxically seemed to capture the ineffable through his words as the best writers do time and again.
The "you" that Cohen addresses here seems to be God itself, applying that old atheistic sentiment that a benevolent god surely can't exist given the immense suffering of so many in the world. But Cohen takes this idea and inverts it by way of a ironic sensibility, suggesting that perhaps God has been misinterpreted, and in fact wants "it darker".
It's a contradictory paradigm suggesting that positive and negative are inextricably I want something darker concepts, and Cohen comments on this as an apparent attempt to make sense of the world's horrors. The mention of one's demons being "middle class and tame" suggests that our demons are perhaps often actually not as bad or as strong as we think, and there's the implication of not taking oneself too seriously.
And so the song continually points to this idea that the darker things are in the terrestrial realm, the lighter they may be in another realm. While the lyrics superficially resound as dark and dismal, perhaps it's actually all about faith—in both a religious sense as faith in the existence of god, and also about faith as an ultimate belief that things will be okay despite evidence to support this.
Or perhaps there's little difference between either of these interpretations of faith, anyway. After introducing this thesis of facing demons in the darkness with "You I want something darker It Darker", eight more majestic songs complete the album's nine. There's far less of the romantic loverman stuff that Cohen's famous for, and more of the poetic musings on mortality and God—fitting given he was an octogenarian while writing and recording the album.
At his age, trying to maintain his sexyman role wouldn't work although maybe a lot of his female fans would still go for it —but with recent albums he's comfortably shifted instead into a gracious elder who's maintained quiet poignancy in his reminiscences on pain and loss—of faith, of love, of life—with greater focus on letting go.
Death, rebirth, repentance, forgiveness all swirl throughout the album. Cohen's been given many titles, including "the high priest of pathos" and "godfather of gloom", having indeed battled the life-long affliction of depression.
And this is evident in his work, eternally filled with expressions of longing and despair, tethering the ungraspable power of emotion in something that we can glimpse, even if only for a fleeting moment, through art. The "you" who Cohen's narrator continues to address throughout the album ambiguously applies to a lover as much as to God. It seems he's addressing both; that there's no difference for love of God and love of another person, as the narrator analyzes the existence of each after the personal love has passed.
The melody is soft and piano-driven, contemplative and emotive—appropriate for a man of Cohen's age. The relationship between light and dark, and between physical love and spiritual love, is touched on time and again throughout the album, as in "On The Level" in which Cohen sings "When I turned my back on the devil, I turned my back on the angel too". Something profound is mixed in there, about facing demons as an unavoidable reality, which—when one can do it, really accept and face the darkness— in ultimate sanctuary from pain, and a crumbling of such mortal human confines as good vs.
Leonard Cohen - Image via hq.
He's said that his songwriting was based on six chords he learned from a flamenco guitar-playing Spaniard Cohen met while in his twenties, who killed himself before their fourth lesson. And that six-chord progression, that guitar pattern, has been the basis of all his songs up to I want something darker including those on You Want it Darker.
This is valuable to note for any up-and-coming artists; it's not necessarily the depth of musicianship, of technical skill or knowledge, that might contribute to a musician's success but rather, perhaps, the ways in which they can utilize the tools at their disposal to express their creative visions as clearly as possible. Indeed, Cohen's music has usually radiated a I want something darker quality, the melodies more so complementing the lyrics than the other way around. He found an effective formula with it, making one really listen to what's being said.
And it's okay if you don't catch every line because value comes by moments of emotional arousal through snippets of poetic imagery just as much as through careful analysis of each song as a whole. But despite Cohen's lack of technical musical depth, his songs are deep nonetheless, with recurring themes of suffering, sadness, grief, loss, compassion, yearning for meaning, and, most importantly, at the root of everything, love.
Part of what made Cohen successful as a ladies' man is that his romantic sentiments rarely came off as cheesy but rather as genuinely earnest expression and exploration of intimate relationships, anchored by a degree of modesty and self-effacement as evidenced with Cohen titles such as "Death of a Ladies' Man" There was often a measure of parody present; as much as he relished his regard as a ladies' man, he also made fun of it. Such humble self-degradations contributed to his allure as a man who acknowledged his status as being attractive to women while at the same time always striving to improve himself as a lover.
He was honest about it, not showy or braggadocious, leaning towards expressing insecurity as a romantic partner more so than wallowing in romantic bliss. It's been said that he had an irresistible charm, with women no less with men. But this speak-singing has continued to work, with Cohen's experience as a poet and writer placing him in a dimension where his voice and persona manifest as vehicles to deliver his words and music. As a poet, Cohen never stopped; he published over a dozen books of collected poems since his first in the s to his last in Leonard Cohen circa - Image via buffalo news.
You Want it Darker is somewhat sparse, sonically, focusing less on percussion and more so on piano and strings-driven downtempo melodies, with frequent background female singers and occasional religious-inflected chanting.
It's very, very slow. Cohen's music has generally been such, with the occasional more upbeat ditty, and here the slowness is effective as not only a reflection of Cohen's place in life as an aged, physically-ailed artist, but also as a collection of spellbinding, spiritual odes. The softness in sound is complemented by dark reflections on god and mortality, with something that occasionally comes off as approaching nihilism; there's the thematic thread of questioning everything and rejecting meaning in both tangible and intangible universes.
But maybe it's ultimately more so projecting a truly enlightened view, something reaching a higher plain of evolution and approaching the Buddhist concept of "nothingness"—a way to transcend physical form and achieve a state of consciousness as the spiritual beings who we really are.
So the metaphorical application of light and dark here, with a focus on the dark, is perhaps ultimately not as lonely and sad as it first registers, but rather the reflections of an elderly man striving for—and possibly actually having achieved—true peace by acknowledging and exploring the void, despite or maybe because of being in perpetual physical pain. Sounds like the echoings of one who has lost belief in god, lost faith—or at least religious faith.
But perhaps not spiritual faith.
The difference between the two continues to bear extensive contemplation. And Cohen dives into that fully here, perhaps never so prominently and directly on one single album than ever before. It all makes for a work that is a moving elegy, a fitting coda to the career of a legendary artist, as it further explores many themes that have been present in Leonard Cohen's work since the beginning. But it also has its own unique feel and sound, most similar to his two albums which also look at subjects of love, god, and death. Leonard Cohen - Image via thelehrhaus.
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Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker