In news that will surely anger some people, Lana Del Rey has recorded a cover version of Leonard Cohen's classic song about Janis Joplin, "Chelsea Hotel #2." She made a video to accompany it, too, all dark and moody and full of close-ups of matchbooks and cigarettes and her plump, sculpted lips. Hahaha. You really do get the sense that she's taunting us, don't you? Well, despite myself, I really like it! (*ducks*) Here's to the quiver in that deep husky voice, here's to make-believe!
Of course, Lana Del Rey is far from the first artist to cover this song. So let's try to figure out: Where [...]
"The poetry has this sort of free-floating world view and I love his use of image and turns of phrase, the meaning and the paradoxes that go along with being alive. Of course, central to this, was his use of the first-person singular. It’s not egotistical. It’s plaintive — he’s always crying." —The Poet Laureate of Canada, and a bunch of other people from that country, have some thoughts about Leonard Cohen. Cohen's Old Ideas is out today.
So Pulp will be playing Radio City on April 11th. While you sit around waiting to buy tickets (they go on sale Friday), please enjoy a few live performances. Meanwhile, NPR is streaming Leonard Cohen's new album, Old Ideas. This day is actually shaping up a lot better than I thought it would when I woke this morning. I wonder what's going to happen to screw it up.
Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” has had a weird history. From the schmaltzy (but great!) original recording through John Cale’s lyrical rearrangement and Jeff Buckley’s radical reduction, it’s become an object of abstract emotional grammar, used less for its words than for its gestalt feeling and its ability to convey meaningfulness even in the absence of actual meaning. Its aesthetic beauty feels so timeless that it’s like being in the same room with the Mona Lisa: you just sense you’re in the presence of something important, and you should pay attention, even if you miss the point of the original object. I had always thought that this progression represented a kind [...]
For obscure historical reasons plenty of people have asked me what I thought about Justin Timberlake's cover of the Leonard Cohen standard "Hallelujah" during that Haiti telethon the other night. And, you know, whatever, at this point there's nothing that could be done to that song that would surprise-or, probably, interest-me. What DOES interest me today is an assessment of Leonard Cohen written by "an octogenarian who still considers Dylan's 'Blowin' in the Wind' and Baez's 'Diamonds and Rust' to be two of the greatest folk songs ever written." He appears not to be a fan.
"I was just reading a review of a movie called Watchmen that uses it, and the reviewer said 'Can we please have a moratorium on Hallelujah in movies and television shows?' And I kind of feel the same way. I think it's a good song, but I think too many people sing it."
Did you see the 12/12/12 show for the hurricane and stuff last night? I did not, but—thanks to all the wonderful people out there who alerted me to the performance of a song I used to enjoy—here is a thing that happened there. I'll tell you what, if this finally makes people pause for a second and think, "Hey, maybe we should give it a rest for a little while," it is probably all worth it. Anyway, who saw Paul McCartney with Nirvana? How'd that turn out? Did they do "Swap Meet"? I bet they did "Swap Meet."
Mr. Leonard Norman Cohen, an artist out of Montreal, turns 77 today. I suppose that's reason enough to make it through another grim box on the calendar. If I had 139 disposable dollars I would absolutely drop them on this, but I've got all the material anyway and until they start handing out bourbon for free on street corners I need to be responsible with how I spend what I've got. In any event, I am hopeful that the rumored new record comes to fruition, and I am wishing the man many, many, many happy returns on the day.
Here's Leonard Cohen debuting a new tune, provisionally referred to as "That Other Blues Song," in Chicago last week. If you're a fan-and if not, bite me-you should watch this before it gets yanked. (You can find the debut of another new one here, but it seems like it might have been yanked.) Enjoy.
Kids today. I remember when people thought it was crazy when Kriss Kross wore their jeans backwards. Currently there seems to be a new trend sweeping the hip-hop nation. As evidenced in a number of recent popular rap music videos, the new thing seems to be smoking two blunts at the same time. Or two joints. Two marijuana cigarettes. This would not be so remarkable [Ed.: it is actually not that remarkable], were it not for the fact that it flies in face of age-old conventional wisdom about pot smoking.
I guess it shouldn't come as any surprise that a list of rock songs with the word "bird" in the title would be a list of great songs. After all, birds fly (or, well, they used to) and rock stars like to pretend to fly by using drugs and airplanes. Anyway, with the recent planetary news, birds are on the brain. It's not hard to connect the dots (though it is very hard to do so as wonderfully as some other people do): the world needs a soundtrack to end to. And, actually, we could do worse.
"Watching performances of 'Hallelujah' by people who aren't Cohen-whose original take has an archness that's wiped away by the clear-eyed sincerity offered up by his successors-you see one common thread: each singer really feels the song, closing their eyes at least once in every performance to properly communicate that what they are singing is Serious Business."
"Cohen's lyrics stand up in a variety of settings, and his limited vocal range tends to leave his melodies unfinished, allowing room for experimentation. On Buckley's version of 'Hallelujah,' for instance, the verse melodies ascend, and the open-throated singing transforms the chorus into a kind of earnest incantation that the songwriter probably wouldn't attempt himself. Cohen may sing about transcendence, but he seems never to fully endorse it."