Artist of the week: Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen once said that if he knew the place where to find good songs, he would go there more often. This phrase not only proves that Cohen has been in many ways the yin to Dylan’s yan, but that the scarcity of his work (14 original albums in half a century) had been highly compensated by its magnetic appeal and poetic sophistication. In fact, even if he interrupted many time his musical career for personal and creative exploration, his songs have maintained an audience throughout six decades of music making. His influence is pretty hard to pin down and his work seemed to have worked not as something other artists use to explore, copy or expand, but rather as both a source of mediation and an ointment to purify one’s soul. No other track showed this better than “Hallelujah”, a song so many times covered and played by other musicians that many have considered it (and rightfully so) the greatest work in progress of the history of popular music. He was a prince of words and a craftsman of subtle and evasive melodies. Nobody else delve into faith, love, politics and alienation like him, his wisdom seemed simultaneously infinite and yet reachable, his voice full of gravitas and yet kind, his charm poisonous and yet graceful. Nobody was, even remotely, like Leonard Cohen.
Just as David Bowie, Leonard Cohen somehow managed to release this year one last album before his death. The title of You Want It Darker may seem pretty self-explanatory and yet this is one of the most luminous albums of his career, and a definitive summation of the themes and music lansdcape he started to explore in 1992’s The Future. The duties and pitfalls of mortal life, the redemption to a higher power and the salvation through love are all explored through a very stripped down and polished songwriting, that combines beauty with truthfulness. Songs such as the title track, “Treaty” or “It’s Better Than Way” are all on par with the best work he has ever recorded and, therefore, one should feel both honored and lucky to the able to listen to a completed version of his final and masterful work.
João Pedro da Costa is a web studies scholar and a music fan.