A Requiem in Disguise, Cohen Gives Us One Last Opus
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A Requiem in Disguise, Cohen Gives Us One Last Opus

You Want It Darker (2016) - Leonard Cohen

A Requiem in Disguise, Cohen Gives Us One Last Opus

You Want It Darker (2016) – Leonard Cohen

Earlier this year, Bowie got to make his final statement. Months later, Cohen also had the fortune of ending things on his own terms. Both of them knew their times were coming. Like Bowie and Blackstar, this is his last word. But Cohen’s is more personal, and it’s also better for that. At 82 years old, it’s not a shock to expect someone of his age to have health problems. Bowie also knew his time was nearly up, but his final mission was different than Cohen’s, and that was to further push musical boundaries he himself had set decades earlier. Cohen’s was simpler and more eloquent; to write his own Requiem mass.

Virtually every single thing about this album conveys death, quite literally. From the somber moods, Cohen’s cigarette-ravaged voice, album title, and even album artwork, you get the idea. Even the first line of the album is Cohen addressing Death; “If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game.” It’s all pretty much on the nose and leaves no room for misinterpretation. But all of the religious and gothic imagery shouldn’t distract from what this really is. Sure, Cohen proclaimed earlier in the year that he was ready to die at any given moment, but if this were solely about death, it would be a lot more desolate and despairing. No, this album is a reflection, a confession, and a celebration. Ironically enough, considering Cohen's fascination with all things macabre, this is an album of life.

Cynicism is a Leonard Cohen trademark. As ubiquitous as it is in Cohen’s repertoire, it’s not too evident in here. And I like it more for that. After all, is that the type of music you’d want to leave people with? It’s one of his flagship characteristics, but here, he has no need to be a cynic. This is Cohen coming to terms with whatever has happened in his life, good or bad. Cohen is giving a toast to those he loved, lost, and wronged. The music is suitably grim, but it does have some light coming in through the blinds. Cohen’s tales of love continue through here, and unsurprisingly, they’re quite touching.

“If the sun would lose its light and we lived an endless night and there was nothing left that you could feel, that's how it would be. What my life would seem to me, if I didn't have your love to make it real.”

But of course, there’s a flipside to this coin. “Treaty” is especially touching in its honesty; his regret of a relationship gone wrong. It’s his way of tying loose ends with a former lover who may not even know the song’s about her. For the sake of a moderately happy ending, I hope the message did reach her.

No doubt, that this does justice to one of America’s greatest poets. This is fulfilling in every which way and is the ideal cap to his career. The only question that remains right now is whether or not Cohen was truly at peace with his life. But I’m not worried. Judging from this, I’d say he was not only ready but welcoming of death. After all, no one is content with death unless they really feel as if they’ve done everything they could’ve and tied every loose end that needed to be tied. Music goes on with or without Cohen, but this is a farewell done right. And though Blackstar had its moments, no lyric on there was as touching as “I wish there was a treaty we could sign. I wish there was a treaty between your love and mine.” A

(Key Tracks: “Treaty”, “On the Level”, “You Want It Darker”, “If I Didn’t Have Your Love”)

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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