Leonard Cohen - "You Want It Darker" (Singles Going Steady)

by PopMatters Staff

7 October 2016

"You Want It Darker" is a compelling exploration into the unknown corners of the human soul.
 

Andrew Paschal: So sparsely arranged are the elements driving Leonard Cohen’s newest release, that if you were to remove any one of them the whole delicate bouquet might collapse. As it is though, the reverent choir, House of Cards-esque baseline, and Cohen’s iconic and terrifyingly deep voice combine beautifully to make “You Want It Darker” a compelling exploration into the unknown corners of the human soul. Or rather, the track serves as a preamble to such an exploration. Cohen speaks like one returning from the abyss to share his dark understandings with the uninitiated: “I struggled with some demons / They were middle class and tame / I didn’t know I had permission / To murder and to maim,” he recites stonily. He questions whether we really wish to know what we will find once the candle is blown out, but promises to serve as our spectral guide if we choose to look beyond the curtain of light. [9/10]
  

Adriane Pontecorvo: Leonard Cohen is 82 years old and ready to fight both God and man. The lyrics of “You Want It Darker” make that clear as he pits human weakness against divine arrogance and questions the inescapable paradox of creation. His growl is almost venomous as he declares his own readiness to face his maker. Wisely, the accompaniment stays minimal, consisting of some bare beats, a somber organ in the distance, and a choir joining him as he invokes the Hebrew phrase hineni. An angry prayer for a troubled time. [8/10]

A. Noah Harrison: The 82-year-old Leonard Cohen has nothing to prove anymore, but glory to him for proving himself all the same. Cohen’s vocal tract has always been a dark and hollow place, and “You Want it Darker” does nothing to flush out the demons. A chorus echoes off the walls of the dungeon as his growl pierces the center. His spirit howls on. [7/10]

Chris Ingalls: It’s comforting to know that Leonard Cohen, well into his 80s, is still doing what he does best. I really see no lessening of the quality of this man’s work—it’s almost like he has no choice as there’s really no Leonard Cohen contemporaries to compare to. The dark vibe here includes a minimalist drum machine, layers of warm synths and a sympathetic chorus of vocalists all backing up the master, who’s still at the top of his game. [8/10]

Paul Carr: As is the case with the best Leonard Cohen songs, the production is sparse enough to allow his haunting voice to take center stage. However, he has found a new way to frame it with the song built on a deep, groovy bass line and flickers of electronica. The genius lies in his way with words with his lyrics clearly demonstrating what a magisterial manipulator of gloom he is. Cohen sounds like he is almost taunting death itself as his weary, rumbling voice darkly reverberates through the speakers. As a whole, it illustrates Cohen’s ability to still write something so captivatingly sombre yet so unique. Darkness never sounded so good. [9/10]

Scott Zuppardo: The king of left of center talk singing is back and… surprise… still cool! Cohen’s lyrics poetry in motion, or perhaps lack thereof. There isn’t a click more dark then this, knightly dark like a pre-death mantra. It’s guttural and spooky. [8/10]

SCORE: 8.17

And here’s the Paul Kalkbrenner remix released today…


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