a funny take on a troubling topic
Jay-Z is not the Dylan of Anything
I am the Dylan of anything
I am the Kanye West of Kanye West
The Kanye West
Of the great bogus shift of bullshit culture
From one boutique to another
Don’t act so surprised. The Canadian singer and writer retains an aura of hallowed spirituality in the public imagination, but he was, first, a man of this world. Yes, Cohen’s work quoted scripture and contemplated apocalypse; yes, he lived for years in a Zen monastery. And yes, he wrote a song called “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On.” The fleeting, contemporary, and crass were all part of the great story that he wanted to tell about permanence and impermanence. In the final lines of the Kanye poem, after his sassy-ironic appropriation of rap swagger, he delivered one of his trademark dark prophecies. “I only come alive after a war,” he wrote. “And we have not had it yet.”
Did Leonard Cohen watch The View? That’s one of the questions I’m left with from Thanks for the Dance, the strong posthumous album assembled by his son, Adam Cohen. On “Moving On,” Leonard bids a tender farewell to a beloved woman (probably his legendary ex Marianne Ihlen). His voice is a moss-encrusted slither, just like it always was late in his life. His melody unfolds with the simple oomph of a folklore. Tender chords twitch and hover from the Spanish guitarist Javier Mas. “I loved your moods,” Cohen sings. “I loved the way they threaten every single day.” Then: “Your beauty ruled me, though I knew / ’Twas more hormonal than the view.”
That opener makes for one of the fuller songs on the album: Though not quite a “Hallelujah”-level anthem, it’s a complete statement that you can hum along to. Other tracks are just brief poems set to aching mood music, and when the poet is as hypnotizing as this one, that’s hardly a critique. On the minute and 12 seconds of “The Goal,” Cohen simply journals a day in the life of a dying man. “I look at the street / The neighbor returns my smile of defeat,” he sings, and you can hear the smile. The closer, “Listen to the Hummingbird,” was reconstructed from a public reading Cohen gave shortly before his death. It sees Cohen making himself very small by asking the audience to heed not his advice but that of the butterfly who lives only three days.
only three days.
The last time Leonard Cohen appeared in public was in mid-October 2016 at a Los Angeles news conference for his 14th studio album, “You Want It Darker,” just a few weeks before his death. Behind him hung a Canadian flag and beside him sat his son, Adam, a musician who had served as producer on the stirring LP. At one point Cohen, stooped and frail but sharp as ever in an impeccably tailored black suit, treated the audience to a recitation from a piece still in progress. He drew a breath, and then in that inimitable baritone, he began:
Listen to the hummingbird
Whose wings you cannot see
Listen to the hummingbird
Don’t listen to me
The audience applauded, and Cohen — who retreated at the height of his fame to live for five years in a Buddhist monastery — demurred with a characteristically self-abnegating joke: “I would say the hummingbird deserves the royalties on that one.” The interviewer asked if the song would appear on his next album. Said the ailing, 82-year-old Cohen, “God willing.”
It seems to have been his will. “Listen to the Hummingbird” is the final track on Cohen’s posthumous new album, “Thanks for the Dance,” which will be released on Friday. The raw audio of that passage from the news conference was tracked down by Adam Cohen and the engineer Michael Chaves, who mixed out the buzzing tone of the room’s halogen lights and composed around it a gentle, unobtrusive piano melody. Adam had already done the same for many of the other vocal takes and half-finished songs his father left behind.
The vocals that make up the other eight songs on “Thanks for the Dance” were all recorded during the “You Want It Darker” sessions, though Adam does not believe they should be considered “discarded songs or B sides.”
On Friday morning, Graham was confronted on Capitol Hill by Jeff Key, who engaged the senator about as respectfully as possible. Graham couldn’t handle it. Here’s the exchange:
KEY: “I see how you’re berated in the press and I honestly believe that you believe in our democracy.”
GRAHAM: “I do.”
KEY: “I’m a Marine, I went to Iraq. I believe as I believe that you do that President Trump is not acting in accordance to his oath, the oath that you took and I did to defend the Constitution.”
GRAHAM: [unintelligible stammering]
KEY: “You took an oath.”
GRAHAM: “Yeah I did, I don’t agree with you, I gotta go.”
Graham then abruptly turned his back on Key and disappeared behind a closed door. “Is that it?” Key said as Graham retreated. “That’s it,” the senator said before closing the door behind him.
Sadly, his deflection efforts aren’t limited to cable TV hits. On Thursday, Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, launched a probe into Joe Biden’s relationship with Ukraine. The investigation comes a month after he was pressured to begin one by Trump and his allies. He refrained from doing so at the time, he explained to the Washington Post, because didn’t want to “turn the Senate into a circus.”
Zanes: It’s got that line “Why wasn’t God watching?” And I just think that if you’re a writer and that’s the only line that you write in your entire career, you should be studied in universities.
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Out of the White House and Under the Bus
The impeachment hearing on Wednesday saw Gordon Sondland, Washington’s ambassador to the European Union, describing President Trump’s actions as a quid pro quo involving military aid to Ukraine. As Samantha Bee joked on “Full Frontal,” the ambassador “implicated basically anyone who’s ever set foot in the Trump White House.”
“Not only did Sondland leave Trump’s defense in tatters, he also implicated Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence, and he did it as happily as if he were enjoying his own ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ birthday party.” — SAMANTHA BEE
“If you don’t know, Sondland is a lifelong Republican with no prior political experience who owns a bunch of hotels. Yes. Afterward, Trump said, ‘I hate guys like that.’” — CONAN O’BRIEN
“In order to catch a selfish, idiotic hotel business guy, you have to send a selfish, idiotic hotel business guy.” — SAMANTHA BEE
“He threw everybody under the bus: Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, John Bolton’s mustache — even John Bolton’s mustache’s mustache.” — TREVOR NOAH
“This was like the ‘Wizard of Oz’ of impeachment testimony. [imitating Sondland] ‘You were there and you were there and you were there, too, Mike. You were the scarecrow!’” — SETH MEYERS
“[imitating Sondland] I’d also like to incriminate my agent — baby doll, I love you! Marcie from wardrobe, everybody at the RNC, Mick Mulvaney — we couldn’t have suppressed Ukraine without you! Oh God, they’re playing me off. I want to thank the whistle-blower, everybody at HBO. Crime is crime is crime is crime. This is for you, mom. We did it! Good night!” — STEPHEN COLBERT
“So many guys went under the bus today, there wasn’t even room for all of them under there. They had to go under in shifts.” — JIMMY KIMMEL
“I mean, it was incredible. If he were a ‘Real Housewife,’ he would have finished by throwing a glass of rose in someone’s face, and just walking off.” — JAMES CORDEN
“Even the White House janitor was like, ‘Am I gonna go to jail?’” — SETH MEYERS
“I’ll tell you something: I don’t think Gordon Sondland’s getting his million dollars back.” — JIMMY KIMMEL