Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Jukebox: The End of Love Edition

I'm finishing up at the office tonight and listening to music videos while I work and was reminded why I love this Leonard Cohen video so much:

It's not the overblown production number (although I do love the song, I think Madeline Peyroux does it better...) or the photogenically cute n' playful young couple that prances around in the thing. Or the old maestro's gravely voice, or even the flaming violin...

No. What gets to me are the various black-and-white wedding pictures thrown up behind the couples themselves now bent and gray and wrinkled by the years between but still paired in the long-familiar steps of the Dance.

Or not; the widower seated silently before that image of his long-vanished bride, preserved in silver salts and black, is perhaps the most mournful image I've ever seen.

It may be pure corn right off the cob, but it speaks to me, so now I've passed it along to you. dear friend Lisa makes a terrific point; other than the sweet little wedding-picture visuals, the Cohen version of this song is an atrocity; overblown, manipulative, mannered and false.

Here's Madeline Peyroux showing how it's done:

See? Better?

Hope you're looking forward to a blissful weekend.

And perhaps a Dance, or two.


Lisa said...

Cohen has Yiddish theatre, Vaudeville and the Catskills in his blood -- who would do this sort of thing better? It is quite sentimental, and I think myself too harsh when I dismiss it as such; there is a place for such feelings. I think corn pone is exploitative, whereas sentimentality is just that.

I'm not sure why I've never cottoned to Cohen, as I love some tremendously sentimental tunes and writings. Hmmm ... I suspect this is very personal for me, as I had a lover who was a fan and loved tunes like "Chelsea Hotel", which I thought so degraded. His affection for those tunes bore itself out in his behavior.

I think I like consistency in person, though I understand the great contradiction that can be man. I'll got to Johnny Rotten for rough, and Ira Gershwin for uplifting. But even Guns N Roses had "Sweet Child of Mine", and so it goes for many others.

I guess I just resent Cohen's on-stage theatrics; I don't like gross manipulation, and can't take him seriously. That said, I'm on the outside of most folks I know on this one.

FDChief said...

I tend to agree with you, Lisa; like I said, as far as the actual arrangement of this song I like the simplicity of the Peyroux version better. The Cohen cover, with all the sobbing violins and the theatrical hysteria is WAY too over the top for me.

Had they restricted the visuals to the old couples and their wedding pictures it would have been far, far more touching and personal.

Lisa said...

By the light of day, I recognize a fault of mine: I can be far too ponderous! So Leonard can be the king of pop schmaltz ... and what's wrong with that? Nothing! To be human, we should celebrate all of our inclinations; please forgive Lisa for being too, erm, Spock-like.

You wished us all a blissful weekend and perhaps a dance, and that's quite lovely. I wish you the same :)

If Leonard can remind us of the preciousness and brevity of life and love, he has done well.

FDChief said...

Now I have to walk YOU back; you're right about the "problem" that Cohen's schmaltzy theatricality brings to music. I think we've talked about this before, how the "American Idol"/Whitney Houston power-pop wailing and sobbing-breathy emo songs have done grievous harm to the art of pop music.

I don't know if I've posted the Peyroux cover of this song, but I'm going to edit this post and add it; compare and see if you don't agree that - other than the sweet visuals in the Cohen video - it's superior in every way.

Lisa said...

I do agree with you about the preferability of the other version. Presentation matters, eh?

I couldn't bear Houston's overwrought emo stance when she didn't even get the lyrics! She absolutely brutalized "I Will Always Love You." By palatable sentimentality, I only mean how can one not have fun with, "I'm as corny as Kansas in August" (South Pacific)? That sort of corn is fun. But in agreement with you, that presented as sincere when it is false is onerous and damaging.

This is from a NYT review this week of Cohen's, "I'm Your Man":

"... Simmons captures the elliptical nature of ­Cohen’s speech, the wry turns of phrase that are almost like stand-up comedy. Behind it all are a smirk and a wink; you know that Cohen knows how absurd it all is."

--I have the sense that Cohen gets it, but not everyone does.

FDChief said...

Interesting - I never thought of it that way, but it makes sense; Cohen as parody of himself, of the old borscht belt sensibility and the corn-fed corniness of the "American Songbook".

There's a genuineness there, and a real sense of the spirit that those songs had when they were new. But I'm not sure that it's possible to sing them in the guileless way that The McGuire Sisters or Bing Crosby could have back in the Forties. Beginning with Sinatra and ending with the current styles of rock, R&B, hip-hop and beyond we're just not the same innocent people we were. Cynicism and snark rule us, and so Cohen is sort of the perfect icon for our times; superficially romantic and hyper-dramatic but underneath smirking and winking at the rubes who don't get it...

Lisa said...

Yes, Cohen's self-parody makes him the perfect Po-Mo man (only, I hope we are moving past Po-Mo ... sigh.)

Cynicism and snark do rule today, and I find them so tiring. Yeah, Cohen's posturing all right, but there is a sort of world-weariness that he is aggressively foisting upon his listener, indicting the latter, too, in the process. If the listener calls "Suzanne" or "Chelsea Hotel" exalted, he'll take it -- "First We'll Take Manhattan" says the great capitalist.

Only in this ironic way can I appreciate him. (But Peyroux did a lovely job with it.)