“Leonard Cohen” by boygenius

“Leonard Cohen”, which measures in at about 1 minute and 45 seconds in length, is the second-shortest song on the playlist of Boygenius’s album “The Record”. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for boygenius's Leonard Cohen at Lyrics.org.

The late Leonard Cohen (1934-2016), who is considered a legend in the music industry, gets co-writing credit on this track as it samples a song of his which came out in 1992 called “Anthem”. And its other authors, as well as producers, are Phoebe Bridgers, Julie Baker and Lucy Dacus, i.e. the three musicians who make up Boygenius. 

This track was released through Interscope on 31 March 2023, whom the girls signed with earlier in the year.

Lyrics of “Leonard Cohen”

Whether or not you interpret this track as a tribute to Leonard Cohen is a matter of perspective. First of all, even though the song is named after him, it’s not about Cohen. 

Rather Leonard, who is actually regularly referenced in song, is cited as the author of the adage “there’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”

That’s another way of saying that you can’t have the good without the bad. Or another way of looking at that statement, in a manner of speaking, is that it takes hardship to truly appreciate the blessings in life. It’s one of those kind of existential statements that we all know what it means, even if you can’t put it into words.

But then interestingly, Lucy proceeds to describe Leonard in what can be deemed a less-than-flattering way, as “an old man having an existential crisis at a Buddhist monastery writing horny poetry”. 

“Leonard Cohen once said: ‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’
And I am not an old man having an existential crisis
At a Buddhist monastery writing horny poetry”

Leonard did choose to reside inside a monastery in 1994 – the year he turned 60 – and remained there almost until the end of that decade. Meanwhile, “Anthem” was dropped a couple of years prior to that. 

But what that observation is meant to allude to is his character in general, which Dacus then uses to contrast with her own. Or viewed from a different angle, she’s about as far as you can get from an old man living in a monastery. Yet and still, Dacus points out that she agrees with Cohen’s statement, thus reaffirming, as noted earlier, that it has a universal truth to it.

And that then leads us back to the actual thesis sentiment of “Leonard Cohen”, which is, by the way, a love song. 

That is to say that this is one of those types which, reading in-between the lines, is premised on the concept of the vocalist and addressee coming off as two people who perhaps have experienced romantic disappointments in past such that they no longer feel worthy. But they have found each other nonetheless and appear to be on the verge of embarking on an edifying relationship. And theoretically, that is the point that Lucy is trying to get at by quoting “Leonard Cohen”.

Or phrased alternatively, neither one of these participants may be perfect. But their shortcomings, if you will, have also placed them in a position where they can appreciate each other – i.e. an impromptu soulmate, if you will – all the more.

Was “Leonard Cohen” released as a single?

“The Record” (the album which “Leonard Cohen” appears on) was issued through Interscope Records. Four singles were released from this album. “Leonard Cohen” wasn’t one of them.

The Record’s singles are as follows:

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