Last year, I wondered why covers of Leonard Cohen songs were usually disappointing. Cohen is a great performer, of course, but not a virtuoso one; surely someone besides Jeff Buckley can put their definitive stamp on one of his tunes—the way Hendrix did with a Dylan song, Aretha Franklin did with an Otis Redding record, and so on? The post prompted some good suggestions in the comments: Tori Amos’s “Famous Blue Raincoat,” Teddy Thompson’s very fine “Tonight Will Be Fine,” and more. But none dissuaded me of the initial premise.
Lana Del Rey is well-suited for Cohen’s lyrics, given her often husky and surprisingly agile voice and how much she trucks in nostalgia. This version of “Chelsea Hotel #2” is a pleasant enough—though perhaps overly faithful—interpretation. Still, if you need me, I’ll be listening to Cohen’s original version again.
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On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.