You want it Darker — Song review
The song “You Want It Darker” or “Hineni” by Leonard Cohen.
1. The lyrics are touching at the harmonic Level, the use of Cantorial and chorus give the song a religious sense and awe that resonates with the listener.
Now, as far as lyrics they resonate with the listener because they express the loss of hope, direction, and authority that we expect to guide us for a better good.
We can see that the theme, from the first line, is setting the tone until the end.
In the first line — “If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game”
He outlines the grim state of mind that we have when we realize that the one responsible for dealing the card is cheating, and it’s not a fair game that one would like to be a part of.
This concept repeats itself many times over in many forms while implicitly referring to injustices and cruelty.
Next line — “If you are the healer, I’m broken and lame”, referring again to his disbelief in the authority as a healing power.
And at the same time referring to his fragile and wounded state, and the hopelessness and disillusionment of the hope of things getting better.
This concept is repeating itself over many lines, outlining 2 contradicting statements, the first pointing at what we assume as a sublime higher authority to act as healing, protecting, serving and the grim situation and reality we are facing.
His main statement — “You want it darker, we kill the flame”
Stating his despair as he states that if this is how we are led to darkness, we will kill the flame, meaning we will not cooperate while darkness is setting around us, we would rather give up.
His next line is chanted by the chorus —
“Magnified, sanctified Be thy holy name,
Vilified, crucified, In the human frame.”
This statement both clarifies his previous lines and exponentially intensifies them as their grim meaning is revealed.
By stating how eternal ideas and concepts we have sanctified and glorified as positive and grand, are now being reduced and manipulated through intentional reframing. And how these are to misused and abused for the purpose of crucifying and vilifying individuals, groups, and institutions.
“There’s a lover in the story, But the story’s still the same”
He then talks about hopes and dreams that never fulfill since the story is persisted as a constant or perpetually stagnant tale that will never change.
“There’s a lullaby for suffering, And a paradox to blame”
Stating how even suffering is serenaded to sleep and intentionally guided to be accepted by finding a blame within an unsolvable paradox.
“But it’s written in the scriptures, And it’s not some idle claim”
Meaning these ideas and concepts have been glorified and sanctified over the ages and were set down in the scriptures, and now they are presented as an Idle claim. This strong statement refers to how our values, moral framework, and hopes have been systematically dissolved. And how these concepts and ideas are now reused and abused to represent a different intent, leaving the ageless notions as invalid, idle claims.
2. This song taps into Jewish themes. And to the grim and dark experience of disillusion in face of deception and cruelty.
Listening to the chanting you can recognize the direct transposition through time, of great cantors like Yossele Rosenblat and others.
What is immediately striking by the reference to the Hebrew word “Hineni” is the reference to the story of Samuel, as a boy serving at the temple, Young Samuel is perplexed at a voice calling him. He is then guided to differentiate that voice from the call of the common man, responding to the voice and the higher calling, in this case, the divine call.
This is a marking point in the biblical tales, illustrating how one can choose to listen to a higher calling, accept the higher authority and abide by it, and respond with acceptance — Here I am.
In this song, Cohen resonates with us a fracture in his set of beliefs, He illustrates a broken man, who realizes that the glorified authority is not leading us to fulfill the calling to a better, safer, protected existence, where our values and hopes are fulfilled.
He’s stating how these concepts of authority and Higher calling have been misused, abused and reframed to be exploited for personal agenda and acts of cruelty.
The speaker states what so many in our generation acknowledge today,
We realize who deals the cards, and we are out of this rigged game, he’s not playing along anymore.