The last month—hell, the last year—has been one of massive upheavals. There was the unlikely election of President-elect Trump. There was the passing of a musical legend, LEONARD COHEN. People felt less and less safe at music venues because of shootings at The Pulse and last year’s Bataclan show. Earlier this year, we lost DAVID BOWIE and PRINCE, among others; we collapsed into more and more bitter political rhetoric; and we all felt a little less kind. Taking a survey of the last year, even John Oliver recently produced a video segment for his show, Last Week Tonight, in which people from all over, including a few celebrities, said “F*ck you, 2016!”
But this column is not really the best place to parse political goings-on, nor do I have the energy, given the echo-chamber of social media, to keep going over it again and again. Let’s move on to a much better Donald.
DONALD GLOVER’s new album Awaken, My Love! is out December 2, under his musical moniker CHILDISH GAMBINO. The 11-song tracklist has been released online as well as the first track, “Me and Your Mama.” Glover has been absolutely killing it with his new TV show, Atlanta, which loosely follows a man hoping to become a music producer. The show has an absurdist strain, which brought comparisons to Louie, Louis CK’s hit show; these are not unfair comparisons, but they do miss a lot of the amazing work that Atlanta is doing.
The passing of Leonard Cohen was felt deeply in the musical community, though it was not unexpected. Cohen had given interviews recently in which he was very clear about how he was “ready” to die. His last album, You Want it Darker, released just a few weeks ago, also has a fatalistic bent. His ineluctable mortality looms large on the record, which is, it should be said, a masterpiece. Just like Bowie before him, he left an album that he knew, more or less, would be his last and it contains much of what he wanted to say, beautifully, to his listeners.
Dozens of news sources and music mags have started publishing think-pieces, lists, and interviews with Cohen, trying to process the loss. Much of this centers on “Hallelujah”, the song which he is perhaps most identified with, despite the fact that much of that attention came from covers. “Hallelujah,” was covered by JOHN CALE, JEFF BUCKLEY, and countless others, making it one of the most reinterpreted songs of all time, up there with Radiohead’s “Creep.” In fact, both were covered in a recent Saturday Night Live. The Dave Chappelle episode began with Kate McKinnon, dressed as Hillary Clinton, singing “Hallelujah” in earnest, a tribute to Cohen and a bid for political hope. At the after party, Chappelle himself covered “Creep.”
Speaking of solemn tributes, STING recently played the Bataclan club, becoming the first musical act to play there are the shooting one year ago which claimed the lives of 89 people. Sting asked for a moment of silence during his set, honoring the victims of the killing. On his Instagram, Sting posted “In re-opening the Bataclan, we have two important tasks to reconcile. First, to remember and honour those who lost their lives in the attack a year ago, and second to celebrate the life and the music that this historic theatre represents. In doing so we hope to respect the memory as well as the life affirming spirit of those who fell. We shall not forget them.”
This last sentiment, about affirming life and about loving through music, is now more important than ever. As the Bataclan fills back up with more artists and attendees in the coming weeks, it’s important to remember the communal power of music. Let it, here, there and everywhere, heal us.