Rufus Wainwright does an excellent cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” on the soundtrack to the biography / performance film “Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man”.
This particular song is one of Cohen’s more poetic sets of lyrics set to sparse accompaniment, as per Cohen’s usual style. The song is a love poem that tells of a memory of an encounter and goes on to close with:
I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can’t keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
that’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.
In this particular performance, Wainwright sings the above verse with a bit of a question, almost as it he is trying to convince himself that the lie is true.
While I am a fan of Leonard Cohen, this was never one of my favorites until I heard Wainwright’s version, which hit me like the proverbial hammer right between the ears and refuses to leave. There is just something about the bitter nostalgia inherent in his performance that reminds me, and all of us, I guess, of times that we hold close to our hearts with a bittersweet poignace that would be lost on any outside observer.
It is this quality, this willingness to be co-opted by the listeners own experience; the way the song acts as a reminder while being constrained by a specific, even explicit set of lyrics that somehow lets the listener replace the songs images with their own, is the heart of this song.
Which makes it, of course, a great song.
Blogged with Flock