AOTY 2023
Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker
Critic Score
Based on 32 reviews
2016 Ratings: #3 / 1002
Year End Rank: #17
User Score
Based on 655 ratings
2016 Ratings: #52
Liked by 71 people
October 21, 2016 / Release Date
LP / Format
Sony / Label
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This is one of his most intense albums. It feels personal too.
Evening Standard
Leonard Cohen could order a breakfast burrito and his particular choice of words would impart more truth and profundity than most songwriters manage in their entire careers.
The Irish Times
It would be wrong to think these nine tracks morbid or depressing; Cohen's humanity shines throughout.
The Arts Desk

There is a depth here that eludes the Nobel Prize winner – for all his genius. Cohen courts what is most uncomfortable in the human condition and transforms that terrifying unease into something of great beauty – and in the process, some comfort too.

The Observer
The bleak and sparse arrangements of Leonard Cohen’s 14th studio album make his repeated leave-taking all the more exquisite.
The Telegraph
What is truly extraordinary about Cohen is not that he is still making albums but that they are as rich, deep and potent as ever . If anything, his ruminations on life gain added poignancy and urgency with passing time.
The Guardian

You could never describe You Want It Darker as merely more of the same. As striking as the sense that its themes are of a piece with the rest of Cohen’s oeuvre is the sense of an artist willing to move forward.

Northern Transmissions

The two things that will stay with you from You Want It Darker are the incomparable songwriting (to be expected), and the national treasure that is Cohen’s voice.


The songwriting is masterful, with some new compositions like “It’s Better That Way” in every way equal to the best work he has ever recorded.

Consequence of Sound
Using his remaining time, he’s not only putting his house in order, he’s tidying up ours too.
Entertainment Weekly
On his 14th studio album, the songwriting maestro—still vital at 82—is a lion in winter, his lyrics heavy with God and sex and death and his legendary voice scraped down to a subterranean rumble.
The Line of Best Fit

Melancholy lyrical ruminations on fatality are nothing new for Cohen, but on these nine new songs he seems resigned – even comforted – that the end is getting near.


It feels like the most human of his late works, with acoustic instrumentation carefully balanced alongside drum programming and vintage keyboards.


It’s become a cliché to treat every latter-day Cohen album like a potential swansong but it’s hard to imagine a richer, finer or more satisfying finale than this.


What You Want It Darker accomplishes isn’t just powerful instrumentation in minimalism, or strong poeticism, but that of an artist baring their soul, and the sharing of sincere truth.

The Sydney Morning Herald

This album confirms he has much more to say, much more to share, as a sage who doesn't offer himself as such but rather as a fellow questioner stumbling through.


You Want It Darker finds the octogenarian in signature enthralling form, with his powers of provocation—not to mention his wry humor—fully intact.


Leonard Cohen's 14th studio album feels like a pristine, piously crafted last testament, the informed conclusion of a lifetime of inquiry.

A.V. Club

On this record, Cohen is choosing to tie up loose ends in the way he sees fit, with equal parts wistfulness and acceptance. In other words, he’s choosing to examine his life (and life’s work) rather than ponder the abyss. That ensures You Want It Darker doesn’t feel like an ending, as much as it feels like one more chapter in Cohen’s songbook.

Drowned in Sound

He’s pulled out all the stops to create an album that is as bleak as it is entertaining. But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom, he offers, as usual glimpses of redemption.

Q Magazine

Deeply ambiguous yet wittily epigrammatic, You Want It Darker is all one might want from a final testament, short of cosy reassurance.

Record Collector
That it’s a deeply impressive, even life-affirming listen is testament to Cohen’s poetic sleight of hand and dark mastery of melody.
FLOOD Magazine

The record is only nine songs long, and one of those is a string reprise of an earlier tune, but You Want It Darker is as deep as it is compact.

Spectrum Culture
It is a noteworthy record by any artist at any stage of their career, let alone one with an output as influential and wise as Cohen’s.

You Want It Darker is a hell of a record.

The Independent

You Want It Darker finds Cohen as frustrated and regretful as any 82-year-old has a right to be, railing variously against the world, his own weakness and god.

NOW Magazine

You Want It Darker is frightening, aching and, finally, sad. But, on this gorgeous, essential record, the sadness is illuminated. It glows.

Rolling Stone

Following a string of records that have each felt like a swan song, You Want It Darker may be Cohen's most haunting LP.


You Want It Darker is a strong record, with an even stronger message. With age comes wisdom and reflection, which certainly rings clear here, as Cohen gracefully wonders — as we all do — what'll happen next.


You Want It Darker is almost deceptively straight-forward, serving up pretty much everything Cohen fans have come to expect.

The Young Folks
Not as rich as his best work, but it is intelligent and, most importantly, features a distinctive level of contentment.
Slant Magazine

The culmination of 50 years of moody, often melancholic music, You Want It Darker stands out as the musical equivalent thereof, a wry reckoning of a lifetime's worth of damaged relationships, upheld vows, and broken promises from pop's preeminent emotional accountant.


Being aware that you are probably facing the end of the road could be an intimidating and powerful driving force for any of us, but when an artist like Leonard Cohen is challenged in the same way, the outcome is superb.

Cohen last album is not a death ode as many of you could probably think, actually, in my view it is totally the opposite. This is a beautiful and simple manifesto, which only tries to celebrates a handful of the most appreciated memories deeply kept in Cohen's soul and at the ... read more


We wanted it darker, he delivered


I wanted it dark, gloomy like I am alone in a dark room afraid to ask for help and Leonard Cohen delivered with a beautiful display of how a raspy voice not only sets a calming and nocturnal soundscape but deliver powerful lyrics will chill the spine.

Track Review

You Want It Darker 9.5/10
Treaty 8.5/10.
On the Level 8.5/10.
Leaving the Table 7.5/10.
If I Didn't Have Your Love 8/10
Traveling Light 7.5/10.
It Seemed the Better Way 9/10
Steer Your Way 8.5/10.
String Reprise / Treaty ... read more


This is pure poetry! I feel like I need to finger snap after every song. I find it hard to judge this album, but I think if I think of this as poetry readings, its much easier to judge this.

Standout: You Want It Darker, On the Level, Traveling Light, It Seemed the Better Way

#16 of working through the 1001 Albums list


first leonard cohen album and first thing i thought was that this is pretty much leonard cohen's blackstar since he would die only 17 days after this album at age 82 which is nuts that an 82 year old is singing this poetry btw but the creepy thing is that this was released the same year as bowie's blackstar aswell which seems like a weird coincidence.
this songwriting is just so fucking beautiful i love leonard's writing this isn't just music this is straight poetry and combined with his deep ... read more


voice is so soothing to me i wanna be just like him 🥺

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Added on: September 21, 2016