Leonard Cohen Estate Suggests "You Want It Darker" More Apt for RNC Closer Than "Hallelujah"

After the Republican National Convention closed with two different versions of the late Leonard Cohen's signature song "Hallelujah," the singer and songwriter's estate is now seeking legal action. The estate conceded that while it did not allow the candidate to use Cohen's 1984 song, it would have possibly let the RNC use his 2016 song "You Want It Darker" instead.

In a statement shared to Cohen's Facebook page, his estate's legal representative Michelle L. Rice said that it was seeing if it had legal options following the inclusions of Tori Kelly's and Christopher Macchio's cover versions of "Hallelujah" being used, respectively, at the close President Donald Trump's speech and during a fireworks display.

"We are surprised and dismayed that the RNC would proceed knowing that the Cohen Estate had specifically declined the RNC's use request, and their rather brazen attempt to politicize and exploit in such an egregious manner "Hallelujah", one of the most important songs in the Cohen song catalogue. We are exploring our legal options," she wrote, before slyly suggesting that use of the song from his 2016 album of the same name might have been cleared: "Had the RNC requested another song, 'You Want it Darker', for which Leonard won a posthumous Grammy in 2017, we might have considered approval of that song."

SONY/ATV Music Publishing president and global marketing officer Brian Monaco said that RNC representatives asked to use the song for a live performance the night before the finale, and the publisher declined. Many artists have spoken out against Trump using their music, among them Rihanna and Brendon Urie from Panic! At The Disco. The estates of Prince and Tom Petty have also disavowed Trump's use of their music.

"You Want It Darker" is the opening and title track to Cohen's 2016 album, which was released in October of that year. Cohen died on November 7, 2016, the eve of the 2016 election on. Although Cohen did indeed win a Grammy for the song, it was not until 2018. While the song is mostly an exploration of Cohen's spirituality, the repeated chorus of "You want it darker" is suggestive that the estate was criticizing the Trump campaign.

As previously reported, fans were not only angry about Trump including "Hallelujah" but also confused, given the song's lyrics, which reflect a depressing breakup told through the religious metaphor and sexual double entendres, such as the lines: "She tied you to a kitchen chair/She broke your throne, and she cut your hair/And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah." Despite the suggestive lyrics, the familiar "Hallelujah" chorus has often led to people to associate the song with religious connotations.

Newsweek reached out to SONY/ATV for further comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication. The RNC and Trump campaign also did not respond to Newsweek's emailed request for comment.

Leonard cohen
Leonard Cohen performs on stage at Mercedes-Benz World on July 11, 2009 in Weybridge, England. Cohen's estate is exploring legal options against the RNC for using his song "Hallelujah." Getty/Matt Kent/Redferns