[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com


Cry Ophelia
Artist: Adam Cohen
Album: S/T
Year: 1998
: I have a complicated relationship with Ophelia.

Superficially, I hate her -- but I keep coming back to her. She's the character about which I've written the most papers (2 high school/cegep, 4 undergraduate), and they all say something different. Despite her passivity and lifelessness ------- it's not just the crazy scene that keeps me returning. Like most of Shakespeare's characters, she's an archetype; what she represents as a microcosm is what really matters.

Okay, so I know she's not technically a princess; she and Hamlet never make it official and Polonius is only a lord -- but man if she isn't ubiquitous around Elsinore! Hamlet is a royal drama and the characters all play their royal-family games, all incestuous and controlling, and Ophelia is a major part of all of it. So while she's not a Disney princess, she exemplifies a lot of what being royal actually is.

You probably already know this song (I think it was on the Dawson's Creek soundtrack), but it's worth revisitation if you haven't heard it on the headphones. The layers of sound, despite what seems like a simple arrangement, made my jaw drop when I shuffled onto it this week -- the production is really skillful. Also note that Adam Cohen is Leonard Cohen's son. Their voices don't quite match, but they definitely have a similar love of words. [Also note that Adam Cohen went on to form Low Millions...which you're still not allowed to listen to!]

This song is quite altfolk 90s, but it's got a melody and the aforementioned sonic layers -- plus there's something really heartwrenching in the general atmosphere. The slowness and apparent sparseness works in the song's favour: far from making it blend it, I find it stands out. I love how emotional and honest his voice is, and the timbre in general.

The lyrics are the real gem, though.
"Tryin' to draw the line between who you are / and who you invent
But if you throw a stone / Something's gonna shatter somewhere
" -- yeaaaah. Cause/effect. Conveniently ignored, sometimes. It's sometimes all too easy to delude yourself into believing you ARE a certain way and you BELIEVE certain things, when actually...well, suffice to say something always shatters. Honesty is a big deal, especially when you aren't being honest with yourself. I love this song because it just openly professes that it is OKAY TO NOT LIKE YOURSELF SOMETIMES. "Everybody cries." You can fail ("I've come to a little wisdom /through a whole lot of failure"). You can fuck up. At least be honest about it. At least own up to it. You can't "learn how to live your life without tears," so you may as well just accept it and do the best you can.

Ophelia, our not-quite-princess, is the parts of royalty -- or any position of power and strength, really -- that succumb to pressure. This song is not about Ophelia -- she doesn't have a sobbing scene in the play or anything. It is about just letting go. Ophelia succumbed. Her passivity overwhelmed her, she drowned (and, if you look at the language of the play, she is pulled in by the water -- even her suicide is not really an act, per se).

This song is, though, about what Ophelia faced. A lack of identity, confusion, moving in a world in which she was not confident, all while playing a role an entire court expected her to play. Royal or not, we all have these problems; we all feel lost and confused and broken. To deny it is to make things shatter.

So: the complicated relationship continues. Ophelia, I hate you because I see my greatest fears in you -- but Ophelia [and Mr. Cohen, both father and son!], I love you because that solidarity: I find nowhere else.

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