The Future (Leonard Cohen album)

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The Future
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 24, 1992
RecordedJanuary – June 1992
GenreContemporary folk, soft rock
ProducerLeonard Cohen, Steve Lindsey, Bill Ginn, Leanne Ungar, Rebecca De Mornay, Yoav Goren
Leonard Cohen chronology
I'm Your Man
The Future
Cohen Live

The Future is the ninth studio album by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, released in 1992. Almost an hour in length, it was Cohen's longest album up to that date.[1] Both the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1992 Los Angeles riots took place while Cohen was writing and recording the album, which expressed his sense of the world's turbulence.[2] The album was recorded with a large cast of musicians and engineers in several different studios; the credits list almost 30 female singers.[3] The album built on the success of Cohen's previous album, I'm Your Man, and garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews. The Future made the Top 40 in the UK album charts, went double platinum in Canada, and sold a quarter of a million copies in the U.S. which had previously been unenthusiastic about Cohen's albums.[4]


After touring successfully in support of his "comeback" album I'm Your Man (1988), Cohen took a year off to help his son Adam convalesce after a serious car accident in the West Indies left the young man in a coma for four months. Cohen also began a romantic relationship with the actress Rebecca De Mornay. Anthony Reynolds notes in his book Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life that work on Cohen's ninth studio album "was not forged in one concentrated effort. The number of studios used ran into double figures and was spread between Montreal and Los Angeles, although the original plan was to record it in Montreal only, with the same personnel that had worked on I'm Your Man. The cast brought to bear on the album was more akin to a movie production and included both a choir and an orchestra..." The songwriting process had not gotten easier for Cohen over the years; in an interview with Q, the singer admitted, “I’ve never found it easy to write. Period. I mean, I don’t want to whine about it or anything’s a bitch! It’s terrible work. I’m very disciplined in that I can settle down into the work situation but coming up with the words is very hard. Hard on the heart, hard on the head and it just drives you mad. Before you know it, you’re crawling across the carpet in your underwear trying to find a rhyme for ‘orange’. It’s a terrible, cruel job. But I’m not complaining."


According to Ira Nadel's 1996 Cohen memoir Various Positions, the title track was originally called "If You Could See What's Coming Next", and underwent extensive rewrites, taking up almost sixty pages in Cohen's notebook, while "Closing Time" took two years with Cohen even starting over from scratch on the song as late as March 1992. Nadel also reveals that "Anthem" was borrowed from Kabbalistic sources, especially the sixteenth-century rabbi Isaac Luria. In the Paul Zollo book Songwriters on Songwriting, Cohen explains that it takes him so long to finish songs because "Nothing works. After a while, if you stick with the song long enough it will yield. But long enough is way beyond any reasonable estimation of what you think long enough may be...'Anthem' took a decade to write. And I've recorded it three times. More." In the same interview, Cohen spoke at length about "Democracy," admitting that he wrote 60 verses for it:

This was when the Berlin Wall came down and everyone was saying democracy is coming to the east. And I was like that gloomy fellow who always turns up at a party to ruin the orgy or something. And I said, "I don’t think it’s going to happen that way. I don’t think this is such a good idea. I think a lot of suffering will be the consequence of this wall coming down." But then I asked myself, "Where is democracy really coming?" And it was the U.S.A....So while everyone was rejoicing, I thought it wasn’t going to be like that, euphoric, the honeymoon. So it was these world events that occasioned the song. And also the love of America. Because I think the irony of America is transcendent in the song. It’s not an ironic song. It’s a song of deep intimacy and affirmation of the experiment of democracy in this country. That this is really where the experiment is unfolding. This is really where the races confront one another, where the classes, where the genders, where even the sexual orientations confront one another. This is the real laboratory of democracy.[5]

Political events and history are found elsewhere on the album, with Cohen making references to Tiananmen Square, Stalin, World War II and Hiroshima. "I was living in L.A. through the riots and the earthquakes and the floods," the singer told Uncut's Nigel Williamson in 1997. "And even for one as relentlessly occupied with himself as I am it is very hard to keep your mind on yourself when the place is burning down, so I think that invited me to look out of the window." Although the tone of the album is at times somber, it does contain much of the wry humor that is evident on Cohen's previous LP I'm Your Man. The Future also contains two cover songs - Irving Berlin's "Always" and Frederick Knight's "Be For Real" - as well as "Tacoma Trailer", the first instrumental that Cohen had ever placed on one of his studio albums. Several producers are credited on the LP, including Cohen and Rebecca De Mornay.

Film soundtracks and covers[edit]

Three songs from this album, "Anthem", "The Future", and the menacing "Waiting for the Miracle" (co-written by Sharon Robinson) were used prominently on the soundtrack for Oliver Stone's 1994 film Natural Born Killers. Songs from the album have also appeared in the films Wonder Boys starring Michael Douglas and The Life of David Gale starring Kevin Spacey. A cover version of "Light as The Breeze" by Billy Joel appears on the tribute album Tower of Song released in 1995. Billy Joel included his version on his compilation Billy Joel Greatest Hits Volume III in 1997. A cover version of "Anthem" appears on the album Matador: The Songs of Leonard Cohen released by the Canadian singer Patricia O'Callaghan in 2012. Bob Seger included a cover of "Democracy" on his 2017 album I Knew You When.

At the 2017 Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen concert, "Democracy" was performed by Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites of The Lumineers, and "The Future" was performed by Elvis Costello.[6]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[7]
Chicago Tribune3.5/4 stars[8]
Entertainment WeeklyA[9]
Los Angeles Times3.5/4 stars[10]
Q4/5 stars[12]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[13]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[14]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[15]
The Village VoiceA−[16]

The album charted as high as No. 36 in the U.K. and was phenomenally successful in Canada, going gold, platinum, and double-platinum.[17] Cohen also won the Canadian Juno Award for Best Male Vocalist in 1993 for The Future. In his acceptance speech, he quipped, "Only in Canada could somebody with a voice like mine win Vocalist of the Year."[18] The music video for Cohen's song "Closing Time" also won the Juno Award for Best Music Video in 1993.[17] In the original Rolling Stone review, Christian Wright called the album "epic", enthusing "The Future might as easily have been a book: A more troubling, more vexing image of human failure has not been written." Christopher Fielder of AllMusic calls the LP "one long manifesto calling all to challenge the concepts of righteousness and despair in our modern world." In 2010 biographer Anthony Reynolds called The Future "classic big budget AOR yet with lyrics by Lorca, Bukowski and Lowell, sung by an old wino from Skid Row who really wanted to sound like Ray Charles at the Apollo."

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Leonard Cohen, except where noted. Orchestral and background vocal arrangements by David Campbell.

  1. "The Future" – 6:41
  2. "Waiting for the Miracle" (Cohen, Sharon Robinson) – 7:42
  3. "Be for Real" (Frederick Knight) – 4:32
  4. "Closing Time" – 6:00
  5. "Anthem" – 6:09
  6. "Democracy" – 7:13
  7. "Light as the Breeze" – 7:14
  8. "Always" (Irving Berlin) – 8:04
  9. "Tacoma Trailer" – 5:57



Chart (1992–93) Peak
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[19] 5
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[20] 7
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[21] 5
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[22] 79
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[23] 42
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[24] 3
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[25] 5
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[26] 21
UK Albums (OCC)[27] 36

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[28] 2× Platinum 200,000^
Sweden (GLF)[29] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[30] Silver 60,000^
United States 225,000[31]
Worldwide N/A 1,000,000[31]

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ Simmons, Sylvie, 2012, I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, p. 368.
  2. ^ Simmons, Sylvie, 2012, I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, pp. 364-365.
  3. ^ I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, p. 365.
  4. ^ Simmons, Sylvie, 2012, I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, p. 370.
  5. ^ Zollo, Paul (2003). Songwriters On Songwriting (first published in Song Talk, journal of the National Academy of Songwriters, ed. by Paul Zollo) (expanded ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press. p. 335. ISBN 9780306812651.
  6. ^ "Watch Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen on Wednesday, January 3 on CBC". CBC Arts, December 29, 2017.
  7. ^ Fielder, Christopher. "The Future – Leonard Cohen". AllMusic. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  8. ^ Dretzka, Gary (December 24, 1992). "Leonard Cohen: The Future (Columbia)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  9. ^ Zacharek, Stephanie (December 18, 1992). "The Future". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  10. ^ Willman, Chris (December 27, 1992). "Leonard Cohen, 'The Future,' Columbia". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  11. ^ "Leonard Cohen: The Future". NME: 31. November 28, 1992.
  12. ^ "Leonard Cohen: The Future". Q (76): 79. January 1993.
  13. ^ Wright, Christian (January 7, 1993). "The Future". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  14. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Leonard Cohen". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 176–77. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  15. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). "Leonard Cohen". Spin Alternative Record Guide. New York City: Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  16. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 26, 1993). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York City: Voice Media. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^ "Back in the game: Leonard Cohen makes his return to working life". The National Post. 2006-02-07. Archived from the original on 2015-08-13. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
  19. ^ " – Leonard Cohen – The Future" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  20. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 1730". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  21. ^ " – Leonard Cohen – The Future" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  22. ^ " – Leonard Cohen – The Future" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  23. ^ " – Leonard Cohen – The Future". Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  24. ^ " – Leonard Cohen – The Future". Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  25. ^ " – Leonard Cohen – The Future". Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  26. ^ " – Leonard Cohen – The Future". Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  27. ^ "Leonard Cohen | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  28. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Leonard Cohen – The Future". Music Canada.
  29. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden.
  30. ^ "British album certifications – Leonard Cohen – The Future". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type The Future in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  31. ^ a b "Billboard". 1998-11-28.