Decoding Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas Chart Ranking

1norwayNote: Originally posted Feb 10, 2012 at (a predecessor of Cohencentric), this is the second in a series of three posts examining the ascension – unique among Leonard Cohen recordings – of the Old Ideas album’s ascension on the best-selling music charts.

  1. Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas Hits The Charts – And Why That Matters (Maybe)
  2. Decoding Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas Chart Ranking
  3. Leonard Cohen In Our Hearts – Old Ideas On The Charts

It’s 2012 And Leonard Cohen Is #1 Again In Norway

Norwegians have a history of fondness for Leonard Cohen that translates into album sales.  In 1988, for example, Cohen’s I’m Your Man album  was number one for seventeen weeks in Norway, leading the Canadian singer-songwriter to comment,

 That was very strange … Every single household in Norway must have had a copy. It was indispensable for family life.1

Norway has also been the highest rated country by the Human Development Index for the past four years.  Coincidence or Correlation?

Regardless, the real story is …

It’s 2012 And Leonard Cohen Is Charting Everywhere

Billboard describes the US version of the phenomenon:2

At No. 3 this week is Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leonard Cohen with the debut of “Old Ideas” (41,000). It’s the icon’s highest-charting album ever and best sales week since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. The beloved artist’s new album is his first studio effort since 2004’s “Dear Heather,” which debuted and peaked at No. 131 (9,000 in its first week).

The official album Press Release cherry picks the high points:

Leonard Cohen’s New Album Old Ideas Receives Unprecedented Worldwide Acclaim
Old Ideas Debuts in a Top Five Position on Charts in 27 Countries

Cohen’s New Studio Album Is the Highest Charting Album of His Career

NEW YORK, Feb. 8, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas has reached unprecedented worldwide creative and commercial heights with debuts in the #1 position on the official Album Sales Chart in 9 countries. Additionally, Old Ideas has smashed records with its debut at the top of the charts (official, iTunes or Amazon) in 17 countries (Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Finland {trending to #1}, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, UK, USA).  The highly acclaimed 10-song collection of new material from poet/singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was also Top 5 in an additional 10 countries. This makes Old Ideas the highest debuting album of Leonard Cohen’s career!

Last week’s headline at The Canadian Press – Online Edition3 trumpets “Old Ideas by Leonard Cohen Tops HMV Canada CD Sales Chart.”

The Dutch media focuses on Cohen’s age: Leonard Cohen Oldest Living Artist To Top Schavotje Ultratop and Leonard Cohen Oldest Artist To Have No. 1 Album. [Google English translation]

Old Ideas is #4 on the German charts, #1 in New Zealand, #2 in Switzerland, #1 in Hungary, and the beat, as Sonny & Cher assured us it would, goes on.

Finally, the Internationalist, authoritatively named United World Chart for week 7 of 2012 lists Old Ideas as its third best selling album.

uwcAll this leads one to ask …

Why Is Leonard Cohen’s Album Hot Stuff Now?

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  1. Growing Old Disgracefully by Ian Pearson. Saturday Night, March, 1993 []
  2. Lana Del Rey Debuts At No. 2, Adele Holds No. 1 on Billboard 200 by Keith Caulfield. Billboard, February 08, 2012 []
  3. Update: This article no longer online. []

Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas Hits The Charts – And Why That Matters (Maybe)


Amazon-US Best Selling CDs – Feb 2, 2012

Note: This entry, originally published Feb 2, 2012 at (a predecessor of Cohencentric), is the first in a series of three posts examining the ascension – unique among Leonard Cohen recordings – of the Old Ideas album’s ascension on the best-selling music charts.

  1. Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas Hits The Charts – And Why That Matters (Maybe)
  2. Decoding Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas Chart Ranking
  3. Leonard Cohen In Our Hearts – Old Ideas On The Charts

Old Ideas Ranks High Among Amazon Best-selling CDs

While Leonard Cohen’s albums have traditionally done well in certain regions (Norway and Denmark, for example), the high rankings of Old Ideas among best-selling albums in Canada, across Europe, and especially in the US are unprecedented.

These screen captures from Amazon sites (US, Canada, Europe) and Empik (Poland) were taken February 2, 2012. (Note: Old Ideas will not be officially released until February 3, 2012 in Australia and some other countries.)  Click on thumbnails to view.

Feb 2, 2012 iTunes Top 10 Albums By Country

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Waiting For The Miracle: The Long Anticipation Of Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas Album


The Wait For The Old Ideas Album

The above photo of Dino Soldo  and a sockless Leonard Cohen in a recording studio, posted on Facebook by Soldo on July 11, 2011, was extraordinarily popular because it provided graphic, albeit circumstantial,  evidence that work was actually progressing on the long awaited, much anticipated, ever-forthcoming new Leonard Cohen album.1


When this photo was first posted July 12, 2011, Cohen fans had been awaiting the appearance of what would be the Old Ideas album more than seven years after Leonard Cohen’s previous studio album, Dear Heather, and more than five years after the album was revealed to be in progress. Old Ideas was finally released in January 2012,

Cohencentric (then followed the progress and joined in the speculation about the contents of the promised album:



  1. In the same July 12, 2011 post with the photo was news of Leonard Cohen’s comment to a chance encounter a month earlier “that he was in the middle of writing a new album.” (see Me & The Maestro – Leonard Cohen) []

Patrick Leonard’s Collaboration With Leonard Cohen

Note: Originally posted Jan 12, 2015 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Collaborations

Although Leonard Cohen’s professional persona is that of the consummate solo artist, he has a long history of collaboration. Sharon Robinson, for example, co-wrote and produced Ten New Songs as well as singing and playing all the instruments on the album.1 A single sentence from Robert Christgau’s commentary on New Skin for Old Ceremony economically attests to the significance of two of Cohen’s best known producers:

Some of the new songs are less than memorable, but the settings, by John Lissauer, have the bizarre feel of John Simon’s “overproduction” on Cohen’s first album, which I always believed suited his studied vulgarity perfectly.

Similarly, Jennifer Warnes, Bob Johnston, Lewis Furey, Anjani Thomas, and Henry Lewy, among other musicians, songwriters, and producers, have influenced Cohen’s music. And, while the impact of some individuals has been limited to a single instance, e.g., Phil Spector’s work on “Death Of A Ladies’ Man,” several collaborators have left their imprints on a number of projects over a period of years.2

The Two Leonards

Patrick Leonard, who co-wrote three songs on the Old Ideas album and co-wrote eight of the nine songs on Popular Problems, is Cohen’s confederate in the current edition of these musical partnerships. The pair, in fact, are said to have “half of another album in the can.”3 This post offers an introduction to the nature of this collaboration.

Patrick Leonard’s efforts have changed  how Leonard Cohen songs are created. Perhaps the most obvious effect has been the acceleration of Cohen’s notoriously slow, laborious development process:

“Some of them came together with shockingly alarming speed,” said Cohen, who recorded many of the songs at his home studio. “Usually, I take a long, long time – partly because of an addiction to perfection, partly just sheer laziness.”4

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  1. Except Bob Metzger’s guitar work on “In My Secret Life” []
  2. Thanks to Jugurtha Harchaoui (personal communication) for this insight. []
  3. Leonard Cohen on Collaborating with Madonna Collaborator Patrick Leonard for Upcoming ‘Popular Problems’ By Phil Gallo. Billboard: September 11, 2014 []
  4. Leonard Cohen Offers Rare Peek Into His Process at ‘Popular Problems’ Preview by Steve Appleford. Rolling Stone: September 11, 2014 []