The Nevermind Variations: Mysterious Changes In True Detective’s Theme Song By Leonard Cohen


The use of Leonard Cohen’s Nevermind as the theme song for Season Two of True Detective has become part of the pop culture conversation the past two weeks.1 Now, Maggie Pehanick, writing in Did You Notice That True Detective’s Theme Song Changed? (Popsugar: June 30, 2015), points out that the lyrics of Nevermind played over the opening credits changed from Episode One to Episode Two, giving rise to several questions of interest:

Why would the version change from the first episode to the second episode? Is it going to change every week? Do the lyrics correspond with the episode’s subject matter, or are they a hint at what’s to come?

Update: See The Nevermind Variations: 3 Episodes, 3 Versions Of True Detective’s Theme Song By Leonard Cohen

That same article purports to show how the two versions differ, but as Marie of SpeakingCohen notes, that information is faulty. Marie was good enough to send me a lyric sheet comparing the two versions embedded in the first two episodes of True Detective and the version found in the Popular Problems album. I have modified that instrument somewhat to produce the chart displayed below.

Pertinent Points: All lyrics used in the True Detective episodes are found in the album version, but some lines have been arranged in a different order.2 Some verses in the album version have not been used in either of the first two True Detective episodes. Those unused verses are represented in the chart by a line of asterisks (*********).3

As they say, stay tuned.



  1. Also see Videos & Reviews: Critics Contemplate Leonard Cohen’s Nevermind As Theme Song Of True Detective, Season 2 and “This Really Strange Mix Of High And Low Art” – True Detective’s Title Designer On Using Leonard Cohen’s Nevermind In Opening Of Season Two []
  2. The complete album version of the Nevermind lyrics can be found at the official Leonard Cohen website. []
  3. The first set of unused lyrics follows:

    There’s truth that lives
    And truth that dies
    I don’t know which
    So never mind

    Your victory
    Was so complete
    That some among you
    Thought to keep

    A record of
    Our little lives
    The clothes we wore
    Our spoons our knives

    The games of luck
    Our soldiers played
    The stones we cut
    The songs we made

    Our law of peace
    Which understands
    A husband leads
    A wife commands

    And all of this
    Expressions of
    The Sweet Indifference
    Some call Love

    The High Indifference
    Some call Fate
    But we had Names
    More intimate

    Names so deep
    and Names so true
    They’re blood to me
    They’re dust to you

    There is no need
    That this survive
    There’s truth that lives
    And truth that dies

    Never mind
    Never mind
    I live the life
    I left behind

    There’s truth that lives…

    The second set of unused lyrics follows:

    This was your heart
    This swarm of flies
    This was once your mouth
    This bowl of lies

    You serve them well
    I’m not surprised
    You’re of their kin
    You’re of their kind

    Never mind
    Never mind
    The story’s told
    With facts and lies
    You own the world
    So never mind

    Never mind
    Never mind
    I live the life
    I left behind

    I live it full
    I live it wide
    Through layers of time
    You can’t divide []

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