"Is This What You Wanted" as written by and Leonard Cohen....
You were the promise at dawn
I was the morning after
You were Jesus Christ my Lord
I was the money lender
You were the sensitive woman
I was the very reverend Freud
You were the manual orgasm
I was the dirty little boy

And is this what you wanted
To live in a house that is haunted
By the ghost of you and me?

Is this what you wanted...
You were Marlon Brando
I was Steve Mcqueen
You were k.y. jelly
I was vaseline
You were the father of modern medicine
I was Mr. Clean
You where the whore and the beast of Babylon
I was Rin Tin Tin

And is this what you wanted...
And is this what you wanted...
You got old and wrinkled
I stayed seventeen
You lusted after so many
I lay here with one
You defied your solitude
I came through alone
You said you could never love me
I undid your gown

And is this what you wanted...
And is this what you wanted...
I mean is this what you wanted...
That's right, is this what you wanted...

Lyrics submitted by Hosimosi

"Is This What You Wanted" as written by Leonard Cohen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Is This What You Wanted song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentI've always thought about this song as the way a relationship has changed over a period of time.

    In verse one, the woman is revered. She is the better part of two linked people/items, with the singer being the inferior part of the relationship: the temple moneylenders chased out by Jesus, the tired/hungover person (the morning after) who has promised undying love ("the promise at dawn") during a night of passion.

    By the second verse, the couple are equals: Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen, KY Jelly and Vaseline. He no longer needs her the way he did (Mr Clean has no need for a Doctor, let alone Hippocrates). He begins to realise that he has nothing at all in common with her (Rin Tin Tin and the Beast of Babylon).

    In the third verse, roles have reversed from the first, and the singer feels the superior part of the partnership. He has stayed young, while she grew old; he was able to be faithful, while she wasn't).

    He moves on from the relationship, she lives with the ghosts of the past.

    This is one of my favourite Cohen tracks, I have always thought how cleverly put together it is, and I think about it as my relationships follow similar paths...
    tommac1on June 24, 2016   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHe was never good enough for her in her own eyes, but he remained loyal where she became loose. She suffered as he remained whole. In the end she is too weak to remain with one man, but to weak to leave that man because she knows she is un-love-able.

    Or on the flip side, its about pity sex with a woman he could never have, neither explanation would surprise me. Is this what you wanted? To have a sexual connection that is empty?
    Winterson January 08, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI don't think the man nor the woman in this song is at fault. I think the song describes how men and women often "feel" the same but are completely different. They can be talking about the same things but using completely different sets of reference. In the song, she is "the promise at dawn", basically looking into the bright future, while he's "the morning after", the memory of the past, yesterday's mistakes. I imagine them both in bed, talking about the morning, not knowing they are not really understood by the other.

    Funny how things happen sometimes: I discovered this song after I got dumped, and I ended up sitting alone in my ("our") appartment with Cohen screaming "Is this what you wanted? To live in a house that is haunted by the ghost of you and me?". The question is still open... but the ghosts didn't stay very long.
    powetteon July 23, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBrings the rock analogy style. My favorite of his songs
    AmericanSuperHeroson May 10, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI am convinced that this is about two men. The one of them who has more feminine energy is restless, unstable. He races in search of a better relationship, but until he finds it he will stay thankful for the true love or at least love making. The other is sure he is in the right time on the right place, he has already found the love of his life.
    Terezkaon July 23, 2012   Link

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