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Adam Cohen: On Intimacy, Antagonism And Influence

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During the course of his career, singer-songwriter Adam Cohen says he has twisted himself into creating commercially successful music — but not this record, not this song. "What Other Guy," from his third album Like A Man, didn't seem likely to generate mainstream popularity. And yet it did, more than any other song he has ever recorded.

The son of iconic singer Leonard Cohen, Adam Cohen says his latest record is a celebration and demonstration of his father's influence on his music.

"I was never at odds with my father's voice or influence. I just thought it was an obligation of mine to uncover my own path," Cohen tells NPR's Audie Cornish. "I come from a family business of writers, and in this case, I'm the son of someone I'm enormously proud of, and it was high time that I dignified that."

"What Other Guy" shares many similarities with some of his father's works — particularly the song "So Long Marianne" and a poem entitled "For Anne," both by the elder Cohen. But the song, built around Adam Cohen's unique experiences, paints a detailed picture of intimacy with undertones of antagonism.

"None of the details in the song are necessarily important, but when you put them together, you do get this sense that someone else really knows someone else," Cohen says. "The subtle antagonism only comes from when you're telling someone ... what other guy knows you like that? It's that familiarity that, as the cliche says, breeds a kind of contempt."

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