Annie Lennox dials pain and channels grief. Her deep, mournful voice touches a vulnerable place deep inside of the listener, especially in the material she has chosen since leaving Eurythmics for a solo career. There are many who have eschewed Lennox precisely because of that visceral quality she evokes. But for those of us who dare to reveal the truth in emotion, Annie Lennox is a godsend. Often regarded as something of an angel of death, it’s doubtful she would ever feel the need to change.
In the ‘90s, Lennox was able to hit her stride and reach listeners with her first two solo efforts, Diva (1992) and the covers album Medusa (1995). It would prove to be a decade of hits for her, with such memorable singles fare as “Why,” “Walking On Broken Glass,” “No More I Love Yous” and my favorite, the rare up-tempo track “Little Bird.”
Later La Lennox recorded “Love Song For A Vampire” for the film Bram Stoker’s Dracula and even won an Best Song Academy Award for penning “Into The West” for the third Lord Of The Rings installment, The Return Of The King. It was with that award that Annie Lennox was able to feel some personal redemption and creative validation for her work spanning as far back as 1979 when she was lead singer of the short-lived UK outfit The Tourists.
Despite her longevity and accomplishments, Lennox has struggled this decade to widen her net of listeners. Lack of media attention and radio airplay haven’t helped matters any. The unfair “over-the-hill” label has been stamped on her forehead and there doesn’t seem much Lennox can do about it. So she has bravely soldiered on regardless of the outcome, knowing that she is still capable of putting out some of her best music in spite of what skeptics and ageists might say. Fans such as myself will never give up on this woman, who – in my humble opinion – is a genius and vastly underrated talent. A Grammy here and an Oscar there simply doesn’t do her justice. It’s almost as if most Americans don’t quite know what to do with her, treating her like she’s an alien from another planet. I, for one, know exactly what that feels like.
Reaching #1 on the Billboard charts also has been a sporadic achievement at best for Annie Lennox (most notable of all being “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This” during her Eurythmics tenure), though she seems to have become a permanent fixture on the club play chart. Her third solo album Bare has no less than three impressive #1 dance hits: “Pavement Cracks,” “Wonderful” and “A Thousand Beautiful Things.” The latter two were heavily remixed later, so consider yourself forewarned – the versions on the album are in their original ballad form. The centerpiece on Bare has got to be the two songs that clearly demonstrate the range and power of Annie Lennox, namely the high-stepping “Bitter Pill” and the spellbinding “Loneliness.” After such a riveting climax, the last few songs feel somewhat redundant and mediocre at best.
Then there’s that hideously ugly album cover photo where she’s wearing nothing but a spiked dog-collar, covered from head-to-toe in white powder. It’s so disturbing, Lennox feels compelled to explain – at length, mind you – her reasoning for the image. “I hope it makes sense to you,” she pleads at the end. That was expecting too much from even the most adventurous of consumers, because aside from the singles, they stayed away from the Bare album in droves. It may not have been a book, but it was still something that people couldn’t help but judge by its cover.
Guess a picture really is worth a thousand words.
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