Who’s that girl?
Annie Lennox. owner ofthe cheekbones that launched a thousand hits, goes it alone with her new album Diva. Craig McLean charts the new territory she is exploring.
Soak in the current preoccupations of the media and the all-pervasive politicisation of most things that matter is certainly inevitable. scarcely unavoidable. So. when considering the imminence of Annie Lennox‘s debut solo album, the somewhat abstruse realisation dawns that as a member ofThe Tourists and Eurythmics. the Aberdonian had a hit single in every year of the premiership of Der Thatcher. No other female artist had as many years ofconsecutive hits
between 1979 and 1990. Not even Madonna. Even ;
in 199] . that unbroken marathon‘s ending was tempered. just a tad. by Eurythmics Greatest Hits coasting easily towards the biggest-selling album of the year slot. before being outpaced in the last lap by the soulist foreplay of Simply Red's Stars.
In the two years since the appearance of the last Eurythmics single. ‘Angel‘ (No 23. May 1990), such prodigious talents have continued to ripple ; through the charts. courtesy ofThe Spiritual Cowboys, Candy Dulfer. Shakespear‘s Sister and Curve. In all of these cases though, the ripples have been male and bearded, all somehow featuring the hand of Dave Stewart. Now. at last. the diva. or rather. Diva, has emerged. For her first solo work. Annie Lennox has chosen a title the misguided could perceive as a knowing nod to her own near-deification as a pop chanteuse of stately import.
But as she has insisted. ‘the album‘s title is completely ironic. My experience as a female singer has taught me something ofwhat it‘s like to be that sort ofgrande dame. but I‘m not a diva — and if I were. I‘d be far too busy being one to ever have time to consider the implications of that role.‘
Equally important was the title‘s underscoring of Annie Lennox. solo artist. ‘We‘ve placed Eurythmics on the shelf, put it that way.‘ she recently said. no committal to the final dissolution of the phenomenonally successful duo. but an acknowledgement ofsome sort of breaking point. “Dave and I have been together so long,‘ she continued. ‘and we have such a complex relationship, it just got to the point where it was painful to continue.‘ So we have ‘the essence ofthe diva,‘ she told Scotland On Sunday. ‘. . . she's solitary. iconic. Because I‘m no longer part of the
Eurythmics, I wanted to use an image that represented me as a woman alone, and this seemed perfect.‘
Alone, she retains the fine-boned. clear-toned pop poise of the duo. Indeed, Diva‘s first single, ‘Why‘, comes sleekly and melodramatically. redolent of the bruised emotion of ‘You Have Placed A Chill In My Heart‘ (No 16. June 1988). Likewise the album‘s ‘Little Bird‘, built on the kind ofjogging dynamics that characterised ‘Revival' (No 26, August 1989) and ‘The King And Queen OfAmerica‘ (No 29, February 1990) from the We Too Are One album. As both singles faltered by Eurythmics’ standards. and as that album was their last. it's hardly surprising that most else on Diva pursues a more tangential musical curve.
‘Primitive‘ is just that, sparse and bare. based round simple percussion. delicate female backing mantras. and Lennox‘s lover‘s caress of a voice. Then. straight off, as if to emphasise the stylistic
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veerings at play, ‘Stay By Me‘ employs the rhythm
track from Primal Scream’s ‘Loaded‘ as carriage to a gently piped lament. For ‘The Gift’, clunkiness replaces such funkiness, as The Blue Nile step in with some atmospheric metallic echoes. Throw in (on the CD only) the scratchy 1930s wireless rendition of ‘Keep Young And Beautiful‘ — complete with slab-thick 78rpm vinyl crackles — and the sound and effect is ofan artist breaking out, testing new waters, even ifshe is still imbued with the classy. chart-friendly notions of her prior collaborative work.
‘In a sense I feel like this is my very first album.‘ Annie Lennox says. ‘And because ofthat it had to be something that represented me totally and exactly.‘ Who‘s that girl (No 3, July 1983)? Now we know. Annie Lennox: self-knower. self-mocker, solo artist.
Diva is on RCA Records. A BBC EX-S documentary on Annie Lennox is broadcast on Monday 30 March at 10. 40pm.
The List 27 March — 9 April 1992 23