21 August 2007

You can't spell "cool" without "a-n-n-i-e."

When I was in college, I asked my friends if there was an artist that we could all agree we liked. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there wasn't, though I suspect a few people claimed they didn't care for The Mamas and The Papas just to be ornery. (Really, who doesn't like "California Dreamin'?")

But even though there may be no act that lives on all our iPods, I would submit that some musicians, regardless of who digs their music, are just unassailably cool.

Case in point? Annie Lennox.

Personally, I've got a sweet spot for most of her work, though I did think "Into the West," the Oscar-winning song she co-wrote for "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: The Unedited Director's Cut: Now With Extra Footage" was all tease and no reward. Do you guys remember her performance at the Oscar ceremony? That song kept promising to break out the tympanis, but the backbeat never arrived. It was just strings upon strings upon strings, building to nothing.

Still... she's just so awesome. In the 25 years (!) since "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" was a hit, she has rarely seemed anything less than self-possessed. She sings with confidence, almost always sounds fantastic, and carries herself with a cool-yet-nonjudgmental elegance that suggests she has been happy in her own skin for a long time.

Plus, despite changing its color, she has had the same haircut for almost three decades, yet she's always on the forefront of fashion.

Another thing I love about Annie Lennox is how well she executes the theatrical in her public life. Every video and album cover is a carefully wrought performance. She's like Marlene Dietrich, seducing us with the character of herself--never letting us know how much of her we've actually seen.

Even on the cover of her album "Bare," whose name implies a revelation, she keeps up the game. Yes, she's naked, but she's covered in a coat of white dust. She's bare, but she isn't. She's revealing only as much as she wants us to see.

The delicious irony here is that her singing always sounds so pure. Even within the techno chill of "Sweet Dreams," her voice is warm with emotion. And songs like "Why" and "No More 'I Love You's'" demonstrate that she should always be called a soul singer.

Through the fusion of her calculated image and luscious pipes--not to mention her deft songwriting--Annie Lennox has remained majestic.

She stays that way in the video for "Dark Road," the first single from her upcoming album "Songs of Mass Destruction." As a pop song, it's her strongest release in years--maybe this is where the drums from "Into the West" ended up--and as a video, it showcases her genuine skill as an actor. (Sort of like "Ring the Alarm" did for Beyonce.")

Here's the video: Watch and enjoy!



At 2:13 PM, Blogger Extreme Haiku said...

I concur that Annie Lennox is a fantastic talent. While I haven't heard anything from her new album, some tracks on "Bare" are great: Honesty, The Hurting Time and Wonderful are, well, wonderful. Very soulful and pop-sensible.

A little musical trivia nugget of joy: Annie Lennox and Joe Jackson went to school together at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Or at least, that's what I can recall from reading his autobiography: "A Cure for Gravity."


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