Annie Lennox

RCA Records, 2002



These days it's a sin to like Luciano Pavarotti and Alanis Morissette at the same time. But I'm not a hypocrite. I just have a very simple standard: any music that makes me feel something, I'll like it. Shit, I get so tired of sitting in front of a desk all day trying to act allyes-that's-my- geh-shibal-mock-aptitude-score. Somedays I just throwmy books in the air and start doing Madonna's "Vogue" in school uniform (I have sympathetic friends).

So I have other self-righteous music critics to blame for keeping me from buying Medusa years ago when I first heard "No More I Love You's"; the largely negative reviews made me reluctant. Boys and girls, let me be the one to tell you: sometimes, even the absolute best, open-minded, and overall reader-friendly of critics are hard of hearing (our Mariah Carey MTV Unplugged review). In the end, Lennox performing "Train in Vain" at the whenever-Grammy Awards made me dish out the measly 12,500 won and I've never regretted it since.

Everyone has a list of songs that they feel they can sing. Songs that you "gravitate" to. Annie Lennox goes a marathon of steps further to release an album full of non-Lennox compositions ... and it's my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 cohesive. The lonlier side of love, however obliquely referred to in certain tracks, is what keeps the album together.

"Train in Vain" was performed in a different version at the aforementioned whenever-Grammys so I was a little disappointed in the less-poppy arrangement. But, simple-standardish as I am, I got to like this version better. The trademark Lennox-ironism vocals and charismatic beat brings out the essence of these mini-productions into a more intimate studio; very un-nineties. Although I was hoping they'd repeat the chorus a couple of hundred times at the end, just like they used to do it way back when.

Most of the critics disliked the album because of its arrangements. They weren't better than the original, or of some other cover, or some other interpretation I'll probably go to the grave without hearing (and not feel too sorry about afterward). But what they didn't see is the need for atmosphere. "No More I Love You's" doesn't really fit into the rest of the album; compared to the other songs, her voice is a mile away from the microphone. "A Whiter Shade of Pale" triggers a series of slow-mo frames, and what's in those frames is for the listener to decide. Same with "Something So Right". Don't wonder about what the artist is singing about. Be selfish; make your own interpretations.

Some songs are just plain fun. The way she sings "accidents speak louder than words" in "Thin Line Between Love And Hate" makes me smile in mutual agreement. It's infectuous; everyone in the song is smiling in the same coy fashion. The bass player, the background vocals, the drum machine. "Take Me to the River" I haven't quite figured out why I like; maybe because it works so well with the rest of the album (and nowhere else it would). "I Can't Get Next To You". Hey, who can't relate to the Queen of Gloom (or doom? English has too many rhymes).

"Downtown Lights" grabbed me from the beginning, making me want to feel something with it. It would've been even better with better background production; and stunning in concert. A lot like "Why" (on Diva), "Waiting in Vain" is a solid Annie Lennox song; highland edge, what a great way to call it.

My advice for listeners is to get personal. This album has a good chunk of soul invested in it; if you forget the fact that you're All That for a few moments, you'll be able to relate to at least a couple of tracks. This is pop music in one of its most elusive guises. Elusive, but ultimately rewarding. Almost better than the "Vogue".

Rating: B+

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