Annie Lennox: The Annie Lennox Collection

The Annie Lennox Collection is not merely a collection of singles, but an outstanding introduction to this artist's exceptional oeuvre.

Annie Lennox

The Annie Lennox Collection

Label: Arista
UK Release Date: 2009-03-09
US Release Date: 2009-02-17

It was 1992 and no one quite knew what to expect from seeing Annie Lennox decked out in an elaborate, red-feather headdress on the cover of her solo debut. A few years earlier, she had recorded what was, at the time, her last album with Dave Stewart as Eurythmics, We Too Are One (1989). Even the duo's new label home at Arista couldn't salvage the artistic relationship the two shared after more than a decade of recording together. The time to explore solo careers was beckoning, and the thought of any future Eurythmics projects was extinguished.

Then Diva arrived in record stores. The music was just as gripping as the imagery that emphasized the piercing eyes and scarlet red lips of Lennox's "Diva" character. Producer Stephen Lipson and engineer Heff Moraes helped Annie Lennox craft an exquisite solo piece. There was not one false note, not one word that didn't seem thoroughly lived and wrought by the singer/songwriter. To this day, it is her defining musical masterpiece.

A good portion of that album appears on The Annie Lennox Collection, the first retrospective of Lennox's solo career. That "Why" and "Precious" have not aged a bit in 17 years speaks to the superior artistry involved in their production. Likewise, the staccato piano and strings on "Walking on Broken Glass" are still crisp, "Cold" still stops the heart, and "Little Bird" remains an effervescent ode to independence. Though Diva is best absorbed as a complete work, these songs are paragons that emit a luster still seldom seen in the rubric of pop music.

So it is with all the songs on The Annie Lennox Collection. It's not merely a collection of singles, but an overview of this artist's exceptional oeuvre. That said, it is not meant to be definitive. There are plenty of other songs that qualify as Lennox's best that aren't represented here ("Wonderful" comes immediately to mind). As an entrée to her discography, though, it is flawless, especially because it contains "Love Song for a Vampire", which she wrote for Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) and stands as one of her very finest compositions. For many listeners, these songs were significant signposts. For anyone in possession of an Annie Lennox album, The Annie Lennox Collection will certainly conjure specific memories -- joyous and sad -- while serving to remind you that, as Lennox attests in her liner notes, you have "moved on".

One of those memories might date back to 1995 when Annie Lennox released Medusa. Like Pegasus, who rose from the slain body of Medusa, the album was powerful yet elegant. While many of those songs were familiar to record-buyers -- "I Can't Get Next to You", "Take Me to the River", "Waiting in Vain" -- one of them was known to few. Originally recorded by the Lover Speaks in 1986, "No More 'I Love You's'" boasts a dramatic vocal performance by Lennox. From the opening "do-be-do-be-do-do-do's" to the giddy laugh that completes the cycle of catharsis, it's laden with the qualities that distinguish her as a creative and masterful communicator of other writers' material.

Motherhood and family life accounted, in part, for the long gap between solo projects. By the time Annie Lennox resurfaced with Bare (2003), she had reunited once with Dave Stewart for Eurythmics' Peace (1999) album. She had also endured a great deal of personal pain. It's evident from the lyrics to songs like "Erased" and "Bitter Pill" that much of that pain stemmed from heartache and the break-up of her marriage. Though her outlook was bleak ("Pavement Cracks"), she eventually arrived at a place of gratitude ("A Thousand Beautiful Things"). She made damn good music in the process, giving listeners band-aids to heal their own wounds.

An Oscar win ("Into the West", Best Original Song 2004) and another Eurythmics reunion (2005) gave way to Lennox's growing activism in South Africa. Her efforts to educate and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS infections in women and children crystallized in the SING campaign, which she founded in 2007. After working in the field and taking a hands-on approach to create mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention programs, Lennox wrote a song that has since become an anthem for SING. Featuring Pink, Bonnie Raitt, Martha Wainwright, Angelique Kidjo, a solo spot by Madonna, and more than a dozen other female musicians, the spirit of "Sing" is steeped in empowerment. It also incorporates "Jikilele/Globally", a tune that is performed by a group of HIV/AIDS activists called the Generics who are aligned with the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa to advance discussion and education about prevention.

"Sing" was the centerpiece of Songs of Mass Destruction (2007). The focus of the album shifted away, generally, from love and focused on more humanistic concerns. "Dark Road" was the album's opening statement wherein Lennox sought a kind of spiritual (not religious) renewal even as the "fires of destruction" burned within her. The song climaxed with her exclaiming, "I wanna kick these blues way / I wanna learn to live again".

The ying to the yang of "Dark Road" is "Shining Light", one of two new songs recorded for The Annie Lennox Collection. Written by Tim Wheeler from Ash, it's among the most tuneful songs Annie Lennox has ever lent her voice to over the course of her career. The vigorous arrangement elicits the most joyful of qualities from Lennox, while "Pattern of My Life", a more contemplative piece written by Keane, spotlights the stridency in her voice. Both songs are estimable additions to her decades-deep catalog.

It appears that Annie Lennox has fulfilled her recording contract with the release of The Annie Lennox Collection. The album couldn't be more of an appropriate full-stop before she begins the next phase of her career. Like the little bird that fell out of the nest, Annie Lennox long ago put her wings to the test. The Annie Lennox Collection proves that she didn't just fly, she soared.





12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.