Friday, February 3, 2012

Annie Lennox Wasn't A Lesbian?

Whenever a brief Eurythmics clips would come on TV in the '80s, my father would always say, "You know, I can't figure it out, is she some kind of lesbian or something?" Imagine being seven years old and having no idea what a lesbian is. Not sure why my father felt like asking his children this question.

Now that I'm older and I know what a lesbian is, I also know that not only was Annie Lennox not a lesbian, but her band mate, Dave Stewart, had actually been her ex-boyfriend. In fact, Annie Lennox has been married twice (to men), and has even given birth to two children (with men). So, OK, she's not a lesbian. But it's safe to say that she was probably trying to look like a lesbian. Annie Lennox was like David Bowie, but from the other direction.

She also kind of sounded like a lesbian, with that deep contralto voice of hers. As Wikipedia puts it, synth pop "was often associated with all male groups and somewhat clinical, emotionless music. Eurythmics (particularly with Lennox's vocal stylings) brought a soul music twist to the electronic sound, which proved popular with broader audiences." Oh, those broader audiences!

But they weren't terribly popular at first. "Love Is A Stranger" was a flop on initial release, only to become a hit in the wake of "Sweet Dreams" success. I'd never heard the song until recently, but I enjoy it as much as their two big radio staples. I like how Lennox deftly weaves two completely different vocal parts against each other. I also like Dave Stewart's little grunts and groans in the background:
It's savage and it's cruel
And it shines like destruction
Comes in like a flood
And it seems like religion
It's noble and it's brutal
It distorts and deranges
And it drenches you up
And you're left like a zombie
I love her pronunciation of "brutal," as she's taking elocution lessons from Henry Higgins, and then she says to hell with elocution and drops a big "zombaaaaaaaaayy" on us.

AMG's Stewart Mason writes that the song "sounds like a sop to the charts, a way to soften up radio for the more extreme 'Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)' " before adding that, "Ironically, in the US, the latter song was a hit first."

It's funny to think of "Sweet Dreams," which Mason describes as "decidedly minimalist, downright skeletal" as something "extreme" that needed to be "softened up," because I've always lived in a world where it was a massive, seemingly inevitable hit. The lyrics are evocative without seeming either too specific or too abstract. Wait, who wants to use who again? Who cares? And notice, once more, what an excellent a job Lennox does of singing with herself.

The video probably didn't hurt its sales. I'd seen bits of it here and there, but a couple of years ago I finally watched the complete clip on YouTube. This is one of those '80s music videos where the sharpness of the images and the rhythm of the editing really do justice to the recording. Lennox appears to be singing from the board room of a Bond villain's corporate hideout. Hopefully there was a fire extinguisher around, in case somebody needed to put out her hair.

I've always thought of "Here Comes The Rain Again" as "Sweet Dreams Part II." It has the same sort of beat and a similar melody. Sometimes I would even hear it on the radio and think, "Hey, it's 'Sweet Dreams!' Oh wait, it's that other song." But there is one key musical difference: the addition of swirling strings. According to Wikipedia:
"Dave Stewart revealed that the lyrics to the song came into being after an argument between himself and Lennox while they were doing some songwriting in New York City's Columbus Hotel. The basic melody had already been written and Lennox looked out the window after their fight and noticed it was starting to rain. She announced, "Here comes the rain again."
Hey, just the thing to cheer them up - the composition of a smash single! Stewart elaborates:
" 'Here Comes The Rain Again' is kind of a perfect one where it has a mixture of things, because I'm playing a b-minor, but then I change it to put a b-natural in, and so it kind of feels like that minor is suspended, or major. So it's kind of a weird course. And of course that starts the whole song, and the whole song was about that undecided thing, like here comes depression, or here comes that downward spiral. But then it goes, 'so talk to me like lovers do.' It's the wandering in and out of melancholy, a dark beauty that sort of is like the rose that's when it's darkest unfolding and blood red just before the garden, dies. And capturing that in kind of oblique statements and sentiments."
Or maybe it's just catchy?


Anonymous said...

What the fuck does a lesbian sound or look like you utter , utter fucking idiot?

Anonymous said...

I only searched for "Annie Lennox David Bowie" because I wanted to see the completely amazing live performance of Under Pressure, and this is the kind of shite I have to put up with. The internet is ridiculous in times when it gives a platform for morons such as you to spout pish.

sesarp101 said...

Dear Anonymous - It is pretty easy to tell when (most) women are lesbians. If you aren't able to do that then YOU are the "f***ing idiot".