Annie Lennox: Diva

April 28, 1992 – Annie Lennox: Diva is released.
# allmusic 4/5
Diva is the first solo album by Annie Lennox, released on this date in April, 1992. The album entered the UK album chart at no.1 and has since sold over 1.2 million copies in the UK alone, being certified quadruple platinum. It was also a success in the U.S. where it was a top 30 hit and has been certified double platinum.
In 1993 the album was included in Q magazine’s list of the “50 Best Albums Of 1992”. Rolling Stone magazine (6/25/92, p. 41) described the album as “…state-of-the-art soul pop…” and it is included in Rolling Stone’s (5/13/99, p. 56) “Essential Recordings of the 90’s” list. Several songs from the album were released as singles with “Why”, “Walking on Broken Glass” and “Little Bird” being the most successful. The album won Best British Album at the 1993 Brit Awards. That same year, it was also nominated for the Grammy for Album of the Year.
State-of-the-art soul pop, Annie Lennox’s solo debut is sonically gorgeous; it also declares her aesthetic independence. Ace sessionmen polish Diva’s gloss, and producer Stephen Lipson (Pet Shop Boys, Propaganda) operates in hyperdrive, but these eleven songs are fiercely those of a sister doing things for herself. Three years after her last outing with Dave Stewart, her cohort in Eurythmics, Lennox voids any notion that he was her Svengali and she merely the MTV beauty with stunning pipes. Writing nearly all of Diva, she manages a whirlwind tour of mainstream R&B and retains her singular persona – an ice queen thirsting to be melted by love.
With Annie as a singing Helmut Newton fantasy and Dave as composer-producer-player, Eurythmics hit in 1983 with “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” a Kraftwerk-derived study of erotic politics, but soon forged a broader sound. By the end of the Eighties, Stewart was lending postmodern hip to such old wavers as Dylan and Jagger, and Lennox had sung with Al Green and Aretha.
Diva’s confessional lyrics should dismiss charges of remoteness against Lennox, and the album’s sure, smooth funk confirms that among blue-eyed soulsters, she ranks high. Lennox keeps her melodies spare – the four-note motif of the album’s intro, “Why,” is representative. Instead, nuance and synthesizing disparate styles constitute her true skills. Sad lyrics meet upbeat tunes (“Walking on Broken Glass”); quirky instrumentation creates musical tension (Seventies staples like clavinet and wah-wah guitar juxtaposed with mandolins and strings or their techno equivalents); black-derived forms – pop gospel, pop jazz, Afro-pop – are refreshed by means of unlikely embellishments (Beach Boys-like backups on “Stay by Me,” Moorish strings on “Primitive”).
Lennox’s gift is for pastiche; there’s nothing rootsy about Diva. This may daunt detractors who thought Eurythmics too studied to be real. But her words – self-revealing (“This is the book I never read/These are the words I never said”), mock-poetically ironic (“But I’ve shed my tears in bitter drops until the thorn trees bloomed/To take the spiky fruit to crown myself the Queen of doom”) or self-mocking (“Pay attention to me/’Cause I’m a rich white girl and it’s plain to see”) – move beyond the flashy sound bites of her former band. Lennox remains a compulsively dramatic performer, but she’s now parting the veil for the sake of candor. And while its songs make Diva her most mature music yet, it’s her singing, characteristically striking and impeccable, that makes the message resound. (RS 633)
~ PAUL EVANS (December 17, 1996)
All songs written and composed by Annie Lennox, except where noted.
No.         Title       Length
1.            “Why”  4:53
2.            “Walking on Broken Glass”          4:12
3.            “Precious”           5:08
4.            “Legend in My Living Room” (Lennox, Peter-John Vettese)          3:45
5.            “Cold”  4:20
6.            “Money Can’t Buy It”     4:58
7.            “Little Bird”         4:48
8.            “Primitive”          4:16
9.            “Stay by Me”     6:26
10.          “The Gift” (Lennox, The Blue Nile)           4:52
11.          “Keep Young and Beautiful” (Al Dubin, Harry Warren)
         (CD bonus track)     2:17
12.          “Step by Step” (Japanese bonus track)  4:46

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