Songs of Mass Destruction
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2008, Volume 15, #2
Written by Matt Parish
Tue February 5, 2008, 04:00 PM CST
I like Annie Lennox….
She is strong, determined, and passionate. She is a trailblazer in her field, and she is a role model for all women. These wonderful attributes, however, also could be used to describe Oprah, and thankfully, they don’t qualify Ms. Winfrey to make a record. Lennox’s latest effort Songs of Mass Destruction is a jumble of deep, introspective ballads; gospel-elated empowerment; and "synth you’ve been gone" reflections. Perhaps, the issues that I have with the outing are specific to me, but I feel like I’ve heard all of this from her before.
As Songs of Mass Destruction progresses, its tracks blend together to form one big, Helen-Reddy-or-not-here-I-come, attack-of-the-50-foot-I-am-woman montage. Should anyone miraculously manage to escape Lennox’s sledgehammer-driven message, she even included a tune entitled Womankind. After a while, everything just seems to hang on you like a drunken prom date.
Sure, there are some great lines lurking within Songs of Mass Destruction. As Lennox ponders a relationship on Through the Glass Darkly, for example, she sings, "I still can’t remember/How it feels to be complete." Even Womankind contains the nugget, "You could be the best damn thing/That hasn't happened yet to me." Nevertheless, the overriding message contained in both of these tracks just feels too familiar. In fact, with the exception of the HIV/AIDS charity-based Sing — about which I’m morally obligated not to make a disparaging comment — the entirety of Songs of Mass Destruction fails to find a new message to deliver.
Lennox herself has described the affair as a "dark" album, one which reflects her viewpoint about the current state of the world. Why, however, would anyone who already is emotionally distraught want to listen to lyrics that remind them that they are currently oppressed or depressed? There is a fine line between activism and entertainment, and some artists attempt to walk it like a tightrope. Sometimes, though, their work can become diluted by their passion to help a particular cause. The problem doesn’t necessarily lie with what Lennox says. Instead, the issues with Songs of Mass Destruction exist because Lennox insists on beating the subject matter to death. The result is that when her overplayed mantra of sisterhood is juxtaposed with her seemingly ever-present, "relationship is sinking" drone, the entirety of her work begins to feel contrived or, worse, expected.
Considering the stellar music that she has made — Diva, Medusa, and Bare are all worthwhile endeavors — Lennox has earned her rabid following. I consider myself to be one of them, and I was looking forward to hearing what she had to say on Songs of Mass Destruction. Unfortunately, her ideas not only are stale, but they also have been communicated far more effectively in the past. Then again — to quote the immortal words of the diva herself — "Who am I to disagree?"
Songs of Mass Destruction is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box