Not many recording artists who debuted on the American pop charts in 1983 can say they graced the Top 10 in 2014, but Annie Lennox can. In the past 30-plus years, the Scottish born singer/songwriter has placed (as Eurythmics and solo) 20 songs in the U.S. Hot 100, and more if you include the dance, rock, music video, adult contemporary, and holiday charts. Annie's body of work is a study in how an artist can stretch the boundaries of pop, soul and rock on their own terms, and remain not just relevant, but vital -- witness her current Grammy nomination for 2014's Nostalgia.
I credit Annie Lennox as being the artist who first turned me onto the joys of pop music in the dawning of my teen years. So to celebrate Lennox's milestone 60th birthday (she's born on Christmas Day), I'm spotlighting one non-single from each of her 15-plus albums since 1981. The brilliance of these lesser known tracks merit rediscovery. Young pop singers of today take note...
"Revenge" from In The Garden (1981)
Equal parts playful and sinister, this delightfully demented psychedelic treat finds Lennox reciting in relaxed detail (like a female Hannibal Lecter) the giddy pleasure she takes in inflicting pain to "the ones" she hates. Her ethereal vocal and Dave Stewart's spacey effects enhance the menacing lyrics.
"The Walk" from Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1983)
A dark symphony of icy vocals and slow brewing synths builds to layers of gospel-like wails and an eerie trumpet solo. "The Walk" feels like an after hours back street stroll through the underbelly of early '80s rainy London.
"No Fear No Hate No Pain No Broken Hearts" from Touch (1983)
The penultimate track on Eurythmics' highest charting album was an epic new wave torch ballad highlighted by Lennox's otherworldly vocal tour de force.
"Julia" from 1984 (For The Love of Big Brother) (1984)
In a perfect world, this chill-inducing ode to George Orwell's rebellious literary heroine for the film 1984 would have won an Oscar for Best Song, but sadly the masterful "Julia" has fallen into complete obscurity. Haunting and heartbreaking, "Julia" triumphs on many levels, and showcases Lennox/Stewart at the height of their powers. Sublime.
"I Love You Like A Ball & Chain" from Be Yourself Tonight (1985)
A onetime staple of Lennox's live shows, this frenzied sonic fireball features her finest rock vocal of any Eurythmics non-single.
"I Remember You" from Revenge (1986)
With its Beatle-esque flourishes and painterly images ("empty shells of houses left for ruin") this reflective melancholic gem with its sweeping chorus hints at Lennox's elegant balladry to come.
"Brand New Day" from Savage (1987)
Unfolding as a quiet acapella spiritual, Lennox's vocals crescendo to a triumphant choral climax. The curtain closer on Eurythmics' oddball masterpiece Savage (Lennox's favorite of the duo's releases) is three and a half minutes of magic.
"We Two Are One" from We Too Are One(1989)
Spirited pop romp features Lennox riffing with The Gap Band's Charlie Wilson to rousing effect. All angst gives way to a feel-good, declaration of love.
"Legend In My Living Room" from Diva (1992)
Lennox belts her soulful best in this autobiographic tale of a naive 17-year-old girl who leaves home, stumbles, but ultimately rises to crown herself "the Queen of Doom" -- and she's been reigning ever since. Have mercy on her indeed.
"Don't Let It Bring You Down" from Medusa (1995)
Dreamy, touching take on the Neil Young classic with Lennox's velvety vocal gliding on a cloud-like bed of plush synths.
"I've Tried Everything" from Peace(1999)
Lennox's ode to brittle disappointment is a poignant highlight from Eurythmics' reunion album. "Who could've known that you could feel such pain when you've tried everything?" Opt for the original 1999 recording (if you can find it) rather than the 2005 rerecording.
"Bitter Pill" from Bare(2003)
In an album packed with melancholic ballads, "Bitter Pill" shone through like a beacon with a raging, twisted skip in its step, Annie spews attitude-filled venom about an ex-lover. Pristine production and a killer vocal.
"Through The Glass Darkly" from Songs of Mass Destruction (2007)
Bathed in mesmerizing Zero-7-esque synths, Lennox's complex melody, cryptic lyrics and bold vocals were a brooding highlight of her 2000's discography.
"Angels From The Realms of Glory" from A Christmas Cornucopia (2010)
In a word -- glorious.
"You Belong To Me" from Nostalgia (2014)
This is how it's done. Simple, elegant, stirring -- Annie breathes fresh life into this 1952 chestnut, bringing it to an entirely new generation. Myself included.
Thank You Annie Lennox -- Wishing you many many more Happy Birthdays...