Some songs have the power to stop conversation. When such a song starts to play, each person in the room has a moment of recognition, pauses, and starts singing along. The Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine” is one for my group of friends. So is Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” And just about anything by Melissa Etheridge. I once was at party that ended with everyone singing with the entire Yes I Am album.
I predict that “Sing,” a track from the new Annie Lennox release, Songs of Mass Destruction, will become one of those songs. Or at least its chorus will.
As bad machine told us a few months ago, Lennox enlisted 23 female singers to join her on this anthem devoted to the treatment of pregnant women with AIDS to prevent the spread of HIV to their babies. When I read about the song, I pictured a “We Are the World” moment with the women crammed into a studio, rocking back and forth while they sang. Instead, each vocalist recorded the song in a nearby studio and sent the track to Lennox for mixing. Parts of the song are a little inaccessible at first listen, but by the end I was right there with them, hand over my ear, singing my little heart out. (Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.) Listen to it a couple of times and let me know what you think. Then go to Annie’s site and download “Sing” — proceeds go to Treatment Action Campaign.
The rest of the album, which was released Tuesday, is Lennox at her finest. My favorite song, “Lost,” is the simplest. Lennox shines brightest when her rich and resonant voice is the primary instrument, and Songs of Mass Destruction puts vocals front and center. Not that it’s an acoustic album. The hard rhythm and synthesized accompaniment on “Coloured Bedspread” would be at home on a Eurythmics CD. Really, the only thing on the recording that I didn’t love right away was the Cajun-style accordion riff on “Ghosts in My Machine” — and even that is growing on me. I think this is her best collection yet.
Songs of Mass Destruction is Lennox’s last album on her Sony BMG contract, so her next project could be almost anything. As she told The New York Times, “It could mean collaborations with other artists, and I don’t have to check in with anybody else to see whether that fits my contract. I’d like to make a dance album that’s just purely electronic. I’d like to make a folk album. I’d like to make a Latin album. I think I would really like to make a lot more music, to be honest. And I’m hoping that I will.”
You can catch Lennox on The Tonight Show on October 5; she leaves on October 8 for a 15-city tour to promote the album. To tide you over, here’s Annie Lennox singing the first single from Songs of Mass Destruction, “Dark Road.”