1992 saw Annie Lennox release her debut solo album after breaking away from 80’s Rock/Pop group The Eurythmics.
I’ve always found it difficult to fit Annie Lennox into a place in pop music because her legacy doesn’t seem to fit into many categories. She is not given much credence for songwriting despite this being a very strong ability she possess and wrote the lyrics to every song on this album.
As a vocalist she has a rich soulful voice but with edge and an rasp that doesn’t not pigeon hole her into just a soul singer category. Her personality is one of passion and has always tried to stand up for what she believes in whether it is the fight on poverty or Aids.
There is a body of work musically too that stands the test of time and all the single releases from this album would be played on UK radio at some point just about every day.
But Annie Lennox is rarely spoken about and it is by chance that before I wrote this I heard “Walking On Broken Glass” so decided to investigate a little more into the debut project from this Scottish Singer/Songwriter.
The album kicks off with her biggest hit “Why”. This song has been trudged out just about every time there is an appeal to raise money for African and generally any sad montage on television.
Perhaps because of this the song doesn’t get the focus that it deserves because this is a quite outstanding piece of music. The production is subtle but features some gorgeous instrumentation. It’s produced incredibly well with the vocal from Lennox so in your face you listen intently at every word she utters.
The interesting part of this song is near the end when Lennox goes on a rant with lyrics such as “this is the book I never read, these are the words I never said” as she tells the listener that nothing is really as it seems and that no one knows how she feels despite assumptions that are made.
“Why” is a track that is nice to listen to at certain points but catch you at a moment of high spirits and it can soon sour the atmosphere because it is an almost morbid-like song and whilst I wouldn’t consider it straight up dreary it is a song you wouldn’t want to keep listening to again and again.
But the mood soon changes with “Walking On Broken Glass” which in it’s instrumentation and all round feel sounds very upbeat and fun yet lyrically the song is about heartbreak and sadness.
“Walking On Broken Glass” is a terrific pop song. It has all those key portions that have you hooked from beginning to end. The strings add a refined element to the song which allows the whole feel of the track to feel gargantuan. Lennox sounds great on this track to which is one of her most popular songs.
The third track “Precious” is a stark departure from the previous two tracks. The pop element has been replaced by a more soulful R&B sound which Lennox knew her vocal was well placed to try. The production on this track is certainly of a time with the early 90’s sound of the bass and keyboards in full swing.
Whilst this track is a solid effort it is lacking in the eccentric vibe that Lennox so often presents and because of this it just seems a bit dull.
“Legend In My Living Room” is a strong track as Lennox tells the story of someone who hasn’t made a success of themselves despite being desperate to do so. There is a bitterness in the lyrics as the blame lays with everyone who has she has come to contact with in her life. But the almost deluded lyrics of being a legend in her living room gives us this manic sort behavior that is almost cringy to listen to yet compelling.
Sounding a lot like the tune of “One More Try” by George Michael track five is the passionate “Cold”. This song fuses Gospel and a bluesy sound as Lennox channels her soul dive to deliver a song about a relationship that seems to be in a state of flux yet her love for this person is as strong as it ever was. Whilst no reasons to why they have got to this point are offered by Lennox the strong sense of wanting this to re-ignite are poured all over the lyrical content and her delivery.
Lennox delves into her own experiences in her lyrics and with “Money Can’t Buy It” you can’t help but think that she isn’t in the most happy place in her life. The departure from the Eurythmics was clearly needed but as she reflects on things it is clear that the sex drugs and rock n roll lifestyle didn’t fulfill her and neither did all the fame and money that came with it. The simple notion of love she believes can get her to the point where she is happy as she has had everything else and nothing has worked.
“Little Bird” is one of the big singles from “Diva”. A song that still receives plenty of radio play even in 2017 is one of the strongest on this album. Again the lyrics are very personal with song being one of the few uptempo tracks on this debut album.
This track sees Lennox contemplate her life and wanting to break free. There is a questioning about the direction her life is taking and that risks need to be taken to fulfill her destiny. This is a fun sounding track which again sees Lennox use her vocal range to expert effect.
“Primitive” attempts to come across as minimal in it’s sound but this skeletal track with a horrible melody just comes across flat and emotionless.
On the ninth track these Soul II Soul like beats are a world away from Diva’s opening two songs and it is almost as if listening to a completely different album. “Stay By Me” again suffers from being so very bland. The hook is stunningly boring and the vocal from Lennox stays extremely safe. There is no quirkiness or excitement to another track which is talking about a relationship is trouble as both contemplate staying or leaving.
“The Gift” is better because there is a connection with the lyrics and the production which is too often lacking on this project. Lennox sounds beautiful on this track and her heartbreak is put over with such emotional resonance you can’t help but feel a swelling in your chest for her. When Lennox nails a song like this one she is world class.
This album was a way for Lennox to pour out her feelings about her relationships (both personal and professional) and her desire to move forward. There are some tracks that have stood the test of time and then others that are just album fodder. This is why “Diva” isn’t a great album but has a few great songs.
So often albums are called ‘great’ because they include one or two outstanding tracks and this is an album which falls into that category. Lennox is a top class vocalist and an interesting songwriter but “Diva” isn’t able to build on “Why” and “Walking On Broken Glass” with enough consistency to make you want to listen to the album on repeat.