In order to remain relevant in today’s music world, many artists are forced to put out a new album almost every year and tour constantly. But most artists aren’t Annie Lennox. On Tuesday, she’ll release “Songs of Mass Destruction,” only her fourth record in 15 years, following it up in November with a brief six-week solo tour of the U.S., also only her fourth in the last decade and a half.
Despite having such infrequent bursts of publicity, Lennox is still one powerful dame. When the eternally pixie-coiffed singer calls, you answer — even if you’re Madonna. And that’s precisely what happened when Lennox asked 23 of the world’s most recognizable female singers, including Fergie, Shakira, Joss Stone, Celine Dion, Gladys Knight, k.d. lang and her Madge-sty herself, to be the choir on the track “Sing.” But this wasn’t just an estrogen-fest of divas designed to fuel sales and provide fodder for a TV special. Lennox had an ulterior motive: The song is a call to arms in support of HIV/AIDS awareness in Africa, and the proceeds will be donated to the cause.
“Isn’t it a powerful statement when you can collect all these names and then the media is interested?” asks Lennox. “Through all those performers I can get peoples’ attention and say, look, this is what the issue is: AIDS.”
Egos aside, the women were happy to be, in essence, her backup singers. Only Madonna got her own verse. “It just thrilled me to bits because Madonna is a mighty powerful lady,” says Lennox. “To have her sing is phenomenal for me. That is a huge endorsement.”
Showcasing her distinct deep-soul voice and some beautifully heartbreaking tunes, “Songs of Mass Destruction” is a strong personal social statement for the ex-Eurythmic, starting with her choice of title, a play on what she calls “a terrific lie, a tremendous excuse.” That Lennox is using this as a platform to eloquently vent her artistic and moral spleen over the state of the world is clear. She’s done with frivolous topics.
“I feel myself despairing for this destructive potentiality being played out by human beings across the planet. I don’t think war has ever been a solution to any of our problems. I’m just amazed at how much politicians get away with murder. America is now trillions of dollars in debt because of the war effort. At the very beginning of it, I thought, ‘Uh-oh, here goes their second Vietnam.'” Her goal is to inspire people to do something and help make the world a better place for her two teenage daughters.
This story first appeared in the October 1, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
When Lennox gets on a roll, so passionate is her stance that it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. She also has plenty to say on the state of the celeb-obsessed media, especially when it comes to fellow U.K. songstress Amy Winehouse. “I’m concerned for Amy because she’s a hugely gifted artist. Like everyone, I’d like to see her get sorted. What I’m criticizing is the fascination that the media has in tailgating these people and making some kind of huge mythology out of them,” she says. “It’s not helpful to those individuals to be celebrated for their misdoings and weaknesses. They’re vulnerable. It’s like [the media] is chasing ambulances. It’s sick.”
But the Lennox forecast isn’t all doom and gloom. At the end of the day, she still has faith people will do the right thing. “You only have to look at history to see how things can change. I think humans have so much creative potential. There’s a tremendous amount of goodness out there,” she says. “I’m not a pessimist completely.”