Annie & Me’shell:Two of Music’s Most Talented Women Re-emerge
October promises two be a huge month from a musical perspective. Two of the most powerful women making records today have both released albums.
If you love great music, played by great musicians and don’t know Me’shell Ndegéocello, then you are missing out on one of the most talented people in music. Of course, knowing her does not immediately make her and her albums immediately accessible, in certain ways, she is to music today what Gil Scott-Heron was some thirty-five years ago. Smart, fiercely political and unapologetically opinionated. In a day and age when musical content comes in silver pills which are packaged for easy consumption, Me’shell and her music demand more of the listener. They require not only a willing and adventurous ear, but someone who is comfortable in their own skin.
Me’shell’s music not only questions and skewers sacred cows of faith, politics, gender and sexuality, but forces listeners to question their own assumptions of who they are. The good news is that when you listen carefully, there is such beauty, such passion in the heart and musical soul of this woman and you may find yourself unable to turn a deaf ear.
Me’shell’s voice is liquid sex, pure and simple. Female bass players are unusual enough, but her stature as a bass player is significant enough to put most well-known male players to shame. There have been attempts by the music industry to pigeon-hole and package her into something for mass consumption, most notably her less-than-memorable outing with John Mellencamp. But Me’shell and her music are not musical Big Macs warmed under heat lamps. Each of her albums are served up hot; a multi-course repast for the hungry ear and soul. Courses of Jazz, Funk, Rap, Soul, and Ambient all showcased for the discerning listener.
The new album, The World has Made Me the Man of My Dreams promises to be yet another exciting creation featuring the heavyweight talents of Pat Metheny, Doyle Bramhall II, Oumou Sangare, Saxophonist Oliver Lake, and with Jason Lindner and Robert Glastner on the keys.
Despite Me’shell’s struggles with faith and religion, her work is always richly spiritual. Me’shell knows that while we do not necessarily subscribe to the same systems of faith, we are all woven of the same cloth. Listen to her music and there can be no doubt that she believes in music’s ability to bring us to the same table.
At this table, there are certain artists which make the world just a bit better place by the fact that they are here and creating. Annie Lennox is one of those artists we are lucky to have with us.
For me, there has never been a doubt about the power and presence behind a voice like Annie Lennox’s. Classics from Eurythmics like “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”, “Here Comes the Rain Again” and “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” are timeless examples of her power as a vocalist. But it wouldn’t be until she stepped out as a soloist that her full voice would be expressed as an artist.
Parternered with David A. Stewart, Annie and Eurythmics would create a sound and image nearly inseparable as an artistic whole. While the duo would become known the world over for a pop sound as big as it was avant-garde, when Annie stepped into the solo spotlight, and out of the makeup and costumes, she was freed to become one of the most powerful Soul singers without facade.
Fortunately for Annie Lennox, she is blessed with legions of fans who would follow her from Eurythmics; follow the beckon call of her voice to a stage where her mind and soul often took center stage. Lennox would likely be the first to admit, that in a day and age of manufactured pop stars who can’t sing past their surgically enhanced breasts, sadly, thinking women are a tough sell in any market.
But for those who are concerned with awards and platinum records, Annie has a boat load of them. She has an Oscar. She has made it possible for herself to make the records she wishes to make. Repeatedly she has railed against marketing voices that have told her to make “more commercial” records, and her fans return. They wait for the albums that she wants to make and tour with.
The albums that she records reveal a keen ear as a musician, but it is what she reveals of herself as an artist through lyrics and performance that keep her albums played. When audiences were first taken aback by the electric eyes and orange crew cut in the video for “Sweet Dreams” it left audiences with a sense of the depth that Annie carried with her. But it has been through albums like Diva, Medusa and Bare that she has set that depth out in the forefront. Her music thankfully, is no longer separable from her passionate voice and soul.
One can hear the power in her own songs such as Why, Pavement Cracks and the sadly underrated Love Song for a Vampire, but even on the covers of songs such as A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, or The Blue Nile‘s amazing The Downtown Lights, Annie makes her interpretations stand passionately on their own.
This fourth outing entitled Songs of Mass Destruction according to Annie, represents a new sound for her as a vocalist, discovered while on tour with Sting. Even while Annie admits to an abiding dark side to much of her music, she describes the album as being a representation of the place she is in today, searching to find and cultivate more positivity in the world.
She goes on to describe the cover of the new album as being representative of the Phoenix rising from the ashes of our apocolyptic culture. I’ll go out on a limb to describe it as yet another artist’s assertion of the Goddess aspect of Shamanic lore in modern and popular culture. In this artist’s humble opinion, an extremely good thing.
The best thing about the music of both Annie Lennox and Me’shell Ndegéocello is the fact that the albums that they produce are not created only to be set aside, carrying with them a limited shelf life. The music that they are responsible for is widely varied, but similarly rich and to be listened to throughout life. Me’shell’s Bitter is as powerful and deep as Annie’s Diva is rich and passionate. The music of both these women make for a lasting legacy that will long be remembered after the Britneys of this world have greyed and faded.
technorati tags:meshell ndegeocello, annie lennox,new era, music, spiritual, culture, october music releases, art, music, the world has made me the man of my dreams, songs of mass destruction, gil scott-heron, entertainment, musicians, faith, politics, gender, sexuality, bass players, john mellencamp, pat metheny, doyle bramhall II, oumou sangare, religion, eurythmics, david a. stewart, soul singers, manufactured pop singers, thinking women, diva, medusa, bare, the blue nile, sting, cultivating positivity, apocolyptic culture, goddess aspect, shamanic lore, popular culture, bitter, diva, liquid sex