Annie Lennox

Bare

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It's been eight years since Medusa, Annie Lennox's last studio album, was released. It's been 11 since her debut solo effort and five since the short-lived Eurythmics reunion. And while she may not be prolific, Lennox is always enigmatic. Bare is a collection of self-penned tracks, as the artist explains in the liners: "This album contains songs that are deeply personal and emotional. In a sense I have 'exposed' myself through the work to reveal aspects of an inner world that are fragile...broken through experience but not entirely smashed. I am not a young artist in their (sic) twenties. I am a mature woman facing up to the failed expectations of life and facing up to 'core' issues." Sound pretentious? One listen proves that Lennox lives up to her claims in spades. Here are 11 wholly -- even infectiously -- accessible, lyrically savvy, and gorgeously wrought pop songs full of spiritual and emotional depth that make for a deeply moving whole. On Bare, soul, adult contemporary, subtle yet unmistakable pop hooks, and an elegant use of electronic soundscapes converge in song styles to create not a tapestry, but a work of such interwoven depth that its only visual counterpart would be a fine Persian carpet. On "Wonderful," the refrain brings a Hall & Oates-styled Philly soul refrain to one of Lennox's trademark ballads constructed from repetitive fingerpicked electric guitar lines, a simple rhythm-machine loop, and gentle synth washes in the background. But it's in the lyrical paradox where the grain of her voice goes straight for a truth and need that the listener almost feels she's peeled off one layer too many -- not hers, ours: "I wanna hold you/And be so held back/Don't wanna need you/But it's where I'm at/Thinkin' about you every day/How come I was made that way...God it makes me so blue/Every time I think about you/All of the heat of my desire/Smokin' like some crazy fire/Come on here/Look at me/Where I stand/Can't you see my heart burning in my hands?/Do you want me? Do you not?" The previous track is a guitar-kissed ballad with limpid choruses that sear with the truth of having believed -- perhaps willingly -- each lie a lover ever told; it is destined to be played in every post-midnight, brokenhearted, half-empty bedroom for decades to come. And though the previous examples come from near the middle of the album, they don't begin to tell the whole story, as each track fits hand in glove with another. It not only can be taken as a whole, it must be, for it rains down on the heart of the listener with such a fierce life force, despite the depleted spirit exhibited in many of the cuts. There are no more words for the ravaged, triumphant Bare -- the truth of its fineness and devastating beauty is in the hearing.

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