I’ve always wanted to play an instrument, but I wouldn’t want to be a professional musician. It’s hard enough to be a writer and feel your work is ignored. It’s got to be worse to spend a year recording an album, know beyond a shadow of a doubt you’ve made some good music, hand it over to the record company to promote and then nothing.
That’s not entirely true. Simply because it’s become harder to find compelling new artists making interesting music doesn’t mean it’s not out there. It’s just become tougher to ferret it out. The record industry is collapsing in on itself. Radio doesn’t break acts the way it once and today MTV stands for “Moronic Television,” instead of “Music Television.”
I used to have a pretty good ear to what could be a hit. One reason was I used to play music at parties and the other was radio used to be relevant in showcasing new acts and there were plenty of them making great soul, rock n’ roll, jazz and pop. That was yesterday. Could someone as unconventional as a Tracy Chapman or Prince make it big now? I seriously doubt it. You Tube has become the go-to place for new music now, but you have to go looking for it. It’s not going to show up on your TV and grab your attention before you cable surf away between commercials or while scanning the stations on the car stereo.
The sense of discovering something fresh and first before the rest of the world gets hip to it is largely gone and it’s not coming back, at least not in my lifetime and certainly not with the traditional delivery systems of music dying on the vine.
Such was the case with 2009’s “Shining Light,” a little slice of pop perfection from Annie Lennox that came from nowhere a few years ago and pretty much stayed there. Unfortunately I can’t embed the official video here, (which is pretty good) so you’ll just have to go to You Tube to watch it. Otherwise, you’ll have to settle for this “unofficial version” instead
It’s no surprise “Shining Light” wasn’t a hit for Annie Lennox here in America. I’ve loved the song since I first heard it, but since Lennox is at that awkward age (too young to retire and too old to be relevant to anyone who wasn’t listening to her in the 80’s, there was nowhere for “Shining Light” to go. When she was strutting around in a suit and tie as one half of the Eurythmics warbling “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” nobody had seen a Scottish singer with shocking red hair and an aggressively androgynous persona. It was one of the songs that just burrowed in your head and made a home there. Now in a time where Lady Gaga is wearing dresses made of raw meat what once seemed cutting edge is merely kind of quaint. I’ve never wanted to be that old guy who says “music was better in my day” (though it was), but everything that seems new now was that way when it was new .
Making a good three or four-minute song was never all it took to find success and maybe I’m just being a bit wistful, but it used to seem as if was enough. There has always been a place for White artists with soul. The outpouring of fond memories after the death of Teena Marie reminded me how big the gap is between a Annie Lennox, George Michael, Hall and Oates and a Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke or Justin Bieber. The bar feels like it’s been lowered, not raised, and not in a good way.
Annie Lennox is one of my most favorite singers. She personifies “blue-eyed soul” and if her voice alone wasn’t enough to close the sale, having the balls to go toe-to-toe with not one soul legend, but two (Aretha Franklin and Al Green) certainly should. I like her activism on HIV awareness and women’s rights. Musicians aren’t required to have a social conscience, but the ones that do impress me far more than those that don’t.
The Eurythmics were a band that made good albums and great singles. As a solo act, Lennox has made both with her first album Diva and Bare, the third, both being near-flawless gems. If anything I enjoy her even more now as on her own her voice sounds even more soulful and hasn’t lost any of his power.
The only thing Lennox has lost is the spotlight, but then nobody holds the spotlight forever. When Lady Gaga looks back in another 20 years or so she’ll know exactly what I mean.