Lennox’s glossy white-soul template does sound a bit dated but she's still impressive when she gets it right.
After the introspective, confessional tone of 2003’s Bare, Songs Of Mass Destruction sees Annie Lennox make a return to weepy torch songs. This point could hardly be made any clearer on the album’s magnum opus ‘Sing’. Recorded for Nelson Mandela’s AIDS charity, the song features guest appearances from no less than 23 renowned female artists, including the likes of Madonna, Celine Dion, Melissa Etheridge and Martha Wainwright. A sort of feminist ‘Feed The World’, it’s not a bad track, but, as you might expect, the message somewhat overwhelms the gospel-tinged music.
Elsewhere, Lennox’s glossy white-soul template remains the point of reference. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it does sound a bit dated and there’s nothing on the disc that would have seemed out of place in the early- to mid-’90s. Lennox is still impressive when she gets it right, though: ‘Ghosts In My Machine’, the best track here, is a superb piece of classic R’n’B, possessed of a driving rhythm and powerful vocal.
‘Love Is Blind’ is a bouncy, sassy affair, lifted by luxurious string arrangements and a satisfying drum beat, while the gorgeous, chilled-out ballad ‘Through The Glass Darkly’ and the lithe electro-pop of ‘Coloured Bedspread’ are other highlights.
Despite such standout tracks, however, the album fails to pack a consistent punch right the way through. Album opener (and lead single) ‘Dark Road’ starts out in subdued fashion, before briefly breaking into a majestic swagger towards the very end, leaving the listener wondering what might have been.
The gentle piano intro of ‘Smithereens’ is the ideal accompaniment to Lennox’s still-flawless voice, but the song itself is a disappointment, never really breaking out of mid-tempo mediocrity. ‘Womankind’ is simplistic stuff for an artist of Lennox’s calibre, and is dragged even further down by some cringeworthy half-rapping by a guest vocalist towards the end.
An uneven effort then, but certainly not without its moments.