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Vintage Annie, but somewhat disappointing
on June 16, 2003
First of all, I love Annie Lennox, and have for 20 years. DIVA is one of my all-time favorite albums. So perhaps my hopes were impossibly high for the new one, my hopes abetted by the 11-year wait. BARE starts off with a bang -- three great songs that seemed to satisfy all my expectations and longings. But then the record begins to stumble. "Wonderful" and "Bitter Pill" sound good but the lyrics are banal, cliched. Things pick up a bit after that, but not enough to lift the album up to the high pitch where it began. And although many seem to like the final song, "Oh, God," I find it an embarrassment -- not for its off-key singing but for the self-pitying, self-indulgent nature of the lyrics. If only there had been something a bit light-hearted to send the record off, like the fabulous kicker on DIVA ("Keep Young & Beautiful"). The production throughout is sympathetic, and Annie has never sounded better -- and that's saying a lot. But for me, some of the songs are just too weak for me to be completely satisfied. Mostly, it's a failure of lyrics -- I wish she had perhaps collaborated with another writer on the words. And I know it isn't fair, but I can't help comparing this to DIVA, and this is where BARE really falls short. There is nothing remotely as astounding as that heart-stopping stunner that is "Why," nor is there anything as joyously infectious (even if it is a dark song) as "Walking On Broken Glass." There is much to like and admire about this album -- it stands heads above 99% of what passes for popular music these days; but I hold Annie to higher standards, and in that light, BARE doesn't quite measure up.