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On Lennox's new album, Songs of Mass Destruction, the artist continues to successfully mine her ample power and fury

Like the Jane Fondas of the acting world, Annie Lennox's strongest asset remains the passion that erupts out of her best performances. Her Eurythmics gems "Would I Lie to You" and "Sisters are Doin' It for Themselves," match the fight in her solo classics, "Walking on Broken Glass," "Why," and "No More I Love You's." She elevates the old-fashioned torch song to someplace electric, with brass knuckles. But better yet, Lennox's conviction always gives way to vulnerability, the extraordinary kind you thought died with Edith Piaf. Our self-proclaimed "Diva" continues to accomplish the tremendous: conveying empowerment and intimacy, not to mention both alien mystique and utter humanity. She got an Oscar for it, remember?

And because of Lennox's strength--and perhaps because of the long break since Bare, her last album from '03--we forgive the gimmicky title for her newest album, Songs of Mass Destruction, out Oct. 2. Furthermore, we can even embrace the album's choices that persnickety critics could call retreads: the sinister synth blares of "Coloured Bedspread" (very "Who's That Girl"), the aggressive rapping on "Love is Blind" ("Money Can't Buy It" off Diva, anyone?), or the hefty portions of balladry that could have buttressed her previous albums. Forgiveness is just an afterthought on an album where, once again, Lennox the operatic orator, enlists us to shout alongside her and lash back.

The war in Iraq, AIDS, and South African hospital laws all line up for Lennox's unwavering, beautiful instrument--which is welcome. After all, a fight requires an agenda. The lead single "Dark Road" stokes Lennox's chaos and conscience ("All the fires of destruction are still burning in my dreams"), which end up permeating the album. "Ghosts in My Machine" marries Lennox's two favorite opposites: a danceable, nervy beat and rustling inner demons.

The album's most joyous, anthemic highlight, "Sing," prevails despite the contributions of 23 guest vocalists. Maybe you've heard of them: Madonna, Pink, Shakira, Sarah McLachlan, among others. Such superstars seem like natural choices to flank Lennox on a song about vitality and womanhood, but they're all wasted in the backwash, save a wail or two from Celine Dion. Instead, you'll only hear Madonna, who gets a whole, nasally verse to herself. God bless the leotard-loving mommy, but she can't hold a candle (or a tune) to Lennox.

Essentially, Songs of Mass Destruction is the logical next Annie Lennox album, full of vigor, a clenched heart, and an acute eye on the present. She's got all her personas in store: the androgynous and the feminine, the society girl and the humanitarian, the Klute and the Barbarella. Unlike other artists who claim to be chameleons, this little bird's got a squadron of exhilarating incarnations--and they're all willing (and hurting) to contend for themselves.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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Louis Virtel