Annie Lennox

The title might lead one to believe that Songs of Mass Destruction is a collection of political tunes, but that's not the case. Annie Lennox has always been an outspoken feminist, but in her art she prefers to deal with individuals' lives. "Love Is Blind" uses a punishing beat to drive home the ache of unrequited passion; it's a poignant blend of rock and gospel with lyrics that reference addiction, suicide, and the general dismay of hopeless love. "Ghosts in the Machine" is another rocker, which rages against the meaninglessness of modern life, but with a bit of dark humor. Lennox punctuates a litany of complaints — "I use too much, I lose too much, can booze too much, I bleed too much, I need too much" — with exuberant, soulful whoops.

On ballads like "Smithereens," "Through a Glass Darkly," and "Lost," Lennox proves she hasn't lost any of her emotional power, delivering performances finely balanced between restraint and raw anguish. The most overtly political track, and the song that will probably get the most press, is "Sing," inspired by Nelson Mandela's Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) against AIDS. Lennox invited a bevy of divas to sing with her, including Melissa Etheridge, Faith Hill, Angelique Kidjo, Sarah McLachlan, Shakira, and the Noisettes' Shingai Shoniwa. But it's the Generics, a TAC-backed vocal group, that steals the tune, delivering an all-too-brief coda marked by rich, intertwining harmonies.

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J. Poet