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'You Cannot Go Back': Annie Lennox On 'Nostalgia'

Annie Lennox's new album is titled <em>Nostalgia</em>.
Robert Sebree
Courtesy of the artist
Annie Lennox's new album is titled Nostalgia.

Annie Lennox is well-known for her work as one half of the Eurythmics, the synth-pop duo whose hit "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" is still ubiquitous 30-plus years after its release. Since then, Lennox has had a busy career as a solo singer and done work as a philanthropist and political activist.

Nostalgia -- Lennox's first album since 2010's A Christmas Cornucopia-- sees Lennox tackle a collection of jazz standards, including such resonant songs as Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" and "God Bless the Child."

In approaching these monumental songs, Lennox says, she avoided spending too much time with the originals.

"I wanted to learn the song and then step away quickly like a firework," she tells NPR's Steve Inskeep.

In Lennox's words, the art of the cover is "intuitive" and about "responding to the beauty and the core of the song." She says her interest in these songs extends also into the lives of the women who sang them.

"When I think about this incredible lineage of women who have been singing and writing and performing and living their lives, they've left this heritage of wonderful, hauntingly beautiful music — a legacy," the singer says. "And, as a woman myself and as a musician and a performer, I feel that connection with these women that I have never met."

This heritage, rather than any particular singer, is what Lennox says attracts her to these songs.

"It's my gender that brings me towards many issues and things," Lennox says. "So I wouldn't say necessarily that there were specific women that I identified with. I was thinking more about the particular journey of being a woman in a man's world, for example, and how challenging that may have been to all female musicians, to be honest, or many women."

The legacy and history of women and female performers is not the only history Nostalgiaaddresses. Lennox says that, by turning to the past, she can comment indirectly on the events of the present.

"I was born in 1954. I've lived through all these decades and seen all the changes, been witness to the collective thing that's gone on on the planet," Lennox says. "And there's a part of me — kind of, sometimes — wants to slow it down and go back. And the one thing you cannot do — and this is inherent, the sort of irony of the title — you cannot go back. There's no turning back of the clock. You'll never do that. So nostalgia is a dip into an imaginary space, really."

Hear the full conversation at the audio link.

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