- Walking on Broken Glass
- Legend in My Living Room
- Money Can’t Buy It
- Little Bird
- Stay by Me
- The Gift
- Keep Young and Beautiful
- Step by Step
- Don’t Let Me Down
And when the lover keep on ignoring problems that seem glaringly obvious to the other one, truth can be impossible to endure: “I may be mad, I may be blind, I may be viciously unkind, but I can still read what you’re thinking; and I’ve heard it said too many times that you’d be better off; besides, why can’t you see this boat is sinking?”.
So, even though two hearts break at the same time and pain floods body and soul, it’s time to leave and start to walk alone again: “This is the book I never read, these the words I never said, this is the path I’ll never thread, these are the dreams I’ll dream instead; this is the joy that’s seldom spread, these are the tears, the tears we shed, this is the fear, this is the dread, these are the contents of my head; and these are the years we’ve spent, and this is what they represent”.
There is only one question left: “Why?”
Why is Annie Lennox’s signature song, and probably the one that will immortalize her career as a singer-songwriter: since its release in March 1992 as the single anticipating Diva (April 1992), Why has become an instant classic, impressing a seal on the heart of millions of people around the world.
With this song, Annie started her solo career after Eurythmics, and she performed it live regularly over the years; probably one of the best renditions ever was the piano one she gave during the Live 8 (July 2005), while images of African HIV positive people provided a very emotional visual counterpoint to the music.
When a couple break up, remembering all the lost tender moments is tough: “You were the sweetest thing that I ever knew; but I don’t care for sugar, honey, if I can’t have you”.
So if one of the lovers still believes (unilaterally) that things can be adjusted, it all goes from bad to worse: “Since you abandoned me my whole life has crashed; won’t you pick the pieces up? ‘Cause it feels just like I’m walking on broken glass”.
That piercing feeling of pain and jealousy can grow enormously, but when it reaches the saturation point it’s time to be honest: “And if you’re trying to cut me down, you know that I might bleed; ’cause if you’re trying to cut me down I know that you’ll succeed; and if you’re trying to hurt me there’s nothing left to fear; ’cause if you’re trying to hurt me you’re doing really well, my dear”.
Then sometimes a glimmer of light breaks in, and hope begin to rise: “So take me from the wreckage, save me from the blast; lift me up and take me back, don’t let me keep on walking… I can’t keep walking on… I can’t keep on walking on broken glass”.
“Walking on Broken Glass” was released in August 1992 as the third single from the album. In 2009 Annie released on iTunes a new acoustic version of the song as a bonus for The Annie Lennox Collection.
For many people, the birth of a child is probably the most important turning point of a lifetime:
“Precious little angel, take a look at what you’ve done; well I thought my time was over, but it’s only just begun; precious little angel, you’re my own sweet turtle dove; won’t you stay with us forever in a bundle full of love?”.
Sometimes this incredible experience arrives after endless moments of disappointment and struggle, when the only thing left is just a lingering hope: “Precious little angel, won’t you spread your light on me? I was locked up in the darkness, now you’ve come to set me free; I was covered up with sadness, I was drowned in my own tears; I’ve been cynical and twisted, I’ve been bitter all these years”. And when joy finally arrives, the only possible conclusion is: “I was lost until you came”.
“Precious” was the second single to be released from Diva (May 1992).
This is what Annie herself stated about it in 2009:”This is a very personal, sweet song. My daughter was safely brought into the world, and I wrote this song for her, because I was just so profoundly grateful for her existence. Now I have two daughters, and the dedication extends to both my girls, so now the title is plural because I love them both equally with the passion of a mother”.
A young girl leaves her hometown, determined in making her dreams come true: “Bright lights and trains and bed-sit stains and pavements paved with gold; and I believed in everything that everybody told me”.
But trying to survive in a big and hostile metropolis, relying only on ambitions, can be very hard: “I found myself in a lonely place with a suitcase full of dreams and I soon grow up to realize what living in the doghouse means”.
However, the aforementioned lass is not a simple teenager, and she’s sure her future will be bright: “But everyday I told myself good things would have happened soon ’cause I knew that I was going to be a legend in my living room”.
Though… “I shed my tears in bitter drops until the thorn trees bloomed to take the spiky fruit to crown myself the queen of doom”.
Even the warmest desire could fail trying to melt an icy heart:
“Come to me, run to me, do and be done with me; cold, cold, cold; don’t I exist for you? Don’t I still live for you? Cold, cold, cold”.
And when this wintry realm appears so impervious, it’s easy to be discouraged and angry: “Come on now, come on now, come on now; I’m telling you that I love you right from the start; but the more I want you, the less I get; ain’t that just the way things are?”.
So, just when the cool lover drops his/her own guard, it’s time to ease up for the “fighter” too: “Cold is the colour of crystal, the snowlight that falls from the heavenly skies; catch me and let me dive under for I want to swim in the pools of your eyes”.
“Cold” was the fourth single off Diva (October 1992), and reportedly one of the song Annie cherishes the most: “This is one of the favourite songs I’ve ever written. (…) I wanted the imagery to describe the exquisite quality of the glint of ice, the sheen of hoarfrost, as a metaphor for those internal feelings of unrequited love and longing”.
It might take forever till we watch those dreams come true? All the money in the world won’t buy you peace of mind You can have it all but you still won’t be satisfied.
Money is something every human being needs to survive in this (alas) hyper expensive world; but when it’s too much, it can become a very dangerous obsession:
“I got diamonds, you heard about those; I got so many that I can’t close my safe at night, in the dark; lying awake in a sick dream”.
Nowadays pounds, euros and dollars seemingly have the authority to acquire almost all, but there are certain things that must be earned day by day, without paying one single cent:
“I believe that love alone might do these things for you; I believe that love alone might do these things for you; I believe in the power of creation, I believe in the good vibration; I believe in love alone yeah yeah”.
When you’re feeling down, even the high-spirited singing of a birdie outside the window can be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back:
“I look up to the little bird that glides across the sky; he sings the clearest melody, it makes me want to cry; it makes me want to sit right down and cry, cry, cry, yeah”.
But all of a sudden empathy rises beyond pain, and all you want to do is simply take a jump and soar high into the fresh air:
“I walk along the city streets, so dark with rage and fear; and I, I wish that I could be that bird and fly away from here; I wish I had the wings to fly away from here, yeah”.
This ain’t easy, and it takes a lot of self-confidence (with a hint of healthy irresponsibility) to believe in your own strength:
“They always that you knew best but this little bird’s fallen down of that nest now; I’ve got a feeling that it might have been blessed so I’ve just got to put these wings to test”.
The last single to be taken from Diva in February 1993, “Little Bird” has been re-released in 2009 as a special acoustic bonus with the digital edition of The Annie Lennox Collection.
Love can be an enrapturing sightless experience, making partners totally light of each other faults:
“And I don’t care if there is no tomorrow; I could die here in your arms”.
So it’s good not to lack common sense, even while living such uplifting moments:
“Sweet darling, don’t you know that we’re not different to anyone? We stumble, we falter, but we’re no different than anyone”.
This way easing up becomes an even more enjoyable experience: more and more enjoyable:
“Stay by me and make the moment last; please take these lips even if I have been kissed a million times”.
A passionate prayer under the red light of a newborn sun to affirm and defend the ephemeral nature of our life and love relationships:
“Sweetheart, send me to sleep; pray to God our hopes to keep; take our fears and make us strong; lead us to where we belong”.
All we can do is try to live peacefully everyday, keeping in mind this:
“For time will catch us in both hands to blow away like grains of sand; ashes to ashes, rust to dust”.
Often the discomfort caused by a troubled relationship can make you want to escape from those bitter and endless fights:
“Darling don’t you understand I feel so ill at ease? The room is full of silence and it’s getting hard to breathe”.
But sometimes, miracles like the starting of a new life have the power to mend everything:
“It seems our lives have taken on a different kind of twist now that you have given me the perfect gift; you have given me the gift”.
Time goes by, but some beliefs are so deep rooted that it seems impossible to change them:
“What’s cute about little cutie? It’s her beauty, not brains; old father time will never harm you if your charm still remains; after you grow old, baby, you don’t have to be a cold baby”.
In our outward appearance based society, this kind of statement never fails to seduce with its potentially dangerous appeal:
“Keep young and beautiful, it’s your duty to be beautiful; keep young and beautiful if you want to be loved;don’t fail to do your stuff with a little powder and a puff; keep young and beautiful if you want to be loved”.
The perfect closing for an album like Diva, “Keep Young and Beautiful” appeared for the first time in the black and white American musical Roman Scandals (1933):
its lyrics contains a reference to François Marcel, a 19th century French coiffeur who set the trend of the “Marcel wave”, an iconic feminine curly hairdo very popular in the 1920s and 1930s.
At times it seems the process to fulfil our own expectations is as slow as frustrating, just because we want our dreams to come true as soon as possible; and often this path is full of complications:
“It’s just the fear of falling that makes me lose my grip; it’s just the fear of falling that makes my fingers slip”. So when disappointment threatens to destroy our hope, there is a little precious mantra we can bear in mind:
“Step by step, bit by bit, stone by stone yeah, brick by brick; step by step, day by day, mile by mile ooh; go your way, go your way”.
Released as the international bonus track of Diva, “Step by Step” was available also as a B-Side on the Precious single (May 1992).
Several years later Whitney Houston recorded a very personal cover of the song to be included in the soundtrack of the 1996 movie The Preacher’s Wife.
After years and years of unhappy relationships, finding a devoted partner is a blessing:
“Nobody ever loved like he does; ooh he does, yeah he does; and if somebody loved me like he done me; ooh he done me, yeah he does”.
Then, being mindful of the past experiences, it’s better to make things clear from the start with a loving but firm warning:
“I’m in love for the first time, don’t you know it’s gonna last? ‘Cause it’s a love that lasts forever, it’s a love that has no past”.
Annie covered this Beatles classic from 1969 making it the B-Side for Walking on Broken Glass (August 1992): she had previously performed it live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July, and the recording was included on the Coldest single in October of the same year.