Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Who's That Girl? The Case of Eurythmics

I Was Born an Original Sinner To me, Eurythmics will always be emblematic of the early days of MTV, when "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," with its inscrutable, abstract visuals, synth-heavy repetitive instrumentation, and bizarre-looking pair of bandmates, set a high but attainable standard for other videos to follow. "Sweet Dreams" wasn't released until January 1983, some 18 months into the MTV era, which surprises me; it seems to have been there from the beginning. 

And I didn't even realize until I started researching this essay (yes, I research these things) that "Sweet Dreams" wasn't the Eurythmics' debut album, having followed 1981's In the Garden. But in most senses, Sweet Dreams was the start of their career, leading to ten Top Forty singles, all of them appropriately enough charting in the Eighties. "Sweet Dreams" was actually the fourth single from the album, but the first to even make the Billboard Hot 100. It went to Number One on September 3, 1983, nine months after the album's release.


They eventually moved on from the synth-drenched early sound to the crunchy guitar of "Would I Lie to You?" and the harmonica-driven "Missionary Man," with producer and multi-instrumentalist David Stewart showing he could do just about anything. He would eventually be recruited by artists ranging from Tom Petty to t.A.T.u as a producer and married one of the girls from Bananarama.

But the face and heart of Eurythmics was of course Annie Lennox. Listed on Rolling Stone's Top 100 Singers of All Time, she was able to sing alongside Aretha Franklin (on Eurythmics' "Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves") and not sound ridiculous. Both beautiful and androgynous, she was also one of the most iconic faces of pop music in the Eighties. These things matter.


Would I Lie to You? Ironically enough, when that same magazine reviewed 1985's Be Yourself Tonight, critic Joyce Millman launched no shortage of controversy when she wrote, "[S]he still has trouble conveying warmth and spontaneity — she simply ain't got no soul." I think it's fair to say that criticism hasn't stood the test of time. Millman went on to be one of the founders of Salon.com.


Hey, did you know Annie Lennox appeared in the movie The Room? Unfortunately, it's not the Tommy Wiseau disaster-fest but a TV movie based on a Harold Pinter play, but at least it was directed by Robert Altman, the thinking man's Tommy Wiseau. 


Who Am I to Disagree? Eurythmics split in 1990, and Lennox went on to release some excellent solo albums, while Stewart busied himself as a producer. I don't exactly know what to do with these things, if they become part of a group's dossier or not. Even without that extra credit, the duo has a solid body of work, with a range of hits that fill a wide sonic palette while always feeling like Eurythmics. As part of MTV's original vanguard, they set the tone both musically and visually for the Eighties. 

They seem to have all the markers in place. Their music is memorable and enduring, their hits both defined their time and remained somewhat timeless, their look and sound were both uniquely their own. I'm voting yes for Eurythmics. 


2 comments:

  1. If solo activities are to be included in these verdicts, Dave Stewart should receive about 193,455 demerits for co-writing and co-producing Mick Jagger's "Let's Work."

    After Eurythmics split up, he also used to appear in print adverts for one brand of acoustic guitar or another, sitting on his motorcycle, wearing a jacket with a big Spiritual Cowboys logo, and looking sorta lost.

    No real argument with your HoF vote here, though.

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  2. That stuff absolutely does matter.

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