[MUSIC] Annie Lennox, “Little Bird”
Annie Lennox’s song “Little Bird” is perhaps the best song on Lennox’s 1992 debut album Diva. The lyrics are fairly straightforward, a story of recovery and self-empowerment generally.
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
I walk along the city streets
So dark with rage and fear
I wish that I could be that bird
And fly away from here
I wish I had the wings to fly away from here
Set against a propulsive Eurythmics-like synth background and sung with her trademark white soul inflections, the song was bound to be a hit, even without the popular dance remix by N-Joi. The music video helped put it over the top.
This music video was directed by Sophie Muller, a British director who had worked with the Eurythmics and Annie Lennox before. I don’t pretend to know whose idea it was to make the music video all about Lennox’ past video alter egos, but Muller certainly made it work. The red-haired and suited androgyne from the videos for “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This” and “Love Is A Stranger” came first, then the angel actress of “There Must Be An Angel,” the leather-suited short-haired singer from “When Tomorrow Comes”, the repressed housewife and the disco vixen from the Savage video album, the diva from her solo video “Diva” and the angry lover of Hugh Laurie in “Walking on Broken Glass,” and her raccoon makeup and metallic skirt from her live performance of “Under Pressure” with David Bowie. (I’ve read that the aforementioned red-haired androgyne was played by a drag queen from Gdansk.)
Each avatar walks down the catwalk, sings and poses, pushes others around and fights for control of the microphone, on and on until a heavily pregnant contemporary Lennox puts her foot down and ends the song against some drum machine slaps
But my my I feel so low
My my where do I go ?
My my what do I know ?
My my we reap what we sow
They always said that you knew best
But this little bird’s fallen out 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
“No More ‘I Love You’s” is the song that began my infatuation with Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics, but “Little Bird” is the song that confirmed it for me. It’s a fun song, with feel-good lyrics and beautiful singing and great music. That’s part of the reason why I was saddened when I realized earlier this month that, in this video, Lennox wasn’ playing with all of these different facets of her past music career. In the “Little Bird” video, Lennox is saying goodbye to them, letting them air just one more time before locking them away and setting off on a new career.
That shift was probably inevitable. Keeping up the twitchiness of the Eurythmics’ first three albums or the passion of Savage probably wasn’t possible, and probably wouldn’t be good for Lennox. After more than a decade in the public spotlight, for her own personal comfort Lennox had to find a new persona–clean-lined, calm, manageable–for the next decade, and for the decade after that. That doesn’t mean that I can’t mourn the loss of the embodied spirit of that first decade, even as I appreciate this song and this music video for the great pop-musical artifacts that they are.