Annie Lennox: Celebrity Culture ‘Makes Me Cringe’

Though she has kept a low profile in recent years, Annie Lennox is one of pop music's greatest chameleons, from her trailblazing run with The Eurythmics to a thriving solo career to her recent involvement in human rights activism. For Nostalgia (Blue Note/Capitol), her first non-holiday album in seven years, Lennox dug through the Great American Songbook of the 1930s and '40s, delivering stirring interpretations of songs from Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and Nina Simone. And true to its material, the album will be released exclusively on vinyl for three weeks starting Sept. 30, before hitting other formats on Oct. 21. Though the music takes a look back, Lennox, 59, doesn't spend much time dwelling on her own celebrity: "At this point in time, less is more for me," she says. In her own words, Lennox shares lessons learned along her journey.

Exclusive: Annie Lennox Talks Return to Music With 'Nostalgia' Album, Reveals Cover, Track List & More

I've never stood still or repeated myself.
I like to go into areas I haven't explored before, find myself, reinvent myself. I think that's fairly obvious if you've looked back at what I've done through the years. For Nostalgia, I was just curious: I wonder if these songs would suit my voice? It was like a little challenge. I very quietly went about exploring the songs. Some of them I knew a little bit and some I didn't know at all. I got to know them, became friends with them and had a great deal of joy in the process.

I did everything by ear.
No sheet music. All of the songs on Nostalgia are on YouTube -- everything is there. I just listened. I didn't take too long, I didn't want to become overly familiar with the thousands of versions out there -- I wanted to create my own interpretations.

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I'm a musician at the end of the day, but...
The last decade has been more about me as a human rights activist, a spokesperson for women's rights, HIV -- issues that affect people at a more serious level. When you find your groove as an artist, sometimes you just stay in the groove, but there's so much more to you. Music is a fantastic thing to do, but it was maybe not serious enough to me. I feel so phony about certain things, and music's a great platform for that -- I take other issues seriously.

Celebrity will not define me.
This celebrity culture is so diminishing, so invasive and reductive and embarrassing. It makes me cringe. But we're used to it, aren't we? We think it's normal.

Touring burns me out.
I'm not being sexist when I say this, but it suits the man's life more. When you're a woman and want to have a family -- I never liked being away from my kids. I don't think it's healthy. I don't think I can hack that way of life like I used to.


This article originally appeared in the Oct. 4 issue of Billboard.