Annie Lennox sings as though she is at last letting down her guard and revealing her secrets, opening a flood gate of searing emotional pain and fleeting moments of pure joy.
But now the woman who became famous as the voice of the Eurythmics is revealing herself in a whole new way, releasing her third solo album, Bare, and exhibiting her photography for the first time.
At 48, Lennox is drawn to the conflict between women and true beauty — in a struggle against what sells. That's apparent in the artist's sounds and images: she takes risks other commercial artists wouldn't dare.
"I think, in a way, it is the antithesis of glamour," Lennox told Primetime's Chris Cuomo as she previewed her photo exhibit in New York.
The exhibit features 30 self-portraits. Lennox says she became so fed up with celebrity that she swore she'd never do another photo shoot, so she started taking photographs of herself.
"I've been very interested in aesthetic beauty, and most women are," she says.
"Even young girls — children — we are encouraged to look pretty. So I thought, 'Do I try to compete with this youth market culture that I'm in, or do I go the opposite way and show my fragilities, expose the fact that my skin is getting older?'" ‘I Write What I Write’
The photos project an almost unthinkable degree of honesty for a woman who has sold millions of albums. But perhaps that's why so many women are drawn to her music and identify with her struggles.
"I write what I write," she says. "If I wanted to be a professional songwriter, I'd be writing for Celine Dion, wouldn't I?"
Still, she's not so comfortable being thought of as a feminist hero.
"I'll read something that says women identify strongly with me and I go, 'Oh, maybe they do, OK," she says.
"I just feel that the odds are stacked against us. And that we need to empower ourselves. But in doing so, we threaten men. And there's a bit of difficulty there. Venus and Mars. Tricky." A Red Flame of Hair Captures the MTV Generation From the moment she burst on the music scene as a major recording artist in the 1980s, Lennox aspired to more than just making music. She wanted to make waves.
With her band the Eurythmics, Lennox challenged our perceptions about gender, beauty and power, with hits such as "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)."
Her short crimson hair and forceful, yet sexual voice set her apart from other pop artists — especially female singers.
"Essentially, I was fighting my space as a woman who wanted to make a fresh statement, to be perceived as something radical and different and empowered," she says.
"And it certainly did make people react. It made people discuss."
The emergence of the Eurythmics seemed perfectly timed, coinciding as it did with the arrival of another cultural phenomenon: MTV. Suddenly, music was a visual medium and Lennox and guitarist Dave Stewart saw an opportunity.
But for most of the '90s, Lennox was a virtual recluse, struggling through personal hardships. Twice married and twice divorced, she is now the single mother of two school-age daughters. She continues a lifelong battle with depression — and says her most effective therapy may be her music.
"People say, 'Well, what were you doing in the last eight years or so?' Well, I don't really know what I've been doing … living my life, taking care of my kids," she says.
Today, Lennox is a pop diva. But gone are the peculiar chameleon-like appearances and rock star trappings. The singer once known for her wild, androgynous looks has stripped away her many masks.
Songs like "Pavement Cracks," the first single from Bare, speak of her journey as an artist and a woman.
"I'm 48, which in a lot of women's terms is not particularly young. It's also not very ancient, either," she says.
"I know I have to accept the process of age like everybody. And if I can still make music and be of some value, then that's a fantastic thing to do." In the age of Britney and Christina, in a time when many are obsessed with the physical, Lennox comes unadorned, singing songs about the painful realities of life — an artist and music with a beauty all their own.