November 9th, 2010

Scary Annie

Idol Comfort

What do we do when our idols disappoint us so deeply?

In 1983, Eurythmics released "Sweet Dreams,” the song went No. 1 worldwide, and I had a favorite artist for the next three decades: Annie Lennox. (You all know this, right?)

On November 18, Annie releases A Christmas Cornucopia, an album of traditional music and an original song as well. When I first learned of this a few months ago, I was ecstatic! Her Facebook page gave little bits of info weekly, including clips of the recording sessions. The material sounded terrific, what little was given. This morning, when the video for the album's single, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," was released, I was ready and clicked the link to watch. I turned it off at about the two minute mark. It had nothing to do with the video.

First of all, Annie opens the song singing, "Oh, tidings of comfort and joy... comfort and joy... oh tidings of comfort and joy." There is a right way and a wrong way to sing the first and third "comfort" in this chorus. Because the second syllable is a sustained note, it should be pronounced as the word "fort." Singing "fert" overtly is considered ugly and crass. Any classically trained vocalist or instructor can verify this. Only during the second use of the word is it permissible to use the standard "comfert" pronunciation, as neither syllable is sustained. Well, here goes Annie, singing away repeatedly about tidings of "comfert and joy." It's enough to make Baby Jesus cry on his birthday.

But you know what? I forgave her. I did! I was really annoyed about it as I continued to watch the stylized video, but I forgave this oversight. Perhaps she had forgotten, and her collaborators hadn’t felt comfertable correcting her on it. And no other popular artists ever seem to remember not to sing "comfert" anyway, so what's the big? I'll get over it.


There is something I just can't get over, something I cannot forgive: the Auto-Tune that conspicuously kicks in on the second verse. Not my Annie. No. It's incomprehensible and inexcusable. It just is.

What do we do when our idols disappoint us so deeply? We cancel our pre-orders for their upcoming albums. We fret, fearful that we were wrong all those years. We feel an odd sense of loss. And we become overly dramatic, as I have done here. It's not like a champion of human rights was caught sexually harassing his female assistant. It's not as if a great scientist was exposed as a fraud or a thief of theories and ideas. It's more like a sports figure who used steroids to further his career. But in this case, the only ones who will "catch" Annie doing something wrong are some irrelevant critics, or her longtime admirers like myself. Most will forgive her. Some will doubtless consider it a creative decision and go with it, just thankful to have new music from her. Others will embrace this as a mature artist keeping up with the times. A few like me will reject this new work completely, as I have thus far. Is that the right decision? Even I'm not comfortable answering that right now.