Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Sweet Dreams Are Made of This [RCA Victor, 1983] B
  • Touch [RCA Victor, 1984] B
  • Be Yourself Tonight [RCA Victor, 1985] B+
  • Revenge [RCA Victor, 1986] B+
  • Savage [RCA Victor, 1987] B+
  • We Too Are One [Arista, 1989] C+
  • Greatest Hits [Arista, 1991] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This [RCA Victor, 1983]
In theory, synth duos have always been okey-doke with me, especially when the resulting pop is as starkly hooky as what Dave Stewart comes up with here. And you might say Annie Lennox has a bono vox. But like so many with comparable gifts, both these people are fools, and pretentious fools at that. Remember, folks--when they tell you everybody's out to use or get used, make certain you go along for the ride you paid for. B

Touch [RCA Victor, 1984]
Physical gifts and technical accomplishments tempt a singer to overdramatize--Annie Lennox makes altogether too big a deal of punching the sofa. But even if she isn't, well, "cooler than ice cream" (really), I'm glad she's normal enough to want to be. If it's high-grade schlock you seek, this'll do as well as early Quarterflash. And Lennox has better hair. B

Be Yourself Tonight [RCA Victor, 1985]
New wave's answer to Shirley Bassey is finally connecting with those of us who won't settle for voice-plus-hooks not because she shows signs of having a soul, but because she shows signs of having a brain. Of course, the two go together--her lush, brassy emotionalism is more coherent partly because it's grounded, less taken with alienation as a way of life. Dave Stewart's guitar doesn't hurt either. And neither do Aretha, Stevie, or Elvis. B+

Revenge [RCA Victor, 1986]
Annie Lennox's rich, lustrous range and diction threaten to overwhelm these stripped-down arrangements, bringing such odious Annies as Haslam and Wilson to mind. But while you'd never call her enthusiasm natural, it's not forced or foolish either--this is rock and roll as sheer performance, its basics paraded with pride and a glint of humor. If only it was all side-openers like "Missionary Man," recommended to Pat Robertson, and the V-8 airmobile "Let's Go." B+

Savage [RCA Victor, 1987]
Beethoven-lover as Neiman-Marcus girl, trans-Asiatic jilt, real live pseudoferal yowl announcing the cock-crazy "I Need a Man," synthesized pseudorathskeller clink-and-chatter punctuating the sarcasm-crazy "I Need You"--this record peaks so high that I tried to ignore all the in-between. It's there, though--medium tempo romantic-as-in-movement pseudoschlock, edgier than their worst but not so's it cuts much ice. B+

We Too Are One [Arista, 1989]
"A bold new beginning," proclaims the sticker, and given their late-'80s sales it had better be, so essentially they go pop--rather than "ironic" new-wave metapop, a distinction that escaped every Tom Petty type who made Dave Stewart his new-waver of choice. Despite a few fabulous Elvis similes, this bold stroke is sorely lacking in je-ne-sais-quoi. Bet that within three years Annie lets her hair grow out and stops wearing makeup--makeup visible to the naked eye, anyway. C+

Greatest Hits [Arista, 1991]
The approximate chronology follows the rough arc of their career, for it was only after establishing "Sweet Dreams" and its follow-ups that Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox dared reveal what a grand hoot they thought pop was. The fabulous disco-rock overstatement of the mid-'80s ensued, climaxing with the 1987 Stones piss-take "I Need a Man." Thereafter they can conceal neither how much they hate each other nor how much they prefer hits to hoots. "I believe in you," Annie intones richly and perfectly on the finale, "Like Elvis Presley singing live from Las Vegas." A-