Annie Lennox, Songs of Mass Destruction

Annie Lennox: Smoother than double-churned ice cream.

Those looking to steer clear of political agendas need not be wary of Songs of Mass Destruction; Annie Lennox saves her screeds for the liner notes so they don't disrupt her fourth solo album's delicate beauty. Songs showcases a confident Lennox, creating a near-perfect project that maintains the ambition brought forth on 1992's Diva, while reaching heights 2003's Bare just missed. Longtime fans will appreciate the switch to producer Glen Ballard, who gracefully harnesses Lennox's powerhouse vocals while ­leaving her the control she clearly warrants. While the bad-ass, accordion-clad "Ghost in My Machine" gets away with sliding in a few struggles of the weaker sex, songs like "Womankind" (featuring an innocuous rap by Nadirah X) or "Sing," with its misused choir of distinguished female voices (Bonnie Raitt, Gladys Knight, Sarah McLachlan and, er, Fergie, to name a few), are so littered with "girl power" that fans might fear they're gearing up for the Spice Girls reunion. That said, whether soulfully gliding through ballads like "Fingernail Moon" with a voice as smooth as double churned ice cream, or showcasing her deeper register when strong-arming her way through the remarkably arranged "Smithereens," Lennox simply rocks.

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