For me, sometimes the measure of a really great song is if I feel that it belongs in a film when the ending credits roll (for more on that idea, see my January 12, 2020 post on “Sultans of Swing”). You know; it’s that moment you realize the movie is ending, but you want it to keep going… like so many things in life.
When the synth-pop/new wave duo the Eurythmics burst onto the music scene in 1980, I took a passing interest in them. However, when Annie Lennox released her solo debut album, Diva, in 1992, I was hooked, immediately. I think the album is very solid, except for one of its singles, “Walking on Broken Glass,” which I quite honestly skip past as soon as I hear the opening electric piano notes, and I usually give “Keep Young and Beautiful” a pass as well, though I did listen to it today. The latter is cleverly done in the sense that it is recorded with a vocal effect and a scratchy-record sound to make it fit the Ragtime style it mimics, but it’s not a song I’d choose to listen to regularly.
If making a playlist of just that album, I’d drop those two songs as I believe the remainder of the tracks weave together beautifully like a story. (Many friends will know I’ve said the same about Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, an album I quite disliked until I listened to it a few times and dislike turned to love; and no tracks need to be trimmed.)
At the heart of Diva, I feel there’s an overall theme of love; I mean, deepest soul love, the kind that conjures up the notion of old souls across time. I get a real sense of the primordial that builds in the album and reaches its peak as we get to two tracks: “Primitive,” and then “Stay by Me.” But then this cord is broken in the second-last track, “The Gift.” It’s still a very beautiful song, but like the opening track, “Why,” tells a very different tale; one of a love that has changed drastically, is filled with conflict or is ending.
“The Gift” ties together with “Stay by Me” in the shared imagery of rain that appears so strongly in the latter (“We were standing in a thundercloud / Dark as your hair”). The official video for “The Gift” features Lennox in the same, bright almost tribal-looking headdress and garb as she appears in on the album cover which again feed that sense of the ancient. (On a related note, when the album was playing this morning, our cat, Perry Como, was racing around the house more than his usual very active self; so, perhaps it was stirring up some ancient instincts in him!)
“Stay by Me” is the strongest song on the album. Its electronic instrumentation and Lennox’s vocals take the listener on a lush, soulful, erotic journey right from the opening bars and then first lyrics:
“Stay by me and make the moment last
Please take these lips even if I have been kissed
A million times
And I don’t care if there is no tomorrow
I could die here in your arms
Even if the stars have made us blind
We’re blind… we’re blind
So blind in love”
(from “Stay by Me,” by Annie Lennox)
Musically, there’s a beautiful flute line that comes visits a couple of times, and a high, sometimes quavering synthesizer treatment that starts at 4:02 and though not powerful, it is like a guidepost that carries the song through to the end of the second verse, as the song transitions and begins the journey to the long ending…. It’s like a favourite movie we don’t want to end. It invites the listener to really lean in and feel the deep love.
The song is so beautifully composed, arranged, played and sung.
“Stay by Me” is a song my sweety and I have enjoyed together for many years, and we included it on a CD mix we gave out at our wedding. When it plays, we often stop what we’re doing for a “kitchen dance.” (Another song you’ll see here sometime is one that began our stop-what-you’re-doing-and-dance tradition early in our relationship.)
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Please enjoy.
Here’s the song, from Annie Lennox’s official Youtube channel: