Christian & Pagan
by Kiko Matsing
A Christmas Cornucopia
Most artists treat Christmas albums as toss-offs; something to get into the marketplace and have on the shelf when punters come in and snap up the holiday offerings. There is usually little forethought, production and arrangements are entrusted to studio stalwarts who paint by numbers. Annie Lennox doesn’t fit this mold remotely. She considered a Christmas Cornucopia with all the intuitive care and devotion her other studio albums reflect.
Textures and atmospheres are the name of the game in these interpretations, and they’re employed in unusual ways: note the Middle Eastern rhythms and modalities on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” that collide — albeit harmoniously — with Celtic pipe, flute, and accordion sounds.
I love Annie Lennox’s very unusual take on the Christmas album. It’s a strange mix of the Christian and pagan. In the use of Art Nouveau–the style of European decadence. In the masked revelers of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” marching to a heady mix of oriental and druidic beats. And in the glacial androgyny of Annie Lennox herself.
Cornucopia itself is a pagan symbol–an overabundance of Nature that Christians (and left-wing environmentalists) strive to restrain through an ethic of abstemiousness.
It is pregnant Nature bursting at the seams.