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Music Videos
by Cary O'Dell

“Beethoven” by Eurythmics (1987)

Since the moment Annie Lennox burst onto the world music scene with her and partner Dave Stewart with their massive debut single, “Sweet Dreams” (1983), we have known that Lennox has had the grand charisma to almost evenly match her grand vocal talent.  Since then, in her long career, both as part of Eurhythmics and as a solo artist, Lennox has inhabited a stunning assortment of identities and presented a fascinating number of style reinventions (which she showcased in total in her 1992 “Little Bird” video), and which, for whatever reason, she has never been as celebrated for as compatriot Madonna has.

Lennox arguably reached her zenith in this area in 1987 with the trio of characters she created for the three singles/videos from Eurhythmics sixth studio album, “Savage.”

Two of the identities are present in the first of the trinity of videos, for the song “Beethoven.”
At the start of the video, there is a short non-musical, spoken-word intro that introduces us to this first character--a nervous, jittery housewife (Lennox) attired in a drab wardrobe (all browns and muted tones).  She is uptight but, you can tell, borderline manic, madly knitting away, clicking her sharp needles, hoping that by intertwining these pieces of yarn she will, by extensive, also be kept from coming loose.  She glances fleetingly at the camera as she says:

Some women think that they don’t count.  You have used that weapon against me.  Did  I tell you I was lying, by the way, when I said I wanted a new mink coat?  I was just thinking about something sleek to wrap around my tender throat.  I was dreaming like a Texan girl.  A girl that thinks she’s got the right to everything.  A girl that thinks she should have something extreme.

In the camera’s next shot, we are outside of the woman’s apartment and climbing the steep spiral staircase up to her flat.  The bannisters of the stairs suggest prison bars as the cameras quickly glides by them.  As we move, rather than being “loosened” ourselves, we are, instead, being wound up, spooled, tighter and tighter, until we are as densely coiled as Lennox’s inside house frau. 

Next, tight, fast close-ups of Lennox’s anxious woman and the woman’s antiseptic, ‘70’s era apartment, jut in front of us creating a sense of claustrophobia, confusion and unease.  As the woman dashes hurriedly from room to room taking on one dull household task after another (folding, scrubbing, scrubbing, folding!), the woman exhibits classic OCD behaviors. 

But, more commonly, in her lion-stalking-her-cage motions, she also illustrates the plight of a million one-time (still?) repressed housewives who, from “The Yellow Wallpaper” though “The Feminine Mystique,” have found the endless, constant work of hearth and home everything from boring to demeaning to downright maddening. 

Certainly Lennox in the video, in this personage, with her darting eyes and skittish movements, conveys this latter feeling, as does the song’s metronome-like rhythms and highly-repetitive lyrics. 

But along with being possibly OCD, the video suggests that this women also suffers from
multiple personality disorder.  Other aspects of her personality, dying to be free and exposed, are being given life here, in this woman’s apartment, or at least her imagination.  The first “other” is a very young blond girl playing dress-up in the mirror.  She is  the woman’s “Bad Seed” alter next seen demolishing the woman’s well-kept furnishings and inciting disorder—doing what Lennox’s oppressed housewife secretly seems to want to do.  The little girl is one of several “ghosts” that populate this apartment over the course of this video.

Finally, another—and perhaps ultimate--personality arrives.  The housewife remakes herself into a desperate vamp.  In her extreme make-up, platinum blond wig, skin-tight, cleavage-bearing dress and black fishnets, Lennox’s new personage is an almost violent send up time-honored--and time-worn--clichés about alleged female attraction.  Instead of reverting the “male gaze,” she seems to challenge it to look even deeper and closer and take responsibility for itself.

In this guise, Lennox moves about the apartment in a wild and almost drunken state, and she continues smashing up the once pristine (read:  controlled) apartment.  With the apartment finally destroyed, the four walls of the flat are, it seems, completely unable to contain this final woman and she flees.  Next, she is seen outdoors—taking to the street? taking back the street?—a mix of vulgarity and pride strutting down an empty urban landscape.

The housewife—or at least some part of her—has finally gotten free.

In the video from the group after “Beethoven,” for their next single, “I Need a Man,” Lennox would re-inhabit the vamp persona where her physicality as this character, stunningly, reminds one of future Brit songstress Amy Winehouse.

In the final video of this trilogy, “You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart,” Lennox brings both these personas back again.  She also introduces a third guise—one free of artifice and societal roles (in short, simply herself).  This final incarnation is depicted as a pale and battle-scarred survivor, no doubt of the gender wars.

This trio of videos was directed by Sophie Muller who would go on to have a long video partnership with Lennox and also direct, notably, the video for “Stay” by Shakespeare’s Sister.

 

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