Neneh Cherry


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Raw Like Sushi, 6.5/10
Homebrew, 5/10
Man, 5/10
Blank Project (2014), 5/10
Broken Politics (2018), 5/10
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Neneh Cherry (figlia di un'artista svedese e un percussionista africano, e figliastra di Don Cherry) si fece le ossa nei Rip Rig & Panic e nei Float Up prima di essere trasformata nel 1989 in diva da discoteca da Bomb The Bass con il singolo Buffalo Stance. La gioviale esuberanza era autentica, il sex appeal forse studiato a tavolino, ma il risultato fu Raw Like Sushi (Virgin, 1988), una delle poche novita` nel mondo dell'hip hop di fine decennio. E in effetti Cherry riusciva meglio nei panni dell'erotomane alla Madonna ((So Here I Come, Outre Risque` Locomotive, Kisses On The Wind). Le musiche, al limite del nascente trip hop, sono pero` merito del produttore, Cameron McVey, proveniente dallo stesso milieu di Soul II Soul, Portishead, Massive Attack.

Passano tre anni prima che Cherry, sposatasi (con McVey) e diventata mamma, pubblichi il successivo Homebrew (Virgin, 1992). Cherry, accompagnata da ospiti d'onore hip-hop e rock, vi mette in luce la personalita` matura di un'interprete che sa essere al tempo stesso "pop singer" e rapper (Sassy, Buddy X). Riesce meglio come "pop singer", soprattutto quando il ruolo di protagonista le viene rubato dalla chitarra elettrica (Money Love e Trout, che usa il riff di Pusher degli Steppenwolf).

Neneh Cherry became a pop star in Europe with Seven Seconds (1994), a duet with African sensation Youssou N'Dour. Consequently, Man (Virgin, 1996) is the album of a pop-soul singer in the tradition of Celine Dion and Mariah Carey. And, as customary with this kind of pop stars, the best tracks are covers. The rest are slow, atmospheric ballads, that never fail winning the wealthiest audience, as any second-rate Las Vegas chanteuse well knows.

Back in Sweden, Cherry collaborated with the Thing i.e. the free-jazz trio of Mats Gustafsson (sax), Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (double bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), for The Cherry Thing (2012), her first album in 16 years. Helped by a terrific and eclectic choice of covers, that include Suicide's Dream Baby Dream, Martina Topley-Bird's Too Tough to Die (of Tricky fame), Madvillain's Accordion, Ornette Coleman's What a Reason, Don Cherry's Golden Heart and the Stooges' Dirt, she can display her vocal skills like rarely before.

Blank Project (2014) would be her first "solo" album in 18 years, except that it is not clear what Neneh Cherry actually did on it, other than singing: produced by Keiren Hebden of Four Tet, arranged by synth-and-drums duo RocketNumberNine (brothers Ben and Tom Page), and cowritten with her husband, producer Cameron McVey. The overall mood is sedated, with Spit Three Times sounding almost lively by comparison. The stark electronic glitch-jazz-pop 422 is emblematic of how cold and distant the atmosphere is, for the most part. Out of the Black is a childish duet with Robyn that feels completely out of context.

Broken Politics (Smalltown Supersound, 2018), again produced by Four Tet, continues to exhibit her chosen persona of sophisticated intellectual through carefully architected low-energy songs. Hebden crafts the claustrophobic sound of Natural Skin Deep with a squealing synth and steel drums. A hammered dulcimer fuels the syncopated dance of Fallen Leaves, and flutes hover around Slow Release like flies. The hip-hop shuffly Shot Gun Shack (also one of the most elegant melodies) is embellished by a break of watery percussion. The suspense of Black Monday is sculpted by a combination of xylophone, strings and triangle. These delicate sonic touches keep the album alive, but there's little emotion to be found. On the other hand, a sense of intimacy pervades the feeble silky Kong (given a dub make-up by Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack) and the delicate Synchronised Devotion (which is also a duet between piano and Karl Berger's vibraphone).

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