2007: Arista/Sony/BMG 88697157432
When I first heard Dark Road, a bit ahead of its release as a video or single and well ahead of that of Songs of Mass Destruction, I wasnt especially taken with it. It takes its sweet time sounding like anything unique or distinct from Lennoxs solo catalogue or even general singer-songwriter-complainant stuff. And its bridge comes almost out of nowhere, as far as the song goes.
The video recast everything superbly and turned it into a track strong enough to stand on its own once the videos messages and themes were stated, anyway. I realize that seems contradictory, that the song needed the video but stands on its own, but really its not: its just a question of knowing its language, and the video makes it quite clear.
The songs lyrics read and sound classic Lennox (I cant quite use the word typical instead of classic, because she has so many facets that even the chameleonic one cant be considered representative), and on one level certainly they are the lament of one who wants to have hope and see the good in the world but struggles mightily with the overbearing frustration and disappointment the world also supplies in crushing superabundance. Which is of course not new territory, considering how much of Bare alone is cut from that same tree.
What is new is a kind of looking outward rather than inward. Ive got an open road; it didnt get there by itself was on its own a challenging and fascinating line, but when seen in the language of the video it becomes breathtakingly confrontational and for a change the confronted isnt a failed love or herself.
It took me a handful of watchings of the video to be reasonably sure of what message(s) Lennox was conveying, but there was no mistaking the dangerously assertive use of the U.S. flaga Brit just does not utilize that without making a point, and to do so as Lennox does in this songs video (which by the way is available on the Enhanced Edition of Songs of Mass Destruction) is pretty ballsy indeed.
In the video, Lennox appears as a sort of low-budget Wonder Woman (or one no longer glorious) in (in her words) a rather sad little costume, looking quite at sea in a country that she cant represent anymore or even find her place in. Her explosion of frustration with being so lost and with the absence of her souls focus is where the bridge blows the song wide open:
I cant find the joy within my soul
Its just sadness takin hold
I wanna come in from the cold
and make myself renewed again
It takes strength to live this way
the same old madness every day
I wanna kick these blues away
I wanna learn to live again
And when she sang that last line, eyes tightly shut in concentrated frustration, arms up, hands pressing against her headand she suddenly flung her arms wide open and threw her head back to look up to the sky, and the video cut to a full-screen waving U.S. flag, I actually gasped at the audacity of such a gauntlet being thrown down to the U.S. to get itself back on track as a great nation and a positive world player instead of a despotic sociopath harming friend and foe alike. I got goosebumps and chills at that moment. I still do.
Ironically Dark Road works better as a single than it does as part of Songs of Mass Destruction, where its a torch-bearers cry of frustration followed by a lot of fun and fury that has little in common with it (aside from Lennoxs voice, which is in magnificent form overall).
The Acoustic Version here shouldnt be mistaken for an unplugged one, because although its built on a stripped-down instrumental base it still features Lennox in multi-track vocals on the bridge. The arrangements good and makes a nice alternate version to encourage reconsideration of the song.
Comments © 2007 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.