A Swedish singer, rapper and true 80s icon drops into Edinburgh for a rare visit, we Cherry-pick some key moments from the career of Neneh
As one of the most diverse and musically radical pop artists around, Neneh Cherry has been leading the pack and innovating for over three decades. Across her career, which includes five solo records, multiple collaborations and notable accolades along the way, the Swedish singer and rapper has taken on genres from jazz and rock to funk and techno, with her repertoire continuing to inspire new generations of musicians. Cherry is set to make her International Festival debut this August and what better way to celebrate than by taking a journey through some of her finest moments?
As one of Cherry's most successful hits to date, 'Buffalo Stance' was a highlight of her 1989 debut album Raw Like Sushi, peaking at number three on the UK Singles Chart. An early version of the track appeared as the b-side to 1987 single 'Looking Good Diving' by duo Morgan-McVey, which featured Cherry's future husband and producer Cameron McVey. Cherry performed the song live on Top of the Pops while seven months pregnant, raising some controversy among the tabloids who branded it 'unsafe'. Supposedly, when questioned by a reporter about the safety of her performance, she answered 'it's not an illness!'
Having begun her musical journey in the world of punk rock, Cherry was briefly a member of feminist post-punk group The Slits, providing backing vocals on some tracks including 'In the Beginning There Was Rhythm'. This experience was undoubtedly hugely influential on her future as a songwriter and performer, with a defiant and subversive attitude remaining a firm fixture in all her music. Cherry was also a member of avant-funk post-punk band Rip Rig + Panic, which included members of Bristol collective The Pop Group. As lead vocalist, she added her soulful style to their free jazz and reggae roots, with their debut album God receiving high praise from publications like the NME.
Slow Train to Dawn
While Cherry's many collaborations with acts like The Thing, Massive Attack, Youssou N'Dour and Four Tet have resulted in some of her finest work, her duet with Matt Johnson for The The's 'Slow Train to Dawn' is potentially one of the most interesting. A release from the band's 1986 album Infected, the electrifying song tracks the psychological effects of a relationship, with hints to infidelity, power and objectification in the lyrics, emphasised further in the music video, which shows Cherry tied to a railway line while Johnson anxiously pilots a train towards her.
Released in 2018, Cherry's fifth solo album Broken Politics has her taking a more reflective approach, with the 12-track record channeling her frustrations at the state of the world and the nature of our tumultuous political climate. As with previous album Blank Project from 2014, Broken Politics was produced by Four Tet, whose subtle touches of electronic chimes and samples help create a beguiling atmosphere. Lead single 'Kong' touches on her thoughts on Europe's refugee crisis and the effects of colonialism, with the minimalist backdrop adding weight to the song's function as a protest song. Cherry has forever been revolutionary as far as her art goes, examining issues as wide-ranging as abortion, gun violence and the rise of the far right in her own compositions. With Broken Politics taking her in a fresh direction musically, Cherry remains as forward-thinking and energised as ever.
Neneh Cherry, Leith Theatre, Edinburgh, 10 Aug, 8pm, £30.
The Swedish singer, rapper and audacious 80s icon Neneh Cherry makes her International Festival debut to perform songs from her three-decade career. Her classic debut album Raw Like Sushi fused elements from rap, pop, trip-hop, dance and R&B with remixed synths and woozy drum machines. Its lead single ‘Buffalo Stance…