*** ANNIE LENNOX; "Diva" Arista

Pain . . . suffering . . . cynicism.

By-products of romantic disappointment that should be avoided? Not if you're Annie Lennox.

No female pop-rock singer explores gloomy, biting torch songs better than Lennox, who's been dubbed the Downer Diva. Even songs accompanied by cheery, bouncy music have morose messages, such as the striking "Walking on Broken Glass," the highlight of this solo debut album and one of the best tunes she's ever had. But there's also a sense of freedom and expansiveness through most of the album, both in the songs (most of which she wrote or co-wrote) and in her interpretations--a freedom that has been missing in Lennox's work since the early days of Eurythmics.

"Diva" is stinging and well-crafted, mostly featuring songs that are slow or medium-tempo. There's no rocker of the intensity of her terrific oldie "Would I Lie to You?"--but "Little Bird" is close. Lennox does, however, exhibit some humor. She proudly parades it on the closing tune, the tongue-in-cheek "Keep Young and Beautiful," a perky bit of fluff from the '30s movie musical "Roman Scandals."

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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