Artist Spotlight: Neneh Cherry
by Philip Sherburne | February 25, 2014
Putting together a coherent survey of Neneh Cherry's entire career isn't easy, if only because she's done, well, a little bit of everything. In her early years, she was a fixture in London's dub-obsessed post-punk underground, playing in the On-U Sound bands Rip Rig & Panic and New Age Steppers and singing backup in the Slits. In 1988, she reached pop superstardom with her single "Buffalo Stance," a fusion of acid house and hip-hop that sounds as singular today as it did then. In the '90s, she recorded two more albums that built upon the hybrid pop template she established on 1988's Raw Like Sushi, and the following decade, her group cirKus (with her husband, Cameron McVey) pushed her idiosyncratic pop into more electronic territory. But she also made a lot of more unexpected moves along the way, like collaborations with Michael Stipe, Yossou N'Dour, Peter Gabriel, Live's Edward Kowalczyk and Gorillaz; she even teamed up with Cher, Chrissie Hynde and Eric Clapton on a 1995 cover of the Judds' "Love Can Build a Bridge." Contrast that trio of names with Mats Gustafsson, Paal Nilssen-Love and Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, the three Scandinavian jazz giants (aka The Thing) with whom she recorded 2012's The Cherry Thing, a set of unlikely covers of songs by Suicide, The Stooges and Cherry's own stepfather, Don Cherry.
With her latest record, Blank Project, Cherry proves her versatility yet again. Working with the synths-and-drums duo RocketNumberNine and with Four Tet in the producer's chair, she has come up with a compelling fusion of atmospheric funk and striking lyricism that sounds, once again, unlike anything else. Since her career resists linear narratives, we've thrown chronological order out the window in our two-hour playlist of her work. From '90s alt rock to '10s dance music to an unusual "Sweet Child of Mine," there's a little bit of everything. Clearly, striking a "buffalo stance" never met standing still for long.