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Neneh Cherry's 'Broken Politics' Has Great Strength In Its Understated Music

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Musician Neneh Cherry is the stepdaughter of late jazz trumpeter Don Cherry. In the 1980s, she sang in punk rock bands, then started rapping. And with her solo album "Raw Like Sushi," she became an international pop star.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BUFFALO STANCE")

NENEH CHERRY: (Singing) Who's looking good today? Who's looking good in every way?

CHANG: That was her big hit "Buffalo Stance." Now, close to 30 years later, her work is more introspective. This song is called "Fallen Leaves."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FALLEN LEAVES")

CHERRY: (Singing) Keep it under wraps then. Keep it sealed and safe. Things we left unsaid, well, they become a roar. Push my buttons best. Unraveled at the seams, I have come undone in the fabric of our dreams. Cover them...

CHANG: Neneh Cherry's new album is called "Broken Politics." Critic Will Hermes hears great strength in its understated music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FALLEN LEAVES")

CHERRY: (Singing) I guess we're like strangers. I don't even know.

WILL HERMES, BYLINE: Even when she's singing, Neneh Cherry seems to think like a rapper. Her lyrics are assertive, unafraid, free associating. And there's always power in her flow.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SYNCHRONISED DEVOTION")

CHERRY: (Singing) What it was then, make it now. Bring it over, throwback. Bring it on. Got my knickers in a twist, broke some glass, broken politics. Try to bring it on. It's my politics living in the slow jam, everything low, rain slow.

HERMES: Neneh Cherry made "Broken Politics" with English electronic producer Four Tet known for pairing acoustic instruments with muscular beats. And it's a perfect match for her message. A good example is "Black Monday," a song about a woman's right to choose.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLACK MONDAY")

CHERRY: (Singing) Isn't that my right, when to breathe to my own guilt? It's so hard anyway as it is. Joker's wild, laughing back, but I have to stay. Cut you loose. Cut you up. Cut me free. Cut me up. I want to choose my own day. Let me go. Call me now, black Monday.

HERMES: Neneh Cherry has lived all over the world. She's currently based in Sweden. So it's not surprising the new album has a global perspective. I appreciate that and how it never shouts to make a point. It's always chilled out and reflective, and that strikes me as a powerful argument in itself.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KONG")

CHERRY: (Singing) Got to step out a limb, swallow my pride, surrender, not give myself away. Little measures all the time...

CHANG: Nana Cherry's "Broken Politics" is on the Swedish Smalltown Supersound label. Our critic Will Hermes is the author of "Love Goes To Buildings On Fire: Five Years In New York That Changed Music Forever." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.