Looking back over the course of Deborah Harry’s career, both as a frontwoman for Blondie and as a solo artist (beginning with 1981’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards-produced KooKoo), it can be said that diversity has always played a key role in Harry’s stylistic approach.
Necessary Evil, her sixth solo album, is no exception, though this time around, the sound is reminiscent of her early Blondie period with its more rock-oriented feel and offbeat lyrical tone.
As Harry says, “I really wanted to do something that was a bit more simplistic with more of an edge to it.”
According to Harry, it was a project she undertook for the sheer love of it.
“I had ideas, and I had time, and I had found these wonderful people to work with,” relates Harry, “and every time that I would come off the road with Blondie, I would call them up, say ‘Look, I have an idea for something,’ and we would get together. Over about a year and a half, I just sort of built up this pile of songs so I wasn’t driven by a concept or had a deadline or even a record deal. I just was doing it because I really was enjoying it.”
Harry, who describes songwriting as an ever-shifting process (“Sometimes I’ll really have an exact idea that just sort of comes to me, and other times I’ll have to work it out like a puzzle, just a variety of experiences. It’s not only just one thing”), embraces lyrical themes on Necessary Evil that encompass tabloid journalism (“School For Scandal”) and the reflections of a female suicide bomber (“Paradise”). Still, Harry sees a unifying element in her new songs.
“Most of pop music is about relationships, about love or sex or finding some kind of romantic connections,” she states, “so I guess most of (my new) songs are about finding love or understanding love or the importance of love. So that’s the primary factor.”
Musically, the songs run the gamut from Blondie-style pop rock (“Two Times Blue”), dance floor rhythms with a definite rock edge (“You’re Too Hot” which recalls the cartoonish lunacy of Blondie’s early material) and hypnotic balladry (“What Is Love,” and “Needless To Say”).
Given that Harry has actively resisted being locked into any particular musical formula, it would seem logical that she’s less bound by the weight of her fans’ expectations than other artists who don’t take many risks.
“I think that’s true,” Harry affirms, “just doing something that’s not under the Blondie banner gave me a little bit more freedom of choice. I don’t really feel inhibited about being experimental. I don’t even necessarily feel that this album is totally experimental. I could definitely see myself going further,” even if doing so distances her even more from mainstream tastes. But, she acknowledges that she would love it if she had another hit.
“After all these years, it would be great. I mean, it would be the icing on the cake,” Harry adds, “Ultimately I’ve always sort of done something that I felt was commercial but yet a little bit groundbreaking and a little bit edgy. So, sometimes it’s been accepted as being commercial, and sometimes it hasn’t.”
Harry, who takes a pragmatic view of the whole issue — “I mean if you’re going to be in the business world you have to sort of have an eye to being commercial” — notes, “People are much more sophisticated now about what they listen to, I think. There’s so much to offer. There’s so much available to listeners. It’s just a great time for musi