Anyone who’s been in the same room as a radio in the past 20 years knows how awesome Neneh Cherry is. Her 1989 album, Raw Like Sushi, featuring the smash “Buffalo Stance,” not only made Cherry an international paragon of cool, it influenced a whole generation of artists to make pop music that blended the sensibilities of hip- hop, club culture, and outré street fashion. Now Cherry’s releasing Blank Project, a woozy set of electronica featuring sputtering beats, a duet with Robyn, and, of course, Cherry’s exceptional voice, still wonderfully melodic and tough as hell.
Out: Blank Project is your first proper solo album in 17 years. Was there ever a point when you thought you’d never make another record?
Neneh Cherry: Never. It was more like, I’ve got to make the record, but how am I gonna do it? I was always writing songs, but something was missing. Sometimes you have something to say, but finding the time and place to execute it can be really hard. Things get in the way, you know? For example, I seemed to always get pregnant when I was making an album.
The new record was, in some ways, inspired by the passing of your mother, artist Moki Cherry. Was that part of the impetus to finish it?
My mother died four years ago, and I’d been writing things and kind of hiding them away. At some point it was like I could feel her tapping me on my shoulder and telling me to get on with things. It was like removing the shackles. I got out a little Casio keyboard and sat on my bed and started making things again. And I can honestly say I feel more connected to this record than to anything I’ve ever done.
People will forever associate you with “Buffalo Stance,” which came out 25 years ago. How do you feel about that song when you hear it now?
I’m very proud it happened, and I had no idea how much it would change my life. I can still perform those old songs and make them feel new, but I’d never try to recreate that sound, nor could I. The songs become like your children in some ways. You carry them with you everywhere. I’ve got them in my handbag right now.
Listen to Neneh Cherry's collaboration with Robyn, "Out of the Black" below: