On Friday, Lenny Kravitz released Raise Vibration, his eleventh album. You’re forgiven if you didn’t notice. As the review in Rolling Stone declared, “Lenny Kravitz lends his voice to the resistance” on Raise Vibration, which is a nice way of saying, Please, for the love of god, ignore this album. On the record’s most overt political anthem, the earnest piano ballad “Here To Love,” Lenny opines that “with peace in sight no walls could separate us / we would be as one because this earth’s our home.” If that reads as mawkish in print, imagine what it sounds like — exactly like a non-satirical version of Aldous Snow, that’s what.
Nevertheless, I eagerly sought out Raise Vibration because I wanted to confirm an idea that I’ve long had about Lenny Kravitz’s career. It’s called the “Three Beats 80” theory and it goes like this:
Lenny Kravitz has three great songs: “Always On The Run,” “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over,” and “Are You Gonna Go My Way.” I could listen to those tracks all day long. They are perfect ear candy — unrepentantly retro rock and soul that stops just short of being blatantly derivative of any specific song or artist. In each instance, Kravitz was able to create a fully realized homage to the greatest classic-rock station in the world, co-mingling the power of Zeppelin and Hendrix with the velvety swing of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.
Lenny Kravitz also has 80 bad songs. “Fly Away” might be the worst song ever written. (“I wish that I could fly / Into the sky / So very high / Just like a dragonfly.” So, you want to fly… like a dragonfly? GTFO.) And his interminable, bombastic cover of “American Woman” almost certainly had a special place of honor on the jukebox at Abu Ghraib. I could go on for (at least) another 78 tracks, but you get the idea.
However, in defiance of simple math, I generally like Lenny Kravitz because of those three great songs. For whatever reason, I care about those tunes more than the mountain of garbage Lenny has also created. In this specific instance, three beats 80.