If you were to ask Lenny Kravitz whether he's a glass-is-half-full or half-empty kind of guy, there's no doubt he would readily admit to being an unflappable optimist. He's released singles with titles like "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over," "Fields of Joy," "Fly Away" and "Believe in Me." His first album was called Let Love Rule, and his upcoming effort, due February 5, is titled It Is Time for a Love Revolution. It's obvious that there's a little hippie in the rocker.
"I guess I'm just a little naive that way," Kravitz said with a laugh during a recent interview while at a farm in Brazil. "People always accuse me of being motivational in a way, like it was a bad thing, but that's just how I was raised. My mom raised me in a positive environment, with lots of love in my heart, and that reflects in my music."
It's hard to believe, but Kravitz is quietly nearing the two-decade mark in a career of making songs bequeathed with such positivity. Love Revolution, his eighth studio album, will come nearly 19 years after the release of his debut. He has outlasted a lot in pop and rock music in that time — grunge, boy bands, bling-era hip-hop, Britney, et al. — and done it with a devastating consistency as a commercially mega-successful musician.
A preview of Love Revolution offered to MTV News reflected more of the same style of music that has fueled Kravitz's career: classic-rock guitar riffs, a big funk rhythm section and ambitious stadium-size hooks, all cut with an eye on the modern pop form. It's a safe formula, but one that works for Kravitz — and certainly worked out well.
Asked about his track record in registering albums that go gold or platinum, and singles that always seem to find their way into movies and commercials, Kravitz offered up a simple formula. "I always try to keep the circumstances in my life fresh," he explained. "I like to change the physical environment I live in, change the people around me and try to experience things for the first time. I think that keeps one on their toes, creatively and spiritually."
Kravitz has turned the anthemic rock tune into an art form, and there's plenty of that on Love Revolution, including the title track and one song, "Luv Luv Luv" (see aforementioned optimism), in which Kravitz dismisses material goods in favor of having love in one's heart.
But not all of its songs aspire to be stadium-rock staples or ubiquitous TV-commercial scores, though to his credit, Kravitz was a pioneer of the medium. "Dancing Till Dawn" channels disco-era Rod Stewart and recalls a favorite lounge hangout in New York. "Back in Vietnam" has Kravitz in protest mode, equating the war in Iraq with the quagmire that was the war in Vietnam — and it ties into his retro-rock tag quite nicely. And on "A Long and Sad Goodbye," he sings about his father, TV producer Sy Kravitz, who passed away in 2005. The singer/guitarist opens up about his dad's alleged infidelities and their estranged relationship on the song.
"My dad and I made peace with each other a few weeks before he passed, and we spent a lot of time with each other in those last days," Kravitz said. "We didn't have the greatest relationship because he had cheated on my mom and I was basically a mama's boy. It was hard-core. When your mother sits you and your father in the same room on the day he's leaving, and your mother says to your father, 'Don't you have anything to say to your son?' You'd think he'd say, 'Son, I messed up,' or whatever, some redeeming statement. But he said, 'You'll do it, too.' I didn't know what kind of weight that would carry in my life, and I realized a lot of my demons I had to battle came from moments like those. But we got over it, and that song is about that catharsis."
Kravitz plans to tour for two years behind the album, starting with a New Year's Eve performance in New York's Times Square for Carson Daly's annual bash. But before he hits the road, he also plans to finish recording a funk album — titled, well, Funk — for which he's long had plans.
As for that farm in Brazil that he's been staying at lately, he explained, "It's a four-hour drive from Rio, in the middle of nowhere. I told you that I like to change my environment a lot, and this is part of it. A thousand acres, sometimes I go a day or two without seeing any people around. Lots of trees and fruit and things that keep me happy. But it's a friend's place that I'm just staying at. It's not mine — yet."