Sweet Dreams Are Made of This
Writer(s): Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart (see lyrics here)
Released: January 21, 1983
First Charted: February 12, 1983
Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 3 GR, 3 RR, 36 AC, 16 AR, 1 CO, 2 UK, 12 CN, 6 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 1.0 UK, 3.14 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 570.6 video, 1002.53 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Singer Annie Lennox and multi-instrumentalist Dave Stewart were in the British pop group the Tourists in the latter half of the ‘70s, reaching #4 in the UK with a cover of “I Only Want to Be with You.” After two albums the group dissolved – as did the romantic relationship between Lennox and Stewart. A new working partnership was established, however, when the pair decided to continue working together as the Eurythmics.
The new wave duo released an album in 1981 that went nowhere. After Stewart experienced a collapsed lung and Lennox had a nervous breakdown, FB she doubted their dreams would ever happen. That pessimism, balanced with Stewart’s messages to “hold your head up, movin’ on,” fueled the lyrics for “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This.” WK She wrote the largely stream-of-consciousness song in reaction to a catchy rhythm and bass line dreamed up in the studio by Stewart. SJ It was the fastest the pair ever wrote a song. SJ She thinks “Sweet Dreams” has become a mantra that’s an overview of human existence and open to interpretation: “whatever it is that makes you tick, that is what it is.” SF
Music critic Dave Marsh called it “the smartest synth-pop song.” DM The “wondrous oddity of this decidedly minimalist, downright skeletal pop song” AMG is that it simultaneously “sounds both warmly inviting and off-puttingly chilly.” AMG It “brought an emotional resonance to the often soulless sound of 1980s synth pop” TB because of an “instrumental track [that] is strikingly minimalist and evocative of Kraftwerk…offering and effective contrast to Lennox’s soulful vocal.” TB
Lyrically, the song offers “a pointed critique of the commody culture of late twentieth century capitalism.” DM Lennox said”that line in ‘Sweet Dreams’ about being ‘used and abused’ refers directly to my own experiences. Not just in love, but in this business too.” TC
Stewart produced the song’s beat and riff on one synthesizer and Lennox started playing on another to create the dueling synths at the beginning of the song. WK Otherwise the only instruments on the track were the electronic drums. TC
The record company wasn’t sold on the song because it had no chorus and released three singles in the UK from the Sweet Dreams Are Made of This album before finally taking a shot with the title cut. That might not have happened if the song hadn’t generated a strong response in Cleveland when a radio DJ played it. WK It was released in January 1983 in the UK and reached #2 two months later. In the U.S., it wasn’t released until May and hit #1 in September.
Another part of the song’s success was due to its video, which is “widely considered a classic clip from the early-MTV era.” WK The video paired surreal imagery such as Stewart playing keyboards next to a cow in a field with Lennox’s androgynous look marked by “striking cheekbones and ice-blue eyes emphasized by her close-cropped traffic-cone orange hair and tailored black suit.” AMG Lennonx said, “I thought the ambiguity gave me a degree of power” TC but “I’d never intended it to be that controversial.” TC
First posted 2/1/2021; last updated 4/14/2023.