"'The first track can't be too long' -- that's the kind of thing John was always saying to me," Yoko Ono says with a fond chuckle. "But I wanted to just do it. I've been noncommercial from the beginning."
Ono is speaking about "I Want You to Remember Me," the chilling two-part track that opens Blueprint for a Sunrise, her first new album in five years. A stark depiction of domestic violence, the song introduces one of Sunrise's central themes: That in a culture obsessed with money and status, values like vulnerability and nurturing are crushed, and women take the hit.
"Many people thought that we could keep getting richer and have fun," she says. "That world was becoming extremely macho. More money, more cars, larger private planes -- who's got the bigger dick? The position of women and children is precarious in that world."
In recent years, Ono has concentrated primarily on her conceptual artwork, which was the subject of a major retrospective in New York last year and of subsequent exhibitions around the world.
"It's very necessary for my physical and emotional health that I create," says Ono, sixty-eight. "For this album, I wanted to make a musical collage. It's like a diary."
The dramatic interplay between tension and compassion on Sunrise makes the album particularly compelling in the wake of September 11th. "Have courage/Have rage/We're all together," Ono intones over a mesmerizing guitar part in "Rising."
"Yeah, this album is OK," Ono says about her new record's strange relevance in a changed world. "It fits right in."