What do we think of Ani DiFranco ?

Cos I’m buggered if I know. I think the name has cropped up over the years but for no good reason it’s always immediately dipped under my radar.

All I know is; Female, singer / songwriter … prolly American. I’ve come to her this time through her song ‘You Had Time’ (one of Nick Hornby’s selections in his book ‘Songbook’, which as the blurb goes “is a collection of essays by Nick Hornby on 31 of his favorite songs and songwriters”).

I haven’t read the book yet (still finding out if it available yet in the UK) but I have heard Ani DiFranco’s ‘You Had Time’ several times now and it’s the most extraordinary, intense, discordant piano, break-up thing … pretty draining just to listen to – hate to be in a relation with this woman

Anyway, I’d like opinions of where to start with her music … anyone survived to tell the tale or did they all implode with the emotional intensity ?

She is pretty intense, yeah. A sort of feminist folk-rock, very liberal, and sometimes very sad. I like her, but I’m not one of her hardcore fans (of which there are many).

That being said, some song suggestions are “Shy” (the best song ever about throwing yourself at someone), “Both Hands” (a very sad breakup song), “Untouchable Face” (a song for a hopeless relationship), “Joyful Girl” (because there has to be a happy song on here), “Every State Line” (suspicion in America), “32 Flavors” (identity). There are more, and I’d be happy to go on. Not everyone loves Ani, but she’s pretty thought-provoking, generally.

Been listening to Ani for about seven years now, and I’m still all in one piece. So it’s possible.

Ah, she’s OK. I’ve liked some of her songs but I think she plays the angry young radical female card too much. Then again, as a middle-aged white guy, I’m not exactly a member of her target audience. She has a large cult following among the pierced and tattooed college crowd here in New England. She has an almost Vincent Van Gogh level of productivity – produces something like a couple of albums a year.

I suspect Little Plastic Castle might be an accessible place to start.

She’s talented and has made some pretty good songs. The pierced-campus-socialist-indie image is just the image she sells, so it’s not like her music is more “intense” than anyone else’s. (I mean, I’m sure it’s an honest image, more or less, but it’s still a sales image.)

DiFranco is now probably more famous for her decision to start her own record label rather than sign with an existing one than she is for her music. “Righteous Babe Records” is her label out of Buffalo; as the name would suggest it’s a label specializing in female performers styled as “singer-songwriters.”

It’ll be interesting to see what will happen when she’s too old to connect with her target audience, but that won’t happen for about ten years. I suspect she’ll slip into a producer role.

My sister does a hilarious impression of Ani DiFranco.

<Channeling Howard Roark…>

But I DON’T think about Ani Difranco.

More seriously, I find her music preachy and tiresome, and I find her rather obnoxious.

That said, I wish her nothing but the best, and hope she has a long successful career. That’s because I’m a part-time crossword puzzle contructor, and the name ANI is a godsend for constructors! The longer she stays popular, the more I’ll be able to use her name as an entry.

While I’m at it, I hope UMA Thurman and Judge Lance ITO are in the headlines again, real soon.

as one of her ‘hardcore fans’ i would say that ani’s anger and introspection about gender, sexuality, politics, religion and relationships was really important to me during my high school years when i was trying to figure out what i thought about a lot of things. and for me, she was more intense than anyone else i had come across. she is someone who voices herself (and i don’t always agree with everything she says) eloquently and she is thoughtful about her place in the music and activist scene. she can be raw and rockin or heartbreaking all in the same album.

her decision to have her own record label that in turn supports independent artists of both genders has been influential not only for the musicians, but for the economically depressed area of buffalo. while i may not be as passionate about ani anymore, it’s been wonderful for me to see her go from a teenager expressing herself through song and music in a variety of ways - with humor, sadness and anger - to a woman who still keeps her music close to her own actions, questions and personal exploration. she doesn’t always succeed, but i respect her for her initiative - not just talking about things, but making an effort to do her part to change what she can.

she lost some fans when she got married since she was held up as someone who openly spoke of her bisexuality and her relationships with women, but she doesn’t apologize for her choices.

‘you had time’ is one of my all-time favorites, just because of what you said. i think good entry points are the ‘out of range’ and ‘not a pretty girl’ albums. especially if you like that song.

I think “outta me, on to you” is a good song, but I’m indifferent to the rest of her music.

It’s a story as common as a penny, son. I don’t think it’s worth anything to anyone.

Very good, as songwriters go. You might not like what she does, but what she does, she does well. It’s hard to write even a few catchy tunes, and she’s written tons. It’s hard to write some great lines, but she’s, again, written tons (though some songs have been spoiled by goofy lyrics). No doubt at all that she’s a talented lyricist. I actually like her later catelouge better than her older stuff especially musically. It’s less consistently preachy, much more personal and introspective, dealing with situations outside of the cliches.

For instance, “Your Next Bold Move,” is decidely political and partisan, but also quiet and personal enough that even those who don’t think Reagan & Bush are “a plague” can at least appreciate the sentiment being expressed (hey, all I can say: she voted Nader, she got what she deserved).

More that I’d suggest:
“Angry Anymore”, “Two Little Girls”, “Providence” (which features Prince, of all people, doing some great layered harmonies), “Little Plastic Castle”, “As Is”, “Jukebox”, “Cloud Blood”

“So What” was recently on her R/R album, but I heard her do a version live where she: 1) forgot the words 2) just made up some words about forgetting the words 3) were fantastic and fit the song perfectly. That’s another fantastic “looking back on a failed relationship” song that only after two years of listening realized that the opening lines coyly references Looney Tunes.

The chorus of “School Night” still brings tears to my eye.

—Then again, as a middle-aged white guy—

Ah, so you’re playing the middle-aged white guy card, eh? That’s a good card. Good sales profile, nice retro martyr variation. Lots of growth potential. :slight_smile:

Her song “Gravel” is a bit of a favourite of mine.

I think she’s done a bit of work with Prince Apos, and if Prince thinks she’s the real deal then frankly, I’m gonna go with the crazy purple midget. Seeing as he’s a musical genius and all.

To my knowledge, he’s done backing vocals on two of her songs on “To the Teeth,” and she’s done guitar on one of his albums.

Prince is. Strange.

Of course, what is the “real deal” these days anyways? Creed? :slight_smile:

I know at least one guy who thinks she is the sexiest woman alive. Me, I find her to be less than interesting and the music bugs the s*@! out of me. However, I realize that she has made a tremendous impact on alternative music and the whole post-grunge underground culture thing.

But that annoying, twangy zydeco (or whatever it is) crap intermixed with edgy alternative music really bugs!

P.S. Did NoDoubt sing that song “Mother, Mother”? I did like that one, but can’t think of anything else by her that I can even tolerate.

she also did two albums with utah phillips, an anarchist pacifist storyteller and activist. he tells stories and she does background music.

nodoubt covered one of her songs? that’s awful.

i second the ‘gravel’ rec and add ‘32 flavors’ to the mix.
bristlesage’s other choices are some of my top ones too although the album version of ‘joyful girl’ isn’t my favorite. i never really liked the song til i heard it live and at a different tempo and thought it was the best song in the show.

if you’re actually looking for some of her music that’s intense in a kind of sad way, i would check out the reckoning cd in the revelling/reckoning set.

[Q]To my knowledge, he’s done backing vocals on two of her songs on “To the Teeth,” and she’s done guitar on one of his albums. [\Q]

Yep, apos that sounds about right. I remeber reading that they got on pretty well too but it was a while back.

As for Prince, the man’s crazier than a Baboon in a cutlery factory but I’ll forgive the man who made “Sign o’ the times” a hell of a lot.

Man, I knew that “Real deal” comment sounded stupid but hey I’m getting old. I can’t be expected to keep up with you funky kids and your street jive.:wink:

I can’t stand her. I’d never even heard of her until I moved away to college. But then- good lord!

My college is populated with white, upper middle class pesuedo-hippy girls who smoke pot out of hundred dollar hand-blown bongs and get their dreadlocks done in salons. These are the girls that will spend hundreds of dollars to fly to a protest halfway across the country, but never thought to give a buck to a homeless guy (although it doesn’t stop them from doing endless art and photography projects about the homeless). I’m sure they are nice people, but the way that they dabble with the most simplistic forms of social activism possible drives me nuts.

And Ani is their idol. They love her warbling screechy whine. They revel in her simplistic lyrics. They quote constantly and incessently, thinking that repeating lyrics counts as thougtful social analysis and action. They think that it makes them deep. And it doesn’t.

Ugh! The best thing about moving out of the dorms is I got away from Ani.

Oh, my…the “economically depressed area of Buffalo,” indeed! Yiy. Our whole place isn’t that bad…

The only thing of hers I’ve heard (apart from “32 flavors” on the radio) is the CD “Fellow Workers”, a collaboration with Utah Phillips, which was given to me by a friend.

It’s good, if you can dig the Angry Socialist theme. Several Joe Hill songs. I like it pretty well.

Aaah, Ani DiFranco. My favorite subject (not really, but close). Where to start?

She does seem to have an angst-ridden angry reputation, and at times that is well deserved. But if you take the whole body of her work, it’s really an unfair image to pin on her. I’m always trying to explain her appeal to people, and I think that it comes down to flexibility. Pick a musical style, tone, and flavor, and she’s dabbled in it. Her style has at times changed very rapidly, and without notice.

I think that the trick with Ani DiFranco is to ignore others’ opinions and her “image”, and listen. There are a few reasons for this.

1 - In the beginning, she was very angry, very open, and very vocal. This attracted a force of angry adolescent girls, and a few very brave guys. When she started moving away from that image, and towards musical experimentation, she alienated alot of them (“This doesn’t sound like Ani!” etc). Because of this, you will hear many people expressing the opinion that she “sold out”, to which I say :rolleyes:

2 - Because her fans are usually so rabid, people are scared away or annoyed by them. Really. Try mispronouncing her name sometime.

3 - It’s easy to focus on her political stance, and miss the rest of what she has to offer. She does have many political songs, but again, they’re only a small example of her capabilities. I happen to agree with her on alot of issues, but it’s not necessary to enjoy her music.

4 - Her music basically speaks for itself. It’s up-front. But because of her range, there really is alot there to discover.

5 - Even if you’re fully prepared to love her, you could hear her and hate everything about her. It happens.

Recommendations? Not a Pretty Girl is where I started, but it might not be best for someone who’s first hearing her. It has incredible emotion, but can be exhausting to listen to. I would recommend Up up up up up up to begin with, simply because it is a phenomenal album. Every song on it is good. Her more recent albums are slower, and more introspective. Revelling/Reckoning is very good and very involved, but very sad.

I ran into her by accident, and loved her music right away. I still love almost everything she’s ever done, and I know she’s influenced my life, as any good music should. Anyway, no matter what your opinion is, you have to respect the fact that she worked incredibly hard to get where she is, and did it while being true to herself.

Joyfulgirl, who is not a checkbook liberal or a radical :slight_smile:

I’m a 27-year-old guy who has loved Ani for several years now, since about the time Living in Clip came out. Her guitar playing has made me take mine in whole new directions.

Other Ani fans might lynch me for saying so, but there is a big downside to her admirable insistence on controlling things herself–a lack of quality control. In particular, I thought Up^6 and To the Teeth were two pretty good albums that could have been combined into one terrific album and one disc of a great box set in a few years. R/R was overindulgent and arguably bloated but (IMO) worth it.

Her most recent live album, though (So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter), was just horrible. There were a few good tracks, but while she used to be able to go from soft to loud in the same song, this one is nothing but loud. (I blame this on the trumpets.) She also doesn’t sing anymore so much as shout. I like to think of it as a phase.

Dilate, Little Plastic Castle, and especially Living in Clip are three of the best albums I own. Beyond that, there is good stuff there if you’re willing to mine for it.

Dr. J

Thank you everyone for your many thoughtful resplies – I kind of wonder that the name ‘Tori Amos’ didn’t crop up anywhere in the responses as a crass, too-convenient pigeon hole in which to slip Ani is, I suspect, due to the intelligence of you all !

What’s interesting for me is that many of you mention politics and other personal stuff (location, marriage, etc) and I’m quite pleased to be able to approach her from just her music – no media image or cultural / political baggage to distract, or experiences such as even sven’s

Quite why I’m so uninformed is also interesting – maybe she just hasn’t made too big a dent over here; maybe she hasn’t tried … maybe she has and I’ve been oblivious …?

Anyway, the appeal at the moment is pretty much based on the sheer musical accomplishment, lyrics and interesting ideas on ‘You Had Time’ so I better take a look at ‘Out of Range’. From there … I don’t know … I’ve printed off your suggestions yet I’m also tempted to go chronologically from ;Out of Range (1994). We’ll see …… thanks again to all of you!
Btw bristlesage, we almost met once – last October in fact … :wink:

I know that there are people who complain about how political her songs are, but to me they reflect some of the frustration I feel in day-to-day life. They’re real, in-your-face and not designed around smarmy rhymes. I think the two best albums are “Out of Range” and “To the Teeth”, though “Living in Clip” is also great.