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More Info: Ani DiFranco
“My last record was very inward-looking,” says Ani DiFranco. “I was pregnant and then raising a screaming infant. But now that kid is about to turn four, so I got out of the weeds of personal space and started looking outward again, being more engaged, more big ‘P’ Political. As an artist, I like to be out in the world, and what initially compelled me was to try to push society to a better place. So when I’m not in heartbreak or motherhood mode, that’s where you’ll naturally find me.”
With her twentieth studio album, Binary, the iconic singer/songwriter/activist/poet/DIY trendsetter returns to territory that brought her to the world’s attention more than twenty-five years ago. One of the first artists to create her own label in 1990, she has been recognized among the feminist pantheon for her entrepreneurship, social activism, and outspoken political lyrics. At a time of global chaos and confusion, DiFranco is kicking ass and taking names, with a set of songs offering a wide range of perspective and musical scope.
She describes a moment during the writing of “Play God,” an unblinking pro-choice battle cry, as a particular breakthrough. (A live version of the song was included in the anti-Trump “30 Days, 30 Songs” campaign alongside tracks from Death Cab for Cutie, Aimee Mann, Franz Ferdinand, and more.)
“When I wrote the line ‘You don’t get to play god, man/I do,’ I paused and thought, ‘Can I say that?,’ “ she says. “It’s not the first time I’ve thought that, but it’s been a while. And in that moment, I thought, ‘I’m back, mothafuckas!’”
“When you make a record about family and relationships, people assume you’re mommy now and you’ve lost your edge, and it’s going to be all buttercups from here on. So that line had the feeling of ‘Take that! My kid is sleeping right now and I want to talk about some shit!”
On Binary, DiFranco tackles the challenge and necessity of teaching non-violence with “Pacifist’s Lament” and the need for empathy in “Terrifying Sight.” Remarkably, though, these songs—recorded, in her usual fashion, in a couple of short full-sprint sessions spread across several years—were all written prior to the 2016 elections and attendant political turmoil.
“I’m not surprised,” says DiFranco. “Over twenty-five years, I’ve found that my songwriting is often full of premonition. It shows me, in a deep and spooky way, how we know things on levels below consciousness. I write songs and then they happen, and later I realize what they’re about. I’m just happy to have some good tools in my toolbox to address what’s happening now—the feminist diatribes are turned up nice and