Why doesn’t anyone listen to Ani DiFranco anymore?
January 10, 2016 9:32 PM   Subscribe

 
Why do you need 32 hypotheses when the obvious answer is that nobody under the age of 30 listens to music that people over the age of 40 listened to when they were in their 20s? I heard Toad the Wet Sprocket on the sound system in the supermarket tonight, and I'm pretty sure no one listens to that voluntarily anymore either.
posted by blucevalo at 9:42 PM on January 10, 2016 [32 favorites]


In the last two years I've been to shows by Pavement (who I worshiped in the 90s) and the Jesus and Mary Chain (who I worshiped in the 80s) and both were packed with 20-somethings. Psychedelic Furs, on the other hand, drew a much older crowd. So I think there's a question: which acts develop a next-generation listenership and which don't? I assume you're right about Toad the Wet Sprocket, but who knows? Are there 25-year-olds who voluntarily listen to U2?
posted by escabeche at 9:55 PM on January 10, 2016 [29 favorites]


Well, that was an odd observation considering she is STILL touring and selling out shows. Someone must still be listening! She is wealthy and has loyal fans that enjoy her music. Sounds like she is doing ok.
posted by Muncle at 9:58 PM on January 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Not really the person to answer this, but I liked this bit:
Folk festivals used to be such A THING in the 1990s. Like, you’d pony up $65 to spend the weekend camping out and eating hemp seed cookies and braiding your hair and watching a bunch of vaguely familiar acts with one or two headliners (cue Ani DiFranco). Then Bonnaroo ruined everything. Fests are no longer about bands you’ve never heard before playing a similar genre of music. Now they’re like, Steely Dan sharing a million dollar stage with Snoop Dogg. Or whatever. Holograms.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:05 PM on January 10, 2016 [21 favorites]


escabeche, I actually overheard basically that exact observation made by someone right behind me leaving a Patti Smith show last week - saying Smith drew a vastly younger crowd than Emmylou Harris whom the speaker had also recently seen live.

It's a really interesting question. There's no obvious reason (to me, at least) why some of these artists get traction with next-generation fans and others don't.
posted by town of cats at 10:15 PM on January 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


I got into Ani during a turbulent time in high school when I was trying to figure out what it meant that I liked girls and started calling myself a lesbian (now identifying as bisexual). I listened to her and the Indigo Girls a lot, mostly because the girl I was sorta dating at the time really liked them and I kind of thought, okay, this is what lesbians do, right?

And then I just sort of... stopped after high school. I don't know that I'd say I grew up, but I certainly moved away from that type of music. This is going to sound horribly insulting but her lyrics were kind of training-wheels feminism for me. There was a lot of power in the lyrics to "Not a Pretty Girl" and the concept of any tool being a weapon if you hold it right, but eventually it wasn't enough. I wanted to know why I felt the pressure to be a pretty girl, and what did it mean if I still liked feeling pretty, and putting in the effort to make myself feel pretty? Was that okay? Her anger wasn't my anger anymore. I was angry about a lot of things, much of which I began to understand better once I found intersectional feminism, and I realize now that I didn't really feel like that was being addressed or dealt with in her music as much as I wanted it to.

This article linked in the main article sums that up pretty well, more eloquently that I could, and the lyrics it quotes from one of her songs from 2012 are.. dishearteningly bad.

Feminism ain’t about women
No, that’s not who it’s for
It’s about a shift in consciousness
That’ll bring an end to war


...what.
posted by skycrashesdown at 10:16 PM on January 10, 2016 [22 favorites]


The funny thing about the folk festival thing is that the only one I ever went to (Falcon Ridge, 1997ish?) was not one that Ani played. I saw her at the Garden, though.

We just saw Patti Smith, and the audience at her shows skewed older than we are but not enormously so. We saw X last month and likewise; when we saw Sleater-Kinney last year, we were a little closer to the older end of the arc but not by much.
posted by rtha at 10:18 PM on January 10, 2016


She went her way, the writers went theirs. People grow, especially artists.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:18 PM on January 10, 2016


I'd say that she was not exactly on everyone's minds, but people in my social circle (including me) were still making generally positive (if non-specific) noises whenever she was brought up prior to the Righteous Retreat debacle. I don't think that her reputation is likely to recover from her handling of that, though.

I'd have jokingly put forth the theory that Righteous Retreat was the end result of Ani having a black frenemy who was feeding her precisely the wrong thing to say at every turn of that story, but the longer it went on, the less plausible that it seemed that she had ever met a black person.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:24 PM on January 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


Gosh, it really has been a long time since I listened. From time to time I still recite The Slant when I am Oxycleaning my sheets, and I still think of the skyline over Jersey as a sock drawer. So yeah, I think of Ani when I do laundry.

I don't listen to much of the same stuff I listened to 20 years ago (oh hi, Tori!), but I'm also gonna chalk it at least part of it up to the Outta Me, Onto You hypothesis. At Ani's peak with my age group, there weren't a ton of queer voices out there. When all you have in your conservative town is Well of Loneliness at the library and Heavenly Creatures at the video store, all these quiet literary and tragic things that felt so removed from real life, Ani was fireworks -- a complete revelation.

It's funny, but my friends who were her biggest fans are all married or in otherwise long-term CIS relationships now. The one with short hair and ripped jeans who dated women for years and would always close her letters with an Ani quote? She eventually married a hyper-conservative republican in a hugely traditional wedding, complete with meringue-white dress and tiara.
posted by mochapickle at 10:32 PM on January 10, 2016 [15 favorites]


Great artists grow and have new things to say over time. Merely good artists don't.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:34 PM on January 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


Ani DiFranco is great and nobody doesn't listen to her and the article in the OP doesn't exist
posted by threeants at 10:37 PM on January 10, 2016 [10 favorites]


I mean, kind of bad, but also great.
posted by threeants at 10:39 PM on January 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Parasite Unseen, I totally hope the secret frenemy was Toshi Reagon. At the beginning of that, it kinda seemed like she was being used as Righteous Babe's black-friend-human-shield, until she spoke up and made it clear how uncomfortable she was with the whole thing.

I was never a big Ani fan, but "mom-aged"? Urgh, so much fretting about aging in this article. You know, we're queer feminists, we don't actually have to do the "middle-aged women are obsolete" thing.
posted by thetortoise at 10:41 PM on January 10, 2016 [32 favorites]


Ani DiFranco used to be the default "you're not a lesbian until you've listened to X" band, to the point that I got super annoyed by queer women's pop culture because I knew nothing about Ani or The L Word or Tegan & Sara (asides from "they exist") and didn't care to.

The retreat thing made everyone I know in those circles immediately disown her. Nobody's really brought her up again asides from "didn't that suck when she did that retreat, urgh".
posted by divabat at 10:44 PM on January 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah. The retreat thing. Not a mystery, I don't think.
posted by allthinky at 10:47 PM on January 10, 2016


blucevalo: "Why do you need 32 hypotheses when the obvious answer is that nobody under the age of 30 listens to music that people over the age of 40 listened to when they were in their 20s? I heard Toad the Wet Sprocket on the sound system in the supermarket tonight, and I'm pretty sure no one listens to that voluntarily anymore either."

Hee hee. I remember when they were doing the party circuit with their original original lead singer (who was a friend of mine (that was a long lasting hideously frustrating crush of mine also)).
posted by Samizdata at 10:50 PM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


In the last two years I've been to shows by Pavement (who I worshiped in the 90s) and the Jesus and Mary Chain (who I worshiped in the 80s) and both were packed with 20-somethings. Psychedelic Furs, on the other hand, drew a much older crowd. So I think there's a question: which acts develop a next-generation listenership and which don't? I assume you're right about Toad the Wet Sprocket, but who knows? Are there 25-year-olds who voluntarily listen to U2?

Artist : Reviews on Pitchfork
Pavement : 5, so much news
The Jesus And Mary Chain : 2, so much news
Psychedelic Furs : 0, a little bit of news
Ani DiFranco: 0, an artist’s top ten list, and a mention on a novelty list of “The Twenty Worst Album Covers of 2007”
posted by Going To Maine at 10:51 PM on January 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


I love the fact that "Face the Nation" host John Dickerson is an Ani DiFranco fan, but I can recognize that this may mean young people don't need to listen to her any more.

Dilate remains a favorite wallow-in-sadness album, though.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 10:55 PM on January 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Living in Clip is the only CD I ever owned I wore out. And that will never happen again.

(She is not even close to my favorite artist but that qualifies her for honorable mention.)
posted by bukvich at 10:55 PM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


There are still one or two Ani DiFranco songs that resonate with me, but to be honest, the sound of her music never really appealed to me. I had some albums because I felt I should--she was part of what it meant to be counterculture in my circles. Now the sound of a lot of the music from that era seems really dated, in a bad way.

And I feel like the kind of grungy, folky counterculture that partially supported artists like Ani has waned too.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:58 PM on January 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wonder if every 40something feels a little odd when the totemic music of their youth becomes known more for being a generational relic than for transcending that very specific generation.
posted by sobell at 11:08 PM on January 10, 2016 [14 favorites]


sobell: "I wonder if every 40something feels a little odd when the totemic music of their youth becomes known more for being a generational relic than for transcending that very specific generation."

I have said for a long time that you know you are old when they have a genre for your high school music. (For me it is "retro".)
posted by Samizdata at 11:11 PM on January 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Enjoyed this article. I got into Ani in college with Not A Pretty Girl and Out of Range. As the years went on and the albums kept coming out, I just got tired, I guess, of the same old sound and same old lyrics. Think I tapped out around To The Teeth. Tried listening to one of her more recent albums (Red Letter Day, I think it was) and it was not good. Not a single song that caught my ear. It's a pity. I still listen to those old albums now, though. Bit of nostalgia, I suppose, but I think they're still good albums.
posted by snwod at 11:24 PM on January 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's a hippie-to-hipster story here. Hippies just aren't a thing as much anymore. But I know a lot of hipsters with hippie backgrounds.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:24 PM on January 10, 2016 [9 favorites]


I remember a bunch of my friends and I making fun of the music our parents listened to - especially the groups who seemed to keep touring forever, or would put out live albums so far after their prime.

I asked them if they ever thought we'd be doing that with the bands we listened to when we were "that old"- and of course, universally, we knew that wouldn't happen.

Flash forward to now, and not only are we all those same people we mocked, but we can hear the songs of our youth at the grocery store (inexplicably with a Phil Collins song sprinkled in - every freaking grocery trip.)
posted by MysticMCJ at 11:34 PM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a hippie-to-hipster story here. Hippies just aren't a thing as much anymore. But I know a lot of hipsters with hippie backgrounds.

You've just sent me down an Internet wormhole to try and figure out what the hell happened to hippies. The Atlantic Monthly's conclusion: It was the drugs. But you know, Atlantic Monthly.

Anecdotally, it seems a lot of the hallmarks of the collegiate-hippie culture I observed/was on the edges of in college in the early 1990s -- Birkenstocks and Tevas ("Air Jesus," people called them because it was the era of Air Jordans), vegetarianism and/or whole foods, recycling, energy efficiency, DIY, gardening, home preserving and home brewing, knitting, yoga, mindfulness (aka "consciousness raising"), pot -- that's all been commodified and absorbed into mainstream culture.

So has Ani DiFranco's DIY, run-your-own-label approach. I remember her getting lot of press for Righteous Babe back in the day. Now her business model is entry level.
posted by sobell at 11:37 PM on January 10, 2016 [20 favorites]


I was given a tape of Ani songs right as I was going into college by my then girlfriend. I was blown away, but yeah, I think To The Teeth was probably the last album I picked up. I don't tend to listen to her songs now, but I always enjoy when they pop up on shuffle.

Years ago, there was a weeklong Indy music event in Tokyo. Shows all over the city, all sorts of great Japanese bands, and Ani headlined the last show of the week at a pretty decent (for Tokyo) sized venue, where I've since seen bands like Less than Jake and Bad Religion (why yes, I went to college in the nineties). The opening band was one of the at the time great indy bands in Japan, Go!Go!7188. I'd never seen them before, but they were awesome. Punkish rockabilly sort of stuff, with dual lead vocals. The crowd was really into it, and it turned out that almost everyone there was only there to see the opening band. As soon as they left the stage, nearly every Japanese person left, because they'd seen all they wanted to see, and had no idea who Ani Difranco was. Instead of a pack theater with over a thousand people, I imagine there were maybe 100-150 people for her show. She came out, acknowledged the awkwardness of the whole thing, said some really nice things about the opening band, and then out on a fantastic show, one of the best I've ever been to, played to a smallish group of people in a medium sized theater.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:52 PM on January 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


Sorry to keep barging into this thread but several posts tonight are resonating and I'm trying to calm down enough to sleep (body still on Vegas time). This statement upthread rang true:

And I feel like the kind of grungy, folky counterculture that partially supported artists like Ani has waned too.

And I was just put in mind of the long arc of the Utne Reader, which was also such a thing back in the late 1980s/early 1990s and is now a shadow of itself. The last time I picked it up on a news stand, I was surprised by it, in a sort of "I used to devour this?" sort of way. I found this piece on the Utne Reader moving out of Minneapolis thanks to its new corporate overlords, and this passage resonates:
As a believer in the power of the new communications technologies to improve our lives and our neighborhoods, I’m not generally one for nostalgia. Yet institutions like the Utne Reader remind us that in the pre-Internet days, it was print magazines that created “virtual communities” for like-minded readers.

National Review was an early example, having marked its subscribers as slightly different from their neighbors, who weren’t quite as captivated by the debates between Wm. F. Buckley Jr., James Burnham, Frank Meyer, and Willi Schlamm about the fate of western civilization in a nuclear age. I recall seeing a fellow student reading NR in one of the dining halls when I was an undergraduate and knowing that there was a decent chance that we’d become good friends. (And that is precisely what happened.) Something similar obtained for pop culture magazines, like Sassy for ’90s teenage girls of a feminist bent.
This is possibly one of the only times anyone can draw a parallel between National Review and Ani DiFranco, but I think that way back in the day, they were both shibboleths. If you ran into someone who was displaying the same cultural affinities you did, there was an experience of solidarity and connection. And now ... it's easier to find those cultural affinities online but the experience is different. And into that experience gap fall the signposts and souvenirs of an earlier time, maybe.
posted by sobell at 12:04 AM on January 11, 2016 [25 favorites]


The 90s were pre Internet. I can listen to nearly anything I want instantly, and frankly, there is a lot of better music out there. When I only had 60 CDs or whatever, she got more play.

I do listen to a bunch of Sleater-Kinney and Bratmobile and Bikini Kill, from the same time, roughly. And Liz Phair. (A theme in my tastes is developing, clearly.). That's all held up really well. A lot of stuff from the 90s hasn't.

The 80s stuff I listen to is mostly punk and underground that I'd never heard of growing up in the burbs in the 80s. It too holds up superbly. Better than most of the New Wave I grew up on, for sure. (Still like Psych Furs, though.)
posted by persona au gratin at 12:20 AM on January 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


I lost track of her for awhile, but I like a few songs off of Which Side Are You On? I'd love to know which female singer-songwriters fill a similar niche with young audiences these days.
posted by salvia at 12:57 AM on January 11, 2016


what about Phranc?
posted by thelonius at 1:20 AM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


In the last two years I've been to shows by Pavement

Pavement hasn't played a show since 2010, unless I'm very mistaken, and very upset that I missed hearing about this.
posted by Dokterrock at 2:32 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, that was an odd observation considering she is STILL touring and selling out shows.

Yeah, this all feels a little thin. I can imagine the pitch meeting:

"Someone wrote an article about how nobody cares about Avatar anymore."
"Now that's an interesting angle. There's a story there. Maybe for music? Whose music do we not give a shit about anymore?"
"Ani DiFranco?"
"Perfect."
posted by duffell at 3:21 AM on January 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


You know what nobody watches anymore?

Dukes of Hazzard
posted by hal_c_on at 3:53 AM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Fests are no longer about bands you’ve never heard before playing a similar genre of music. Now they’re like, Steely Dan sharing a million dollar stage with Snoop Dogg. Or whatever. Holograms.

Nobody tell anyone about bluegrass, ok?
posted by musicinmybrain at 4:55 AM on January 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


It must suck to go from being lauded for the brave, personal content of one's music, to being viciously scolded for not being hip to the progressive feminist zeitgeist (which began when she had the temerity to marry a guy -- lord I remember that anger around that). The personal became overtly political in a very narrow, specific way, and Ani didn't follow, because she was busy being herself, as always.

We don't allow our rebels to grow, age, and change, either. She wasn't always going to be the pissed off 25 year old, making bad relationship decisions.
posted by gsh at 4:59 AM on January 11, 2016 [12 favorites]


Ani had that goldfish song, right?

You know what nobody watches anymore?
Dukes of Hazzard


Not only is that not true, just yesterday I drove past a house with the Confederate flag flying out front.
(The flag may have other meanings).
posted by Mezentian at 5:15 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Isn't it just because she put out too many albums? She put out like ten million albums. It was hard for even a real fan to keep up. Like, put out a few iconic albums and you can have a following.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 5:22 AM on January 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


I listen to Untouchable Face every once in a while - I wasn't a huge Ani fan growing up and I don't think her music is really that good.

BUT I do think it's true that the space that's available to female musicians to be weird and prickly and off in their own batty worlds has narrowed since the 90s. I fell down a Tori Amos internet hole the other day and at the end of it I was like who is this person? It just seems amazing to me that someone so wonderfully off-kilter could have had such mainstream success, and there were lots of them during the grunge period - female musicians whose mass market appeal was kind of baffling, and who just got onstage and let it all hang out, without having to be super polished and sexy and camera-ready.

I mean, don't get me wrong, there are a lot of genius women making music today, but in terms of carrying the crunchy weirdo banner, I feel like Joanna Newsom is pretty much it.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 5:30 AM on January 11, 2016 [11 favorites]


When I first started using the internet, it seemed all the cool people were Wiccan and listened to Ani DiFranco. I always wondered what she sounded like, in those pre-YouTube, pre-Spotify days. I finally visited America when I was seventeen, and was astounded by Barnes and Noble and their sofas and shelves of spellcasting books, but I never made friends with any cool alt girls in Hot Topic lace who could make me a Righteous Babe mixtape. I'm neither hippie nor lesbian, but as a weird kid growing up in small-town England, I gravitated towards queer narratives as so many of them dealt with not fitting in with people around you, and dreaming of going to a place where you can be who you want to be.

I like what I've heard of Phranc, though, and I REALLY want to see that Tupperware documentary.
posted by mippy at 5:41 AM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah, culturally important for a time, but the songs just aren't that good and her voice, never amazing, is shot.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:42 AM on January 11, 2016


I listened to Ani Difranco starting my sophomore year in high school. One of her songs was on a mixtape my older sister brought home from boarding school and I thought it was amazing and a beautiful song. I wasn't allowed to just buy music so most of the stuff I heard was on the radio and from borrowed CDs I taped onto cassettes. And I listened to her through the rest of high school.

But I guess I lost interest in her new music in 1998. I liked Little Plastic Castles but I didn't love it. I still listened to her older albums but i loved Living in a Clip and just stopped there. I got more into Liz Phair and Tori Amos and Hole and actually spent the end of college listening to Dar Williams. Then Patty Griffin.

I still love giving it all a re-listen. Indigo Girls, etc. everything I listened to as a high school kid and into my mid twenties. I enjoy it. But I'm less able to invest a particular emotional energy or not looking to find myself through music.

Actually, I'm going to have to think more about this. I want to stay I'm less intense in what I'm looking for in music, which I guess is obvious, being that I defend Taylor Swift so often here.

I remember Ani Difranco once wrote a reply letter into Inc or some business magazine that had written an article that celebrated how she made more money per album because she owned Righteous Babe, and she put down Jewel and Alanis Morrisette in it. I hadn't been a big fan of either, but I remember reading Dar Williams commenting on it, saying in a measured and kind way "to each their own" but clearly not agreeing with Difranco's comments. I feel like that really might have caused me to just move past Difranco.

And it occurs to me that having listened to her when I was young, during pretty important and impressionable years of my life, I think I figured out towards the end that I'd never be able to authentically be the person I believed Difranco thought her fans should be and encouraged them to be.

I still think her music is great though, the stuff pre 1999?
posted by discopolo at 5:50 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's funny, but my friends who were her biggest fans are all married or in otherwise long-term CIS relationships now. The one with short hair and ripped jeans who dated women for years and would always close her letters with an Ani quote? She eventually married a hyper-conservative republican in a hugely traditional wedding, complete with meringue-white dress and tiara.

I knew some of those people, too, along others with the Earth First guy who is now a corporate lawyer. There needs to be one of those compound German words for the pleasure in watching people take life paths so directly in reverse of their youthful declarations.

I do listen to a bunch of Sleater-Kinney and Bratmobile and Bikini Kill, from the same time, roughly. And Liz Phair. (A theme in my tastes is developing, clearly.). That's all held up really well. A lot of stuff from the 90s hasn't.

Personally I'd put Liz Phair in the "hasn't held up well" category, but I have also been listening to some Bikini Kill and related bands recently (sparked by watching that documentary about Kathleen Hanna), and the best of it has held up very, very well.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:07 AM on January 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


I was never into Ani DiFranco, even though I'm the right age/demographic - I don't really like that style of guitar-playing, for some reason. It's too scritchy. Also, I was all punk rock and had punk rock queers available to me - you didn't need a lot of scritching about not wanting to be pretty if you had, like, homocore events.

But I surmise that distribution/label stuff is a far bigger factor than is getting credited here. I think it's really easy to come up with a lot of cultural stuff and ignore the fact that she was on her own label, didn't get major airplay, wasn't distributed nearly as widely as mainstream artists, etc. Some of that is great - despite my disappointment in her politics (Bitch and Animal turned out to be kind of transphobic, IIRC, in addition to all that retreat racism stuff) I was pretty stoked that she actually stuck to her guns about running her own label. I do think it's good that you can have a career without having to deal with major label shitty abusive stuff.

But - she wasn't on a major label because she was hard to package as a major label product. There was a shining moment when L7 and Babes In Toyland and so on seemed viable to major labels, but DiFranco wasn't grunge or punk or whatever was fashionable in the alt-mainstream in the nineties.

Major label distribution is important. Marketing is important. I think it's really easy to assume that we're talking about culture and philosophy when we're really talking about distribution.

Also, she didn't appeal to dudes-as-a-marketing-category (while of course she still had some male fans). L7 and Babes and so on could at least be marketed to dudes due to the angry punk rock thing and the grunge overlap. You can be a dude and identify with a lot of L7 if you ignore some stuff. Because DiFranco is so spoken-word-y, it's a lot harder to do that.

Also, in re Patti Smith (who is awesome, though): Patti Smith fits really well into a very saleable punk rock narrative. Patti Smith can be read as "feminist" in a safe way (I don't think that's what she's aiming for, or a GOOD reading of her work). I think it's very telling that her memoir is about her and Mapplethorpe - now that times have changed, Mapplethorpe is cool and transgressive rather than an unacceptable gross homo, and we'll read about Patti Smith because we like the stories of women when they engage with great men. We like stories of women when they fit into narratives about male-dominated artistic scenes (and that punk/arts early eighties downtown scene was ridiculously male dominated - so many of the really fascinating women who were present have been forgotten outside of art history circles**.

Patti Smith fits into a cool nostalgic mode, and Patti Smith always had a lot of male fans, and Patti Smith always had major label distribution. The fact that she is a towering figure of genius doesn't change this - there are lots of genius women who don't have these things and get forgotten.

(The first Patti Smith track I really heard was Citizenship, which absolutely blew me away and which seems so eerily, horribly prescient about the present. Cast adrift from the citizen ship, indeed.)

*My least favorite of the queer artists/photogs of that period from an artistic standpoint. The beautiful, humane and also queer and sexually explicit work of Peter Hujar is, IYAM, much better. Peter Hujar forever!

**If you want a fascinating book, try this one about David Wojnarowicz - A Definitive History of Five Or Six Years On The Lower East Side, and buy it from MIT, not Amazon because Wojnarowicz would spin in his grave if you gave them your money. Obviously it's all interviews with him and people who worked with him, but it turned me on to some really interesting women artists.
posted by Frowner at 6:09 AM on January 11, 2016 [18 favorites]


I don't think it's a coincidence that a couple people here have noted To the Teeth as a turning point. I know that's the last Ani album that I could say I really enjoyed. Her output after that has just seemed lacking in some spark that animated her earlier work.

It's probably a combination of me getting older and her getting older, but there's also a built in problem that it's hard to play the plucky, hardscrabble artist when you've built your own label, reliably fill venues, and are a staple on the festival circuit. Ani's music was and is always about Ani, and part of the fun of her music was living vicariously through her sticking it to the man, calling out sexism, and tumbling from heartbreak to heartbreak. Feisty, folk-punk Ani on the margins had passion bleeding though every song. Successful business-owner with stable family life, not so much.

But lots of artists have transitioned successfully into more mature modes. I think the real trouble is that Ani still seems to want to occupy the role of truth-telling outsider and rabble-rouser. The results, however, can be cringe inducing. It's not like Ani was ever a subtle song-writer, but her earlier works came off like honest expressions that she felt needed to be said. Her later works just kind of hamfistedly shove political slogans and buzzwords in because that's what her audience expects, and it comes off less heartfelt and more rote. Even worse, sometimes it just comes off like a cranky relative who needs to spend less time reading HuffPo and posting about RepubliSHAMS on Facebook.

I still really really love her pre-To the Teeth output, but I feel like Ani's been stuck in a rut since then. Like she's going through the motions hoping to recapture the spark of an earlier time, reliably putting out an album every couple years. I can't help but think that maybe she's got a touch of George Lucas Disease, where she doesn't have enough people around her to tell her "no, that's insipid navelgaving" and force her to go write a second draft. I'd like to think that she just needs to find something new to challenge her, intellectually, politically, and musically, because I'd love to recapture that spark too.
posted by Panjandrum at 6:13 AM on January 11, 2016 [12 favorites]


Pavement hasn't played a show since 2010, unless I'm very mistaken, and very upset that I missed hearing about this.

Sorry, meant to type "few", not "two", my mistake. It was 2010. Didn't mean to upset you.
posted by escabeche at 6:23 AM on January 11, 2016


Pavement hasn't played a show since 2010, unless I'm very mistaken, and very upset that I missed hearing about this.

I think the other commenter may have been conflating Pavement shows with SM & the Jicks shows. (A quick googling reveals Kannberg joined the Jicks onstage last year for a version of "Stereo.")
posted by aught at 6:24 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


At least where I grew up, radio and record stores and musical tastes in general were shockingly segregated, and it wasn't until the late 90s that it became okay for white alt/queer/hippie kids to listen to hip-hop by black artists.

And a lot of what made Ani interesting, aside from her own personal queerness, was stuff that was also going on in hip-hop in an even bigger way. The DIY/self-distributed thing. The slam poetry thing. Well-crafted lyrics that told a story, and that used images and metaphors and cultural references in a deliberate, effective way. "Conscious" lyrics. Good beats (including the percussive way she played guitar even when she wasn't working with a band). The way she embraced loops and samples in the mid-90s.

All of that stuff was a revelation to me when I was in high school. Because at that point, the only rappers I was listening to were Beck and the Beastie Boys — who weren't really politically engaged, and who (let's be honest) were just not very good lyricists.

The rappers who had things to say to me, as a young queer kind-of-granola woman who went to poetry slams and thought a lot about what we now call social justice, just weren't on my radar yet. I'd heard Tupac, but I'd written him off as a misogynistic asshole and had no appreciation for his talent or for the political content of his lyrics. I'd never heard Nas. I'd never heard A Tribe Called Quest or De La Soul. Nobody in my social circle knew about Outkast until Aquemini. I'd paid zero attention to women in rap and R&B — never paid any attention to Lauryn Hill until her solo album had already been out for years, or to Missy Eliot, etc. I guess I was listening to Erykah Badu, but I didn't have the context to understand her lyrics and just thought of her as mood music. And so on, and so on, and so on.

When I was finally exposed to that stuff and learned to appreciate it — first by going to a national poetry slam that wasn't racially segregated in the way my local slam was, and then finally by starting to listen to black artists of my own accord — Ani DiFranco started seeming a lot less new and exciting. I still think she was one of the best lyricists of her generation outside of hip-hop, but that "outside of hip-hop" feels like an awfully big asterisk now, and it's been a long time since she's been my go-to for music that also works as poetry or for music with political relevance.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:53 AM on January 11, 2016 [13 favorites]


Jazz flute, waaaay too much pot smoking, self-righteous judgey anger. I didn't like her shift to the neo-jazz crap - Steven Tyler can scat but she sure as shit can't. And her blah blah blah self-righteous war is shit, man, lyrics. Right now she's writing the same song over and over again, and her take on things is pretty juvenile - which is why I adored her when I was 15. And goooooood lord, I can't remember which one of her tour docs it was but the last one I saw she's talking in her kitchen or something and sounds so fucking high. I have no problems with pot smoking, don't get me wrong, but she was way gone and just annoying.
posted by good lorneing at 7:11 AM on January 11, 2016


I think I'm an outlier in a number of ways, at least from those in this thread:
1. I've seen Ani live twice in the past 5 years, and I had a blast (and the venues were packed with happy fans),
2. I didn't get into her music until the past decade, when my wife re-introduced her music to me

I knew of her music back in the 1990s, but my teenage angst was supported by The Smashing Pumpkins. Even now, she's not a staple in our house, but we did buy her new "official bootleg" of a show from 1995, and my wife recently got some of her albums on vinyl (though they're her older albums, as the new ones haven't grabbed us too strongly).

I have to thank her for having Anais Mitchell open for her some years back, because that's how we heard about Hadestown, which was also a lot of fun live.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:18 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also my first Internet community was anidifranco.org, then it's post-ani incarnation Random Snacks, which hooked me up with some people I'm still in touch with. It was a HUGE part of my life. All this to say one person reports one day that her car was broken into and she returns to find everything gone including all her CDs...except her Ani collection, which the thief left behind on her seat.
posted by good lorneing at 7:18 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I loved Ani DiFranco back in the day. I had a ton of her albums and Both Hands from Living in Clip (the version with the orchestra) is still one of my favorite songs.

I kind of agree with their Evolve Hypothesis. There are plenty of artists that manage to stay relevant through the years, but they have to evolve to a certain degree and I'm not sure she has. I'm far from an expert on anything music, but she kind of captured a zeitgeist for the time, one which eventually became mainstream and boring. There's so much great new music from women artists all the time - it's hard to keep up. I haven't heard anything of hers recently, but I'm guessing if she had done anything that seemed more fresh, she would still be relevant. And of course there's still that whole retreat thing which was gross.

And I was just put in mind of the long arc of the Utne Reader, which was also such a thing back in the late 1980s/early 1990s and is now a shadow of itself.

I worked at the Utne Reader for a short time. It was a great magazine back in the day and I miss it (or should I say, miss what it once was).
posted by triggerfinger at 7:26 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


An ex-girlfriend of mine who was politically-lesbian (ie: she felt she should be a lesbian because liberalism, fight the power, etc., but didn't like girl parts and did like boy parts) was big into Ani, so we listened to her. I admired her guitar playing but found her too earnest and spot-on by half, which kind of applies to the ex-GF as well, who I fought with more than all the other relationships in my life added up, including my 13 year and counting marriage.

So to me Ani brings back the opposite of nostalgia, a "there but for the grace of a mutually agreed breakup go I" -feel.
posted by signal at 7:27 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


To the Teeth is right around where I dropped out, too. I still listen to and love my earlier Ani stuff but the couple of albums after that didn't do much for me, and then I just stopped bothering. Maybe the newer ones are great and I just don't know it, but I'll wait for someone to tell me if that's the case.

Plus, yeah, Righteous Retreat. Not quite over that yet.

(But I still laugh every time I come across photos of my college dorm room, with its carefully and lovingly selected photos of Ani arraying my walls. Before I'd figured out I was bi. Oh, Baby Me, the conversations I would have with you if I could go back...)
posted by Stacey at 7:38 AM on January 11, 2016


Why the kids like some old bands, but not others (including DiFranco)

1) No hooks. Musically, if you heard her on the radio and didn't know her, you're not going to get an earworm from her. And that's fine, plenty of good music out there isn't hummable or hooky, but to last beyond your immediate relevance, you probably should be hooky.

2) Nothing in the lyrics that you can't get from artists who sound more modern now, and probably more subtly and cunningly communicated. DiFranco's words sound to modern ears the way early 80s sitcoms do--probably funny back then, but stale now.

3) Not influential to what's relevant today. You don't hear a lot of DiFranco's influence in what matters or is popular right now.

I really think it's as simple as that. The market (the kids) have much better products available.

There's plenty of music from my late adolescence that I love, yet understand that love to be about who I was back then, more than about the music itself. That's pretty much the deal with DiFranco too.
posted by turntraitor at 7:39 AM on January 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


Dip Flash: "Personally I'd put Liz Phair in the "hasn't held up well" category"

I will still argue strongly in favor of Exile in Guyville, and have good things to say about Whip-smart and whitechocolatespaceegg. The less said about her later studio albums, the better.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:04 AM on January 11, 2016 [13 favorites]


Also, honestly, there are basically none of her good songs left that don't remind me of one breakup or another.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:10 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Like, Tori reminds me of the general miasma of high school depression, but I'm okay enough with that to bring her first few albums out every once in a while. Ani reminds me so intensely of specific moments of rage and shame and pain — many of them moments when I behaved embarrassingly badly myself — that it's really hard to put that shit on when I'm washing dishes or sitting on the bus or whatever.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:13 AM on January 11, 2016


and who (let's be honest) were just not very good lyricists.

I will fight you.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:20 AM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Weirdest band to see live now: The Aquabats - still a lot of fun, and I loved seeing the crowd (a bunch of teens in black clothing singing along, along with folks in their 30s+, who were more likely to wear an Aquabat mask), but they took breaks between sets and played videos (I think - I remember them sitting down and something else happening), where a few decades back they fought costumed monsters between songs.

Then again, I was happy for the interludes because I also liked taking a breather, so I can't get too upset that guys older than me aren't the full Iggy Pop level non-stop energetic stage shows.

(Saddest scene where the opening band overshadowed the headliner: a Mexican electro-industrial band, Hocico, destroyed it, and left :Wumpscut: [I think] sounding old and fragile. Similar but different: The Procussions were super energetic and fun, and made Souls of Mischief feel down-right drowsy).
posted by filthy light thief at 8:26 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Personally I'd put Liz Phair in the "hasn't held up well" category"

I still like her stuff, all the way through her self-titled album. Now, I never loved every single song on any of her albums, but I think they're great. I know a lot of Liz Phair fans were mad that her style changed, but she did say that she was in her 40s, had a kid, and the kinds of songs she wrote before no longer rang true to her because she'd gotten older.

And I thought that was very honest and she put it really well. I liked Liz Phair's self titled album.

I know Tori Amos's stuff beginning with Strange Little Girls was my dropping off point with her. But I loved her live album To Venus and Back. And she is a gifted musician. Though I remember reading maybe a Rolling Stone review of To Venus and Back or some other place and it (kinda accurately) said that Tori fans would love her live album even if she were belching into a toilet (I think it was hard for the reviewer to make out the words she sang).

I may not love what these artists did later, but I think it's really admirable that they continued to write and record and I'm glad they do their best to be true to themselves.

Though when I think of myself with my Ani, Tori, Liz Phair, Hole music, I have to smile. I was pretty intense, and I genuinely listened to and thought about the lyrics. I think it's pretty interesting and entertaining in retrospect, this whole growing up business, trying to figure out what you're thinking, what rings true to you and how intense and complex those emotions are, and how I don't have the same emotional resilience now that I did during those years. Like I can't listen to certain songs or dwell on things because I like and value being on an even keel.

But boy did I run a lot of miles on the treadmill with Tori Amos in my CD player. And Hole. That was some good stuff.
posted by discopolo at 8:34 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't have much to add to this, there's a lot of insightful comments above. Ani DiFranco was probably the last musical artist whose music I really and truly fell in love with -- for me, anyway, it is an aging thing where although it's still the case that I get very excited when I discover a new artist and they are my temporary favorite (right now it's Torres), it's not like it was when I was young. I discovered DiFranco in 1996 when I was 32 and I think that was probably the age for me that was at the end of that kind of youthful infatuation with an artist.

One thing I recall when I think about DiFranco is one of the very last conversations I had with my ex-wife -- it was in 1996 and we'd been divorced a couple of years but I had to call her because someone had contacted me trying to get in touch with her. I asked her about DiFranco and her immediate response was "I was wondering when you'd discover her". So, apparently, although I'm a straight guy, her music was inevitably going to appeal to me.

Anyway, it makes me weirdly sad that I agree that she's faded from relevance and her reputation has shrunk over the years, not grown as it aged. She was so important to me for a while, she was important to a lot of people. And putting aside all the cultural stuff that's been mentioned, some of which is surely true, I just think that some music just ages well and some doesn't, and it's hard to tell which it's going to be. Usually, the more bounded to the zeitgeist the music is, the less well it ages, but that's isn't always true. Sometimes it works exactly the opposite, maybe because it's so evocative of the zeitgeist in a way that inspires a lot of fondness and a song's appeal is how it so evocative that way. That's true of a lot of stuff from the 60s-80s that has aged well. It sort of seems to me to be less true of the 90s, but I'm not the best judge of that, since the whole 90s-through-now is kind of a contemporary era for me, being as old as I am. I still discover obscure artists from the 90s that I like a lot and wish I'd known of them then.

But Ani's music hasn't aged well for me. I listened to Not a Pretty Girl and Dilate almost every few days for a few years. I haven't listened to any of her songs in years -- looking at my last.fm scrobbles, which date to 2006, I see that I've listened to her songs only 41 times in this period, the most recent was a single track in 2014. When I think about even my favorite songs, I find that it doesn't inspire in me a desire to listen to any of them again. I don't have a conscious awareness of why this is -- what I described above about how music ages is my experience of it, anyway, and it's like some stuff just loses its appeal and other stuff doesn't, or gains appeal. I didn't like The Smashing Pumpkins nearly so much in the 90s as I like them now, for example. And I went pretty nuts when I discovered tUnE-yArDs a few years ago, but find I have less and less interest. Why? I don't exactly know. I've just long thought that Ani's music simply doesn't age very well.

It's true that I abandoned her like a lot of other people did fairly early on. It seemed to me that she just did the same thing over again, but with less energy and interest.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:38 AM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


I too loved Ani's albums in the 90s and then checked out around the time of To The Teeth. I'm not a lesbian, I just liked her music and thought she wrote good lyrics and played an amazing guitar. It's hard to remember my mindset in 1999 (when To The Teeth came out) but that year she released two full-length studio albums: TTT and also Up Up Up Up Up Up. I remember liking some of TTT, but I look at the track listing for Upx6 and don't even remember if I bought that album. I have all of her other albums until then.

For whatever reason, I've continued to be interested in new music released by my other 90s favorites, Tori Amos and PJ Harvey, but not Ani. I think her prolificness probably played a large part, but also I just really liked her earlier sound and voice. At some point her songs just stopped having an impact on me.
posted by wondermouse at 8:43 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Feisty, folk-punk Ani on the margins had passion bleeding though every song. Successful business-owner with stable family life, not so much.

Agreed. That's why I think some of her best recent songs are the ones where she sings passionately about what's going right in her life (albacore comes to mind).

She wasn't always going to be the pissed off 25 year old, making bad relationship decisions.

Ha, now she writes angry songs (presumably to those who still want to hear that angst from her) like "If you're not getting happier as you get older, then you're fucking up."

That's why I tend to find most of the songs I really liked for the lyrics (or their cathartic potential) to "hold up"only in the sense that they powerfully evoke nostalgia. ("What do you do, with a revolution, when everyone's the same!?" Ha ha, love it.)

Sure, some songs still make me say "yep, that's true," but for the most part, the lines that resonated did so for situational reasons or because they were the lessons I was learning at the time. There must be good songs about the kinds of things I'm still trying to figure out now, but I don't know where exactly.
posted by salvia at 8:46 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wonder if every 40something feels a little odd when the totemic music of their youth becomes known more for being a generational relic than for transcending that very specific generation.

I have a somewhat similar thought whenever I visit my FIL at the assisted-living center he lives in. The music being played in the background is all of this age-appropriate music. Generally, big-band-ish stuff with some mid-50's milquetoast "jazz". I often wonder what the soundtrack in these places will be when my generation starts moving in. I mean, good lord, the music I grew up with spans 70's classic rock, glam rock, disco, punk, new wave, electronica, grunge, etc. etc. And, where am I going to put my JBLs in one of those tiny apartments?
posted by Thorzdad at 9:00 AM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Of all the female singer-songwriters' albums I listened to throughout college, I do feel like Dar Williams' held up better than most, since a fair number were about families, places, and the little details of life. That reminds me I should check out her more recent stuff.
posted by salvia at 9:05 AM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have only a very small dog in this race, almost too little to see, and I don't doubt that everything that's being said about her artistic decline and the difficulty of going back to her earlier work is true. Same with the stuff about the retreat, the fact that she's tied to a certain moment in '90s lesbian identity from which many queer women have moved on, etc.

At the same time, we all know that women's art gets memory-holed while men's art endures; women's work is seen as tied to its time while men's is seen as immortal; there are far fewer slots reserved in the canon for women. People would have stopped listening to Ani DiFranco with or without good reasons.
posted by thesmallmachine at 9:22 AM on January 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


"For whatever reason, I've continued to be interested in new music released by my other 90s favorites, Tori Amos and PJ Harvey, but not Ani."

PJ Harvey is an interesting example because while I think that Amos is not quite as irrelevant and uninteresting as DiFranco has become, I think it's not so different. But PJ Harvey seems to me, anyway, as fresh and interesting as ever. I mean, well, I don't listen to her older stuff quite as much as I used to and I didn't find Let England Shake as great as I hoped it would be, I still so listen to her music quite a bit and I think she's still relevant.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:25 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ha ha. I just love it, when an entire generation stops to look around then realizes that they didn't discover the wheel after all.

My parents used to do the Lindy, and thought Glen Miller, the old Carter Family, and the Singing Brakeman were just the bees knees. I admit to liking stuff like American Patrol, and those haunting train songs, but for the most part big bands were like a soup with too many types of veggies...filling, but they all taste more or less the same. I can't shake Jimmy Rodgers and Hank senior, though. My grandson asks me about the musical wallpaper of my salad days, and I crank up Foreigner....Aaaa-i-aaahhhh...and Jimi.....

The newly ignited look of respect he gives me is priceless, and lasts until I admit that I just don't get rap, or hoplite, or whatever it's called. In his eyes I'm sinking deeper and deeper into fogey-hood.

Power to the People.
posted by mule98J at 9:29 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just want to add to my prior comment: the same reasons we name for dropping female artists from the canon are reasons for which canonized male artists get a pass. Kurt Cobain is hookless, Morrissey is politically embarrassing, and most musicians go into artistic decline eventually.
posted by thesmallmachine at 9:34 AM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Ani reminds me so intensely of specific moments of rage and shame and pain — many of them moments when I behaved embarrassingly badly myself — that it's really hard to put that shit on when I'm washing dishes or sitting on the bus or whatever.

Oh, hello, this is why I don't listen to Jane's Addiction. There needs to be a compound German word for that experience, the one where you hear a song and decades of personal development and recovery are rolled right back for four agonizing minutes.
posted by sobell at 9:36 AM on January 11, 2016 [13 favorites]


Kurt Cobain is hookless

Strong disagree. You can hum the hook from "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
posted by drezdn at 9:39 AM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


You know, I bet part of it is definitely demographics. There doesn't seem to be much overlap between the music critics who trumpet stuff they liked from their youth, and Ani fans. I could be wrong, but I picture the typical music critic as being far more likely to have been into PJ Harvey or Liz Phair.

Personally, while I wouldn't say I was a huge fan, I really liked "Little Plastic Castles" and dug her style of guitar playing.
posted by drezdn at 9:44 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I feel like Cobain isn't a useful example because discussions of Cobain's legacy are, of course, shaped by his suicide. That fixed his legacy in ways that a longer run (and likely eventual dissolution) of Nirvana would have changed...

As for me, I discovered Ani in college, and her works spoke to Baby Outraged Feminist me. And there are still a few songs of hers that have deeply personal associations for me, so "Both Hands" and "Imperfectly" still show up on my playlists. But I can't think of the last time I listened to an album all the way through.

It's interesting: I also never listen to Sarah M anymore, but I recently went through all of my Tori albums for a concentrated spate because of, all thing, Tori's Christmas album which I really liked. So the idea that Tori did a Christmas album and that fired my nostalgia and renewed appreciation goes back to what other people were saying about artists being in a rut. Like, I'm trying to imagine Ani doing a full-on holiday album... and the mind boggles.
posted by TwoStride at 9:46 AM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Music is so weird sometimes. You'll never hear a Replacements song on radio stations with an 80s theme (or the Ramones in a 70s rock block), but you might hear them on modern playlists.
posted by drezdn at 9:47 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I feel like Cobain isn't a useful example because discussions of Cobain's legacy are, of course, shaped by his suicide.

Yeah, actually, I agree. Heat of the moment.
posted by thesmallmachine at 9:50 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's interesting this discussion is happening the same day that David Bowie passed. Bowie always kept changing, he never stayed in one stylistic place too long. Ani's music is much more of a particular time that she has remained in ever since. Change is risky, of course, and many artists never manage to pull it off. Perhaps she feels she can't.
posted by tommasz at 9:56 AM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


There doesn't seem to be much overlap between the music critics who trumpet stuff they liked from their youth, and Ani fans. I could be wrong, but I picture the typical music critic as being far more likely to have been into PJ Harvey or Liz Phair.

Not only that, but there are far, far more male music critics, especially of my generation and older. Jessica Hopper is the most famous woman music critic I can think of who is about the right age for Ani DiFranco. She was the friend of a friend long ago in Minneapolis, and she didn't really seem into the whole DiFranco thing, and should not indeed have to carry that particular flag because of her gender. And of course, while she's had some recent big success, she's mostly writing in girls' and women's venues.

(She's a good critic and really deserves her success, IMO - I really like her writing for rookie.)

I do think that women of approximately my generation who were socialized into the Serious About Music thing were pressured to pay a lot more attention to male musicians. I was a bit lucky because this was when riot grrrl was happening, so I actually had access to a good number of albums by women, and that itself normalized seeking out more - I had as many first wave punk albums/immediate post-punk albums by women/with women in them as I could find (Avengers, Adverts, Shop Assistants, Rezillos, Mekons, Raincoats*, Xray Spex, etc)

*IIRC it was in fact Kurt Cobain's enthusiasm for the Raincoats which led to the reissue of their albums. I got mine at Red Pets records in Northfield Minnesota, that short-lived indie record shop run by an alum. In fact, I got two, because I lost one. The thing about Kurt Cobain - I literally was in the wrong scene to hear Nirvana - we thought it was boring sell-out garbage, I could not recognize a Nirvana song if you played one for me - but I have to say, as far as one can tell he was a good guy who tried pretty hard to be feminist. It's so weird thinking of all that stuff, because if you were around for riot grrrl and the sort of big-small coffeehouse/gallery shows, all those people were so real - they weren't like celebrities, because you'd always know someone who knew them, or know someone who used to be their housemate or something.
posted by Frowner at 10:07 AM on January 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


I was surprised to find a while back that Tori fans (rabid Tori fans, I should say) really hate her husband for, apparently, transforming her into 'Fori' or Fake Tori.

I first heard Tori in my teens - well, Cornflake Girl was a hit in the UK, and I liked that when I was 12 because I did feel a bit weird. (If you want to know how fun year 7 was, consider that my other favourite song from that year was La Tristesse Durera.) That and the Armand Van Helden (?) remix of Professional Widow that was a massive hit here were all I knew of her for a long time, and it was great to discover Under The Pink at the same time I was listening to Le Tigre and Live Through This and Post all the time. I remember trying hard to work out how she got her hair that colour via the internet, having taken off my school uniform for the final time that year upon completing my last exam and promptly dying mine red.

I haven't listened to her for years, though, because for me she was someone that made sense when I was a teenager and less so later on. I can't hear anything from Little Earthquakes now without thinking of a teenage boyfriend who said he liked to listen to Me And A Gun in the dark, usually crying. I sometimes forget she is still out there making music.
posted by mippy at 10:10 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


you know you are old when they have a genre for your high school music. (For me it is "retro".

This reminds me

Kids, "Old School" hip hop refers to a particular era and was pretty much over by 1985. Yes the hip hop I listened to in the late 80s and early 90s is now old and I realize that, but it is not "Old School" god dammit
posted by Hoopo at 10:14 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


PJ Harvey is an interesting example because while I think that Amos is not quite as irrelevant and uninteresting as DiFranco has become, I think it's not so different. But PJ Harvey seems to me, anyway, as fresh and interesting as ever. I mean, well, I don't listen to her older stuff quite as much as I used to and I didn't find Let England Shake as great as I hoped it would be, I still so listen to her music quite a bit and I think she's still relevant.

With Tori, I can go back and listen to her first few albums and still be wowed by them - even by today's standards, they are technically impressive. I may no longer be a teenager crying while "Hey Jupiter" plays on repeat, but a lot of that music sounds timeless to me because it was and still is weird even though Tori has influenced so many other singer-songwriters, and the style varied so much from one song to the next. The production on those albums is very well done and imaginative. And while a lot of Tori's post-2000s material has fallen flat with many of her fans (myself included), some of her more recent albums actually have had some great songs on them, and she's still exploring different ideas.

With Ani, I think the feeling I got after a while is that she just kept digging the same hole, and maybe I got tired of being in that hole with her? I feel weird saying that, since I know she has a lot of variety too and I've admittedly barely listened to anything she's released since To The Teeth. But there must be some reason why I got that feeling. I've always listened to music primarily written and sung by women, so I doubt that has anything to do with it. But with her music, the lyrics are so in your face - so when the lyrics stopped speaking to me, and when I stopped enjoying her style of music as it moved away from the simple folk sound to a more jazz/funk-influenced sound, I stopped listening to the songs.
posted by wondermouse at 10:19 AM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


1. Liz Phair is awesome. Unfortunately, exile to guyville was her best shit ever, and it went down after that.

2. Tori Amos is awesome. Her best shit was under the pink...maybe little earthquakes. I sat by myself for the dew drop inn tour in the summer of 98, I think. She was awesome, but after, I think, boys for pele, she lost it a little.

Exile, boys for pele, under the pink, little earthquakes hold up really really well. It's great music.

Ani difranco, before and now can't hold a candle to that shit.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:30 AM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


The likes of Ani, Tori, Fiona Apple & PJ Harvey were my JAM since I was 14, but after So much shouting, So much laughter I've found myself looking around for other people making noise for a living. Though theres been a sprinkling of songs that still hit you, like that lifeboat or hearse song, Reprieve & Knuckle down are pretty solid albums too, IMO.

I feel, that a lot of Ani's fans have always been pretty critical of her work. I remember people bitching pretty much every time a new album came out. That being said, I wasn't so surprised by the way people went bezerk over the music retreat, either. Still was such a bummer tho. A good chunk of Ani's fans have always been a clamor-y drama queen bunch. Its like they're always trying to catch her for something. So. if she wants to focus on raising kids and revive old bootlegs so be it. If kids want to listen to Lana, go for it. But to stick them in the same group is up for debate.

Tori kind of lost me at all the wigs and botox.
..and I remember googling if anyone agreed with me that Tori got so meh, and someone made the terrible (but probably accurate) remark that someone should steal Tori's baby to make her revert to that raw, old school sound. And it made me think that if these guys are living happier lives and sing about the birds and bunnies thats okay, they've had pretty traumatic experiences and you as a listener still have a pretty solid cache of 90s angst.

I'll always hold Ani dear in my heart meats, her words were there when I needed them. And you gotta admit, those early albums are still pretty solid road trip music when you go out on your own.
posted by speakeasy at 10:59 AM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wonder if every 40something feels a little odd when the totemic music of their youth becomes known more for being a generational relic than for transcending that very specific generation.

Just wait until the next stage, when people discuss the totemic music of their youth and you think: Which one was she again? I'm sure I heard her songs at some point. Then you realize that time really is marching on.

I wonder if we can ever predict, at the time, whose music will become a relic of the past and whose will transcend.
posted by kanewai at 11:20 AM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ani was like the 90's folk-rock indie piercing Lower-East-Side acoustic guitar coffee shop very-specific-lyrics zeitgeist made flesh. That kind of relevance doesn't last.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:42 AM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Google is not returning anything for "does ani difranco send her child to public school".

Anybody know?
posted by bukvich at 11:43 AM on January 11, 2016


Google is not returning anything for "does ani difranco send her child to public school".

Anybody know?
Invasive searches like this are why celebrities send their kids to private school.
posted by pxe2000 at 11:51 AM on January 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


Kurt Cobain is hookless

wat

On-Topic: I sold a lot of Ani Difranco CDs at the college-town record store. Never heard of her before the job and I don't think I've ever heard her music to this town. I never understood the hullaboo over the DIY and feminist angle when there were bands like Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill, and Team Dresch. *shrug*
posted by entropicamericana at 11:52 AM on January 11, 2016


Just an aside that a funny thing to me about this is that in 1986 my favorite artist was Suzanna Vega -- I was pretty nuts for her for awhile. And she was an influence on DiFranco, they were friends. I also don't listen to any of Vega's music anymore, even though it was so important to me back then. Of course, at that time I was 22. And I was also kind of smitten with Vega personally (such as that can make sense, being a fan) in a way that I've not been with an artist as I've gotten older.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:52 AM on January 11, 2016


You know how meeting famous people is always awkward? Well, I met Ani once, and it was EVEN MORE AWKWARD THAN THAT. Because you know who introduced me to her?

Ok, back up. You know that song where she's bitching about her ex who cheated on her? Like, Dilate-era, "Gravel", etc. Well, he was a shit for reasons, and the woman he was cheating on Ani with ditched him, and then she and Ani kinda got to be sorta friends but it was super awkward.

How do I know know this? Because she's the one who introduced me to Ani. Seriously the most awkward three minutes of small talk in my life, which has been surprisingly full of awkward small talk. (And I ended up dating that woman for a couple months, which... went awkwardly. Surprise, surprise. But for a while I could impress all the baby dykes by saying I was two degrees from Ani in bed.)
posted by restless_nomad at 11:57 AM on January 11, 2016 [14 favorites]


I kind of feel like Ani DiFranco came to music because she wanted to make a political/social statement through her lyrics, where so many of the other artists mentioned (Tori and PJ, definitely) had a stronger musical background and needed to write songs. Ani put the cart before the horse. The fact that she really needed someone -- a producer or A&R person, for starters -- to say no to her didn't help matters.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:31 PM on January 11, 2016


I agree with others above: Exile is great (amazing). Whip-Smart good. Harder to defend after that.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:36 PM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I will forever remember that college summer when I was driving home after visiting my (secret) girlfriend, across all of Oregon and Washington, listening to Living in Clip on repeat. Now I too have married a dude, but Overlap is still one of my favorite songs.
posted by esoterrica at 12:49 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


And you gotta admit, those early albums are still pretty solid road trip music when you go out on your own.

Oh man, so much. I am from Buffalo and was in high school/college in the 90s so obviously I was an Ani fan in the Not a Pretty Girl/Dilate era. I don't listen to her anymore. Except, except, if there's a rare occasion that I'm on a solo road trip, there is nothing better than belting out every word to every song on Not a Pretty Girl while driving down the highway.

I could probably say the same about Little Earthquakes, but I do think there's something to the idea that Tori to this day gets greater... respect?... in the general music appreciation crowd. So if I were to tell someone I loved Tori in high school/college, there isn't that cringe factor that there is when I talk about my past love for Ani's work. I'm not smart enough to be able to analyze why that is so, it just is.
posted by misskaz at 1:07 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh man, "Both Hands". I had forgotten about that song until this thread. Memories of my first girlfriend. It amazes me that I forgot about something that meant so much to me at the time.
posted by aclevername at 2:37 PM on January 11, 2016


I'm neither hippie nor lesbian, but as a weird kid growing up in small-town England, I gravitated towards queer narratives as so many of them dealt with not fitting in with people around you, and dreaming of going to a place where you can be who you want to be.

I had a similar experience, only with me it was being a straight misfit in the suburbs and listening to the Pet Shop Boys, drawn to the coded otherness in their queer themes.
posted by acb at 2:48 PM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


>I never understood the hullaboo over the DIY and feminist angle when there were bands like Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill, and Team Dresch. *shrug*

Donna Dresch 4 eva! Man, seeing Team Dresch at EJ's. Those were the days.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:11 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ha! Just occurs to me that I have an Ani DeFranco story.

I was on my first big tour with my old trio, just after 9/11. We were doing Portland->NYC/Boston and back, in a van.

We'd played Boise and were headed to either Minneapolis or Ann Arbor, I think, and had to spend a night in Billings. So we went to a bar to get drunk and hopefully find someone to let us crash with them.

It was pretty early, so we set into accomplishing our first objective. Pretty soon, though, evening came, and there was a blues or jazz group setting up. They played, and we shot the shit with local hippies &c.

Then a trumpeter stepped up to sit in with the house band. Dude had a very nice trumpet (I was playing cornet on that tour, so it's the kinda thing I noticed at the time. Mine cost me $40, though) and shredded.

Lo and behold, he was Ani DeFranco's trumpet player and the whole band was in the bar. My drunken bandmate, an alto player, hustled over to them and asked Ani if we could crash with them at the hotel.

They said no way Jose.

We ended up staying with a very nice hippy grad student couple and playing Scrabble with them. We left them a very weird CD and I hope they listened to it.

Brushes with greatness.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:15 PM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


I was a big Tori fan for a few years back in the day. Little Earthquekes was an amazing first-listen. One of most flat-out rocking concerts I ever saw was Tori. She fucking tore it up. I had a stupid grin on my face for days.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:22 PM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Huh. I definitely lost interest in following Ani's new music, I got older, was disappointed by her weird missteps as she got older, I got into different things, etc. But my favorites of hers from back in the day still get to ride shotgun singing LOUD while I'm driving alone sometimes. It's changed in context; it's not something I'd put on for background music anymore, but as private music for myself there's still something there for me to enjoy remembering.
posted by desuetude at 5:45 PM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


> It's funny, but my friends who were her biggest fans are all married or in otherwise long-term CIS relationships now. The one with short hair and ripped jeans who dated women for years and would always close her letters with an Ani quote? She eventually married a hyper-conservative republican in a hugely traditional wedding, complete with meringue-white dress and tiara.

Ohh yeah, that's the other odd thing. How often some bit of bisexual erasure gets invoked when she comes up in discussion. [sigh] Long-term CIS relationships?...do you mean opposite-sex relationships?
posted by desuetude at 6:00 PM on January 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


Hoopo: "you know you are old when they have a genre for your high school music. (For me it is "retro".

This reminds me

Kids, "Old School" hip hop refers to a particular era and was pretty much over by 1985. Yes the hip hop I listened to in the late 80s and early 90s is now old and I realize that, but it is not "Old School" god dammit
"

The only rap I like is so called "old school." I am talking stuff like Run DMC and such.
posted by Samizdata at 6:43 PM on January 11, 2016


I only knew one Ani song from the radio, but all the other baby dykes were going to her show so I ponied up and went. At the beginning of every single song I'd think "hey! It's that song I know!" And it would turn out to be something else instead. Everything started to run together after a while.

What I want to know is why Jonatha Brooke isn't a superstar.
posted by Biblio at 6:55 PM on January 11, 2016


But my favorites of hers from back in the day still get to ride shotgun singing LOUD while I'm driving alone sometimes

One unexpected bonus of this thread has been that I've been straight up rocking some of my Ani favorites.

Also, that I remembered that some (male) friends of mine who were also Ani fans used to joke that we should form an all-male Ani cover band. Our name? Not a Pretty Girl.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:09 PM on January 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


I may be the only person in the world who isn't bitter over an Ani-tinged breakup.

I was dumped by a college girlfriend for another gal, and they followed Ani around for a summer. I liked the girl she dumped me for. She was nice and smart and really hot. I felt no resentment at all, which in retrospect was kind of weird. I'm still friends with the ex 20 years later. She married a guy and has kids.
posted by echocollate at 8:39 PM on January 11, 2016


For whatever reason, hardly anything I was a big fan of during the '90s still resonates with me...my best guess is that a lot of it was downer music to feel depressed to, and 42 year-old me is not as angsty as 21 year-old me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:34 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


> I agree with others above: Exile is great (amazing). Whip-Smart good. Harder to defend after that.

Agree 100% with this, although I'd still go to bat for about a third of whitechocolatespaceegg (which, admittedly, I haven't heard in a long time).
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:36 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


You know who still seems relevant of the 90's women artists? Fiona Apple.

When she toured a couple-few years ago she played a very small venue here in Chicago, and people were rabid to get tickets. I was lucky enough to snag two, and the age variance was from college age up through the 40s.

Of course, for various reasons, Fiona has put out a very small handful of records and that makes her music an easier entry point. Also there's not this cult built up around her like with Ani or Tori, you know?

Also she's so goddamned talented I could spit just thinking about it. I had no real expectations seeing her perform, and it was one of the best shows I've ever seen.
posted by Windigo at 7:02 AM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


You know who still seems relevant of the 90's women artists? Fiona Apple.


I think you're right, and she would have been the last answer I would have given to that question in 1998.
posted by deanc at 7:36 AM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


::checks itunes::

I have bought about 17 of her albums, at least 3 additional double disc Live albums, and a further 2 ep's.

Looking at her official discography that's only about half her recorded output.

I haven't listened to most of them since 2013, the few I have listened two since then were part of 4 or five star playlists.

I stopped buying her stuff because it felt exhausting and expensive being a fan of hers when it seemed like every year saw the release of at least two double disc live album packages. Being based in the UK I had to import (or get specialist shops to import) anything she produced, and that was not cheap.

Plus I stopped being that particular brand of angry and started being a older-version-of-me-resigned instead.

She sill seems popular - she still tours consistently, presumably to a sustainable (for her) crowd. I have seen her in concert at least three times, and she does give an energetic show, but she also (if memory serves me) performs a lot more political poetry and less singing than you would expect. I have a vague idea about some of the gender politics that meant she fell out of favour with the 'lesbian chic' crowd, but I'm in the UK so didn't really follow that.

I was aware of the Righteous Retreat debacle as it happened, and by all accounts that was a huge bucket of fail. I probably wont't by any of her more recent material because it seems incredibly samey to what I already own. It was powerful personal music for me when I was younger, and listening to it now, some of the lyrics do still really resonate, but wether she stood still or my musical tastes expanded, I am not sure, because it's not as fulfilling anymore.

She always came across to me as someone bemoaning the faustian deal that means she had to sell her music, but it rings hollow because she runs and owns her own music company.

No one forced her to put her poems to music and sell them.
posted by Faintdreams at 10:28 AM on January 12, 2016


No mention of Utah Phillips? I really enjoyed (and still enjoy) The Past Didn't Go Anywhere.

I was a pretty big Ani fan during the rising years (which is my m.o.), Out of Range thru Little Plastic Castles (#4-8, 1994-98). Then I stopped caring.

... there's (lots of) other music to listen to ... it's hard for anyone one good album, let alone two. The ones who last 20 years are four-leaf clovers.

You know who still seems relevant of the 90's women artists? Fiona Apple.

Sleater-Kinney. (And Sinead, god fucking bless her.) (I also think PJ Harvey and Bjork are still around ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 11:06 PM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I fall into the category of being one of the "guitar dads," I guess, even though I haven't been at one of her shows in a long time. But my first contribution to the internet 20 years ago is a tab transcription of one of her trickier tunes.

I feel like her missteps are being needled these days when the more significant reasons behind her fading are a convergence of broader technological, intellectual, and industry shifts.

The alternative and indie categories have been exhausted and/or folded into the broader industry so that they don't have the same power that many felt they had way back when. The category of "women's music," of which she was at that punk-ish fringes of, has been similarly reconfigured.

Despite her efforts to branch out (collaborating with Maceo Parker, etc.) the core of her sound is a very dense, busy kind of guitar playing that doesn't leave all that much room for lots of multitrack layering, which became the hallmark of laptop-based aesthetics just a few years after her heyday. I think that the comparison of "Everything is Awesome" singers Tegan and Sara is apt in that they, being a few years younger, made the choice to jump into the pop world rather than maintaining a "hardline" alterna- stance.

The post-napster reconfiguration of the industry deflated the battle cry against the major labels within which Ani positioned herself as a true believer who not only talked the talk, but walked the walk.

Another shift in pop music is along the lines of music marked 'black' or 'white'. There is lots of music in the 1980s and 1990s that is funk-influenced or hip-hop adjacent but makes sure that there is no mistaking it for an attempt at actual funk or hip-hop in a way that hasn't aged well. I think of the sarcastic disco-y joke by REM for 30 seconds right before they launch into Don't Go Back to Rockville. It is a much more poptimist moment right now, and poptimism often means not walling yourself off completely from mainstream, black-influenced pop aesthetics.

Also, and I haven't done enough reading of feminist theory to strongly back up this point, but I do think that Ani's feminism now reads as retaining much of older second wave critiques at the moment of the emerging third wave, and therefore, feels dated from that front. Please correct me if I've off-base, there.

So, I think that it's less about her individual missteps, and more about the winds of change on these fronts. I mean, the missteps are real, but they're being poked at with some glee because of these broader shifts. I still stand by her innovative guitar playing, and songs like buildings and bridges, and worthy, and I don't think her lyrics, as a whole, can be so easily dismissed either.

Now let me tell you about the time back in the 1980s when Eric Utne's son showed up uninvited to my band practice with an early midi wind instrument when we were trying to sound like the Replacements and Hüsker Dü...
posted by umbú at 6:30 AM on January 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


A quick googling reveals Kannberg joined the Jicks onstage last year for a version of "Stereo."

I was there! He kind of didn't remember how to play it! It was perfect!
posted by Dokterrock at 2:55 AM on January 14, 2016


"nd someone made the terrible (but probably accurate) remark that someone should steal Tori's baby to make her revert to that raw, old school sound."

That was an ex of mine. He was incredibly proud of how much that upset fans.
posted by mippy at 8:04 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Huh. I used to live next door to a Jick.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:43 PM on January 14, 2016


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