First and foremost, Ani DiFranco is my hero. She is a fearless activist, role model to millions, started her own record label – Righteous Babe Records, did a record with Utah Phillips and an amazing artist. To say that Ani DiFranco is accomplished is like saying Michaelangelo’s David is a piece of rock; factually accurate, but also grossly inadequate. Without the trail Ani blazed you wouldn’t have the Lilith Fair movement, Lorde, Taylor Swift, Fiona Apple or St. Vincent. Ani took the singer songwriter torch from Dolly Parton and Joni Mitchell, wrapped it in barbed wire and beat toxic masculinity over the head with it. She brought the social activist side of folk into a modern era and applied it to issues of gender, sexuality and power.
Love is a theme, which runs throughout DiFranco’s work. Songs like Red Letter Year, Bliss Like This and 32 Flavours explore love in some respect; whether that’s love for another person or in 32 Flavours love for yourself. Ani picks up this theme in Revolutionary Love where she sings about using love to overcome hate. She sings: I’ll show myself mercy / I’ll show my self-respect / I’ll decide when i’m ready / To forgive but not forget. For Ani, it is important to use love to forgive others and cleanse yourself of hate, but not to forget. We must hold people accountable and responsible for their hate and violence, but not take that on ourselves. She reinforces this point with: And even if you hurt me / I will not shut down / No, you can’t make me hate you / And carry that hate around. Her love for herself allows her to move above hate and strive for accountability. Too often society conflates the two, but Ani shows us how the love of forgiveness is about breaking the cycle of hate, but not forgetting / holding those accountable is the only way to move the society forward.
Musically, Ani has explored a number of different musical genres since she began making records in 1990. Revolutionary Love is her 20th studio record and her voice is still on point and as emotive as ever. Even though Ani is largely seen as a “folk” artist she has explored Indian instrumentation, Afro-Cuban structures, jazz, electronic music, pop, rock and everything in between. On this track she settles in a smooth R&B vibe with little flecks of guitar, which suits her smoky soulful voice very well.
This is the first studio record from Ani in the past four years, which must seem like decades in between records for her when you look back in the 90s when she was putting out two records in a year. It is amazing to get another studio record from Ani and one where she is in command vocally and lyrically. The title of this track, Revolutionary Love, is apropos for 2021 where the thought of love during the Trump era was a revolutionary concept. Let’s hope love becomes less revolutionary and Ani puts out more records.
Listen to Revolutionary Love