Music is a powerful vector for change. It speaks directly to the soul, and when the soul is moved, the body is not far from action. Music has always been at the center of change.
Ani DiFranco’s entire career has been walking the two parallel paths of music and social justice; she has tackled issues from abortion rights to LGBTQ+ representation in her music, as well as outside of it. Revolutionary Love is the junction of her two paths.
In a way, Revolutionary Love is the story of Ani DiFranco, a declaration of her message of love, a betrayal of that love and finally, a reconciliation. She symbolically and literally cuts off her hair. She opens up and shows us her experiences. She spreads the message of love for all, with a healthy dose of caution. Love is important, and the harder it is to love, the more important it is.
The album is infused with DiFranco’s style, refined over decades, yet it also manages to be fresh and relevant. True to her folk roots, many of the instrumental textures are bare-boned and acoustic, almost skeletal in their framework, but still manage to sound finished. The sound is genuine and pairs well with the vulnerability of the lyrics. It is a really special combination, especially when the acoustic instruments merge seamlessly with the electronic effects. The guitar and the strings dance around the drones of the electric piano. The album provides us with many brilliant instrumental sections in tracks like “Station Identification” and “Confluence.”
DiFranco’s vocal delivery is also incredibly diverse and engaging, sometimes taking a form similar to spoken-word in “Chloroform,” and other times that of a songbird in “Metropolis.” Her voice is also expressive, ranging from melancholic to inspirational in the span of a single song.
This album incorporates more neo-soul and hip-hop influences than DiFranco’s previous works. It has a gentler, less-funky sound than her earlier album Binary, but still manages to carry a characteristic biting edge. After all, it still is protest music.
Lyrically, DiFranco seems much wiser than before, not choosing to chastise the other side or the system for its oppression, like in “Play God” and other earlier music. Instead, she chooses to love and to understand almost aggressively.
This album is a journey, an autobiography. It’s the story of someone who wanted to love, then learned of its dangers. After learning of its dangers, she learned how to reconcile, despite differences and contempt.
Some messages in the songs are overtly political and specific to certain movements, like the Black Lives Matter movement and the importance of voting in “Do or Die.” However, the album overall has a much broader message: Love is hard, especially when the other side hates you.
It is easy to fall into the rabbit hole of hatred and bitterness. Despite that, we must remind ourselves to not do what is easy, but what is right. Because in the end, love still wins.
Daily Arts Writer Jason Zhang can be reached at email@example.com.