An Artist From My Youth

David Bowie died today.

I’m not going to talk about that though, because, sadly, I never got into his music or work. I mean, I know it was great and influential, and the things I heard and saw of him I liked, but I just never got into him. However, I will say this, he seemed to me to be one of those Immortals, and his passing was shocking and saddening.

No, instead, I wanted to write a little something on another artist that was important to me when I was younger. I actually read this article about her minutes before hearing the news of Bowie and in those minutes was thinking of writing about this little thing. So, this isn’t a comparison thing at all, just dumb luck.

When I was a freshman in college I discovered Ani Difranco by hearing a song of hers over the speakers in the local CD shop in my college town. I asked the clerk who it was and then bought the album right there. It was the song “Out of Range” from the album of the same name by Ani Difranco. I listened to the shit out of that album. I ended up buying Not A Pretty Girl and Like I Said a few months later and listened to the shit out of those as well. I bought every album she put out while I was in college and graduate school.

And then suddenly I just stopped. I think the last album of hers I owned was Reckoning/Reveling, but I barely remember a song from it. I think I just tapped out of Ani with To The Teeth, which I know does have at least one song I can name and remember as good “Hello Birmingham.”

I was prompted to think about this after reading the article “32 Feelings & Then Some: An Inquiry Into the Non-Legacy of Ani Difranco“.

Of the 32 different reasons that the authors tried to come up with for why no one really listens to Ani anymore, I could identify partially with a couple. Mostly, though, I think around To The Teeth I just got tired. I felt like when I bought her album I wasn’t buying new music, I was buying the same music with a different wrapper. And then with Reckoning/Reveling, it was 2 CDs of the same album! Yay?

Also, it seemed like the message in her lyrics wasn’t really evolving either. Now, this might be an uncharitable description and I just wasn’t listening hard enough or paying enough attention. But for a straight guy, listening to Ani that first time as a college freshman was an awakening to the way I looked at the world. But after 8 years and as many albums I felt as if I’d grown from that initial awakening and evolved while the music had not. Again, this might be uncharitable.

A couple years ago I tried giving her new stuff another shot. I bought Red Letter Day and Reprieve, her latest at the time. And they just weren’t that good. It was boring.

I still listen to the old albums, and I’d still say that I’m an Ani fan, but it has the air of looking backwards. Nostalgia can give a nice veneer to tired things.

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