Like most artists, Ani DiFranco’s work has grown and progressed over the course of her long career. The folk rock singer-songerwriter was once known for her contemplative, slightly angsty lyrics, but has since ventured into other topics and grown as a writer. This particular interview focuses on that growth and how having a child has affected her work.

My top eight artists from the week of 5/15/11 from Last.fm

My top eight artists from the week of 5/15/11 from Last.fm

"So I’ll walk the plank. Yeah, I’ll jump with a smile. If I’m gonna go down I’m gonna do it with style. And you won’t see me surrender, you won’t hear me confess. ‘Cause you’ve left me with nothing but I’ve worked with less."

Ani DiFranco

"Untouchable Face" by Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco’s songwriting abilities are exemplified in this song. The scenario she describes here is specific, but the way she words parts of the song can make it universal. The chorus can be applied to anyone that loves someone unobtainable. But no other songwriter can capture the essence of that love/hate relationship quite like DiFranco. She seems like a woman that deals with her passions by way of anger and sees herself as someone that doesn’t deal with vulnerability particularly well. However, I think writing a song like this — raw and so openly emotional — shows that she is a woman capable of putting herself out there and doing so with eloquence.

Lyrics:

Think I’m going for a walk now.
I feel a little unsteady.
I don’t want no one to follow me,
except maybe you.
I could make you happy, you know,
if you weren’t already.
I could do a lot of things
and I do.

Tell you the truth,
I prefer the worst of you.
Too bad you had to have a better half.
She’s not really my type
but I think you two are forever.
And I hate to say it
but you’re perfect together.

So fuck you
and your untouchable face.
Fuck you
for existing in the first place
And who am I
That I should be vying for your touch?
Who am I?
Bet you can’t even tell me that much.

2:30 in the morning,
my gas tank will be empty soon.
Neon sign on the horizon,
rubbing elbows with the moon.
Safe haven of the sleepless
where the deep fryer’s always on.
Radio is counting down
the top 20 country songs.

Out on the porch the fly strip is
waving like a flag in the wind.
You know I really don’t look forward
to seeing you again soon.

You look like a photograph of yourself
taken from far, far away.
I won’t know what to do.
I won’t know what to say.

So fuck you
and your untouchable face.
Fuck you
for existing in the first place.
And who am I
that I should be vying for your touch?
Who am I?
Bet you can’t even tell me that much.

See you and I’m so perplexed.
What was I thinking?
What will I think of next?
Where can I hide?
In the back room there’s a lamp
that hangs over the pool table
and when the fan is on it swings
gently side to side.
There’s a changing constellation
of balls as we are playing.
I see Orion and say nothing.
The only thing I can think of saying

is fuck you
and your untouchable face.
Fuck you
for existing in the first place.
And who am I
that I should be vying for your touch?
Who am I?
Bet you can’t even tell me that much.

"Superhero" by Ani DiFranco

I think Ani DiFranco really captures that complex love/hate emotion that you can have towards someone you truly care about. There is something about being that vulnerable that can either make or break us, and when it does break us, our first reaction is not only pure pain, but anger as well.

In “Superhero,” Ani DiFranco describes that feeling of animosity that crops up when you feel dependent on another person, particularly when they don’t seem to return the dependence. What makes it even more potent is the fact that Ani DiFranco has this “tough girl” image that is completely shattered with the feelings she is expressing. “Superhero” is a perfect example of Ani DiFranco injecting her own personality into a universal emotion with her usual slam poet-esque style of writing.

Lyrics:

Sleepwalking through the all-night drug store,
baptized in fluorescent light.
I found religion in the greeting card aisle,
now I know Hallmark was right.

And every pop song on the radio
is suddenly speaking to me.
Yeah, art may imitate life,
but life imitates T.V.

‘Cause you’ve been gone exactly two weeks,
two weeks and three days.
And let’s just say that things look different now,
different in so many ways.

‘Cause I used to be a superhero,
no one could touch me.
Yeah, not even myself.
You are like a phone booth
that I somehow stumbled into
and now look at me:
I am just like everybody else.
I am just like everybody else.

If I was dressed in my best defenses,
would you agree to meet me for coffee?
If I did my tricks with smoke and mirrors,
would you still know which one was me?
If I was naked and screaming on your front lawn
would you turn on the light and come down?
Screaming: “There’s the asshole who did this to me!
Stripped me of my power! Stripped me down!”

‘Cause I used to be a superhero.
No one could hurt me.
Yeah, not even myself.
You are like a phone booth
that I somehow stumbled into.
Now look at me:
I am just like everybody else.
I am just like everybody else.

Yeah, you’ve been gone exactly two weeks,
two weeks and three days.
And now I’m a different person,
different in so many ways.

And tell me, what did you like about me?
And don’t say my strength and daring.
‘Cause now I think I’m at your mercy
and it’s my first time for this kind of thing.

‘Cause I used to be a superhero.
I would swoop down
and save me from myself.
And you are like a phone booth
that I somehow stumbled into
and now look at me:
I am just like everybody else
I am just like everybody else…

"If I was naked and screaming on your front lawn would you turn on the light and come down? Screaming: “There’s the asshole who did this to me! Stripped me of my power! Stripped me down!”"

Ani DiFranco

"Asking Too Much" by Ani DiFranco

If you all can’t tell, I’m on an Ani DiFranco binge this week. I’ve always thought this song was an accurate description of what most people want in a significant other, then again, I suppose I should just speak for myself on that one. This is Ani mingling the pretty and the ugly, which she one of the things that makes her music so poignant. She does it with the themes in her songs, as well as the way she commands her voice. Throughout this song she drifts into a rough, angry vocal style, only to transition back into the soft, gentle voice she normally has.

Lyrics:

I want somebody who sees the pointlessness and still keeps their purpose in mind.
I want somebody who has a tortured soul…some of the time.
I want somebody who will either put out for me or put me out of misery,
or maybe just put it all to words and make me say
“You know i never heard it put that way,” make me say “What did you just say?”

I want somebody who can hold my interest, hold it and never let it fall.
Someone who can flatten me with a kiss that hits like a fist
or a sentence, that stops me like a brick wall.
If you hear me talking listen to what I’m not saying.
If you hear me playing guitar listen to what I’m not playing.
And don’t ask me to put words to all the silences I wrote.
Don’t ask me to put words to all the spaces between notes.
In fact if you have to ask, forget it! Do and you’ll regret it.
I’m tired of being the interesting one, I’m tired of having fun for two.
Just lay yourself on the line and I might lay myself down by you,
but don’t sit behind your eyes and wait for me to surprise you.
I want somebody who can make me scream until it’s funny, give me a run for my money.
I want someone who can twist me up in knots.
Tell me, for the woman who has everything, what have you got?
I want someone who’s not afraid of me or anyone else.
In other words I want someone who’s not afraid of themselves.

Do you think I’m asking too much?

"32 Flavors" by Ani DiFranco (live)

Out of the four Ani DiFranco albums I have consumed, Not A Pretty Girl is by far my favorite. “32 Flavors” is one of those songs that you have to listen to more than once to fully appreciate. Though many of her songs are like that, I find that this one in particular is a grower, and the more the listen to it the more you begin to pick up on the emotion she was trying to excavate. It is a brazen statement about her own complexity as a human being and the many layers to her personality. The metaphors she uses to express this idea is what makes the song so lovable.

On a side note, I gotta say that I love her pink braids. They’re kind of awesome.
 

Day 28 (Song That Makes Me Feel Guilty) | Sorry I Am by Ani DiFranco

I remember listening to Ani DiFranco’s album Not a Pretty Girl after breaking up with my boyfriend of three years and this song really struck a cord with me. I’ve never heard a more perfect description of how I was feeling at that time. How do you explain to someone that the feelings are just gone? How do you say sorry for something so cruel? Ani DiFranco has described it best in this song and of course it makes me think about it and of course it makes me feel guilty. This is an entire song dedicated to guilt.

Lyrics:

I’m sorry I didn’t sound more excited on the phone.
I’m sorry that after all these years
I’ve left you feeling unrequited and alone, brought you to tears.
I guess I never loved you quite as well as the way you loved me.
I guess I’ll never really be able to tell you how sorry I am.

'Cause I don't know what it is about you.
I just know it’s not what it was.
I don’t know why red fades before blue, it just does.
And I don’t know what it is about me
that I just can’t keep still.
I keep thinking someday I will make this all up to you
and maybe someday I will.

I guess I never loved you quite as well as the way you loved me.
I guess I’ll never really be able to tell you how sorry I am.
Sorry I am.
Sorry I am.
Sorry I am.