32 Feelings & Then Some: An Inquiry into the Non-Legacy of Ani DiFranco
by Meredith Heil and Lola Pellegrino
Lola: Hello and greetings. Today, we approach a deceptively simple query: Why doesn’t anyone listen to Ani DiFranco anymore?
Meredith: I just want to make clear to you, most righteous of babes, that Ani DiFranco raised me. I know all the words to every single song, every single giggly live track interlude. When I was 14, the sun rose and set with Ms. DiFranco, but for the kids today, she seems to have all but disappeared off the cultural map. So what gives?
Lola: As professional lesbians and amateur cultural detectives in a committed lesbian cultural detective relationship, we (Meredith Heil and Lola Pellegrino) felt none were more qualified to solve this mystery. Let us begin.
Going Down Hypothesis.
In early 2015, we waged three (3) separate attempts to make out to three (3) separate Ani DiFranco albums. All three failed to yield anything save a foundational postulation from Lola: “Nobody listens to Ani DiFranco anymore because you really, really can’t make out to this music unless you’re a teenager.” Meredith countered, “But I diiiiiiiid!” But that’s what Lola’s saying.
Sick of Me Hypothesis.
Much like how the most fatal viruses kill their hosts too quickly to ever lead to widespread epidemics, Ani “infected” her victims so hard and so terminally that they failed to infect others, so the outbreak flamed out.
Outta Me, Onto You Hypothesis.
Today’s media landscape boasts so many out, queer-identified famous people that we’re no longer resigned to projecting our queer dreams and aspirations upon a cis woman who has two babies with a cis man. To whom she is legally married. A husband-man. Her SECOND husband-man.
School Night Hypothesis.
Because all of our Ani stuff is somewhere at our parents’ house? We don’t know, it’s like, a photo scrapbook, this notebook with poems inspired by her haircuts and some ticket stubs. We can show you when we go back there for Easter; we think it’s in the basement.
What if No One’s Watching? Hypothesis.
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.
Small World Hypothesis.
She was ultimately limited by being on her own label because nobody else of note was on it.
a. But, Bitch & Animal were on her label!
Make Them Apologize Hypothesis.
Without an intersectional approach, her already-rickety second-wave feminist politics aged into obsolescence melting into defensive ignorance: cf. the Righteous Retreatgate of 2013.
I Know this Bar Hypothesis.
Based on preliminary ethnographic research (i.e. having attended an Ani show as recently as 2011), we can report that her concert-going fanbase is about 40% guitar dads and 60% nostalgic moms, leading us to the realization that these modern day parental units were once pimply-faced Ani fans just like us, which further led us to the realization that WE ARE NOW MOM-AGED. Maybe it’s all our fault — we’ve ushered Ani into a certain type of momzone, a vast wash of Facebook status updates and bootcut jeans. RIP us.
Not a Pretty Girl Hypothesis.
Too earnest, too makeupless, too patent-leather-platform-Doc-Martens. Lola asks, “Maybe because she wore these pants in 2008?” Meredith comments, “The year on that can’t be right.” But it is, Meredith.
Old, Old Song Hypothesis.
Meredith’s initial social media investigation revealed that instead of Ani DiFranco, the Tumblr generation is listening to Lana Del Rey (?!?).
The Million You Never Made Hypothesis.
“Do the kids still hate capitalism? All those cool sneakers might have quelled that fire.”
The Next Big Thing Hypothesis.
Now that musicians can get famous on YouTube in a matter of five minutes, maybe Ani’s much publicized DIY struggle to combat major label domination doesn’t exactly qualify as #TheStruggle any longer.
Make Me Stay Hypothesis.
Because the person in her band responsible for “percussion and vibes” quit.
Lost Woman Song Hypothesis.
If one compares Ani’s early crooning to her later years, one will notice a distinct lack of, well, voice. Her voice is gone, shredded, left behind long ago to smolder and die in a heap of discarded Peace Frog posters. Time is the cruelest master and he comes for us all — even our vocal chords.
Meredith started listening to Tegan and Sara around the same time she found Ani. She remembers T & S’s first record — a raw, underproduced compilation of sad/angry, folk-fueled college radio jams. She also lovingly remembers Ani’s first album (a raw, underproduced compilations of sad/angry, folk-fueled college radio jams). Yet Tegan and Sara are currently killing it on mainstream radio, selling out enormous venues and enjoying a cushy front row seat on the indie charts. Why? Because they changed with the times, applying production technology to slicken their songs, modifying their sound as they grew. Ani’s untethered acoustics no longer jive with a generation raised on the internet, where feelings are mediated through a series of shiny hooks and cross-fades. She’s too damn real.
A texted analysis from our friend Amelia, an actual folk singer making actual music in 2015: “I don’t think her mellowness is the prob as much as she already wrote all her biographical songs/songs about being a fighter. I think now the songs are less compelling for teenagers cuz shes deeply at peace…No, not deeply at peace. I just mean she was a young person when we was little.” ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Face Up and Sing Hypothesis.
She called folk an “attitude” in her press biography: says DiFranco, “I use the word ‘folk’ in reference to Punk music and Rap music. It’s an attitude.”
Because she recorded this duet with Jackie Chan.
Icarus Hypothesis I.
She flew too close to the sun, man.
Icarus Hypothesis II.
And when her dreads melted, she lost all her powers.
The True Story of What Was Hypothesis.
Please see below: Figure 1, 1997 cast of MTV’s The Real World, the year Ani DiFranco released “Living in Clip,” her only gold record. Figure 2, the most recent cast of MTV’s The Real World, now in its 30th season.
Hide & Seek Hypothesis.
Since 2007, http://anidifranco.net has redirected to a site about dating married women, puzzling dozens of fans looking to trade bootleg cassettes and old set lists.
You only have to attempt to rap alongside Maceo Parker once to ruin your street cred forever: “sweepin ya off ya feel like we had a broom / with Ani DiFranco and Maceo / add a little freestyle flow and who knows?” We know. We found out.
Travel Tips Hypothesis.
Because “Millennials Are Moving to Buffalo and Living Like Kings” and the zeitgeist had to shift the blame somewhere.
Blood in the Boardroom Hypothesis.
We didn’t deserve this, Ani, and we’ll never forget.
Cradle and All Hypothesis.
She became a mom. The Kids don’t want to see a mom shouting about her “wound that won’t heal.”
Both Hands Hypothesis.
We’re getting nowhere with this; and we can’t let it go and we can’t get through.
Don’t Nobody Know Hypothesis.
Maybe people still listen to Ani. Maybe we’re just being assholes.
Every Angle Hypothesis.
“DiFranco” autocorrects to “Dog Rando” in Meredith’s phone.
Your Next Bold Move Hypothesis.
32 Flavors Hypothesis.
Does Baskin Robbins even still exist? Does anyone get this reference? Remember those clown cones? “Cause someday you might find you are starving/And eating all of the words you said.”
Lola Pellegrino and Meredith Heil are dating.