Ani DiFranco’s eponymous debut begins with the now-classic “Both Hands,” the unmistakable first chords of which sparked a folk revolution. The song was the first of many to mix human sensuality and sexual politics in what would become typical DiFranco fashion. The folksinger targets sexism and racism on the ominous “Work Your Way Out,” all the while pining poetically for an intentionally ambiguous love interest: “I wonder what you look like under your t-shirt/I wonder what you sound like when you’re not wearing words.” Similarly, tracks like “Rush Hour” helped blur DiFranco’s infamous bisexuality. The then-19-year-old tackled the complexities of abortion with stunning dexterity, referring to “the sterile battlefield that sees only casualties, never heroes” on “Lost Woman Song,” and lashed out against American complacency long before 9/11 on the track “Dog Coffee”: “Freedom and democracy/That’s the word from Washington every day/Put America to sleep with warm milk and a cliché.” DiFranco also brought a warm vulnerability to her often militant feminism on “The Story”: “I am up against the skin of my guitar/In the window of my life/Looking out through the bars/I am sounding out the silence/Avoiding all the words/I’m afraid I’ve said too much…I’m afraid no one has heard me.” Little did she know that her words would go on to inspire an army of followers.
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