Less than a year after her debut, Ani DiFranco emerged quirkier and more caffeinated than ever on Not So Soft. It was still a one-woman show but this time her not-so-softness was blanketed with layered harmonies and several congas. She was as political as ever, tackling AIDS (“On Every Corner”) and the Gulf War (“Roll With It”), but romance—in its various forms—took center stage. Famously combative, DiFranco reveals her passive aggressive nature on “Make Me Stay” and even hints at the discrepancy between her public and personal personas on the track “Itch”: “I’ve mapped out my course…It’s just hard to travel in the shadow of regret/It’s so hard that I actually haven’t left yet.” For the first time, the folksinger also references her burgeoning grassroots fame on “The Next Big Thing,” attacking the music industry’s image-driven commodification of art. But, in the end, Not So Soft has a much softer impact than DiFranco’s debut.
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