If there’s a silver lining to 2020, it’s that the year is rife with subject matter for protest art. Whether it’s a confederate monument coated in anti-racism manifestos or a mural honoring those lost to COVID-19, creators around the globe have put their stamp on the world’s worst year, memorializing it through art.
Musician Ani DiFranco is no different. Her forthcoming album Revolutionary Love, to be released on Righteous Babe Records, distills political and emotional fallout from 2020. Her latest single, “Contagious”, is a protest song about the insidious nature of misinformation and politics through the—entirely coincidental—metaphor of disease.
“I wrote the song last February, before any of us heard about COVID-19,” DiFranco says. “I was watching the horrific political theatre of Trump’s presidency play out before me, as we all were, with the demons inside the Republican Party and in our whole country, being brought further and further into the light.”
In the video, DiFranco begins by outlining the impetus for “Contagious”, swiping at leftover pasta sauce on her mouth and laughing about the awkwardness of filming herself, while photos and clips of life pre-Covid roll by.
“When Republicans become brazen with tactics such as cheating, lying, strong-arming, exploiting, calculating, and manipulating, it is hard for the opposition to stick to the moral high ground and not mirror all those behaviors,” DiFranco says. “Like doping in sports, if everyone is doing it, how can one not?”
The scene turns black and white and Difranco stands alone in a room filled with handmade woven tapestries and antique lamps, guitar in hand. “They go low, you go high,” she croons, a lyrical touchstone repeated throughout “Contagious” while party lights flash.
“I long to see the Democratic Party leaders model the opposite motivation of principle: truth and substance,” DiFranco says. “I think that’s why I quoted the words Michelle Obama made famous. Whose voice could better petition the Democratic Party establishment to stick to the moral high ground?”
As DiFranco sings, the camera cuts to scenes of her home: a ceiling fan, the amp in the corner, her fingers on a keyboard, reminding us where we’ve all spent most of our 2020.
“It’s a plea, this song,” Difranco says in the video. “As artists and musicians we can be present to what’s happening in our society and we can help amplify truths. Not only can we amplify them, but we can also make people really feel and connect with them, which can be a very powerful driver of change.”
Revolutionary Love comes out on 1/29. You can pre-order the album here.
Photograph by Daymon Gardner
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