People suck. Yes, they do.
Yet another amazing Ani DiFranco site just bit the dust, this time the one over at imperfectly.com (the first major one to go was Alan’s at gliff.org). As a rather large Ani fan, i can’t help but view these shutdowns as silly. It’s one thing to stop updating your site and leave it as a resource of information, but it’s a totally different matter to tear it all down like some sort of petulant child. And, yet, another one bit the dust.
I suppose what i don’t understand is the phenomenon of people growing tired or disillusioned with an artist, which is really at the heart of the matter. AJ and Alan didn’t close their sites because they were bored, they closed them because they just weren’t big enough fans anymore. And maybe that’s why i never started a fan site for anyone; i’m only that big of a fan of myself. Even my most cherished favourites like Garbage, Madonna, and David Bowie don’t rank on my “must make a website” list. This is probably because of the effort that one has to put into such a site… collecting pictures and articles and lyrics and everything. The site doesn’t become self-sufficient (ie: reader supported) until it’s already popular enough to draw in hundreds if not thousands of readers from around the globe. I want to own a site like that, but i don’t want to start one, mostly because i’m not interested in the work. I’m only my own archivist, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
But, the concept remains. I have never, ever ditched a musical artist i have liked as much as i do Ani DiFranco. To be fair, i’ve only been listening to music that seriously for less then six or seven years, when you come right down to it. The only artist i’ve had with me forever is Madonna. Of course, she’s changed too, in all sorts of ways, and i still avidly listen to every album she releases. The only artists i fall in love with and then leave behind are ones like Sheryl Crow, who just don’t evolve in the direction they seemed to be headed towards. And that is exactly the issue with these Ani DiFranco fans. Nearly all of the ones becoming disillusioned are pre-Dilate fans, who harken back to the first half of Ani’s discography. While Out of Range maybe just be my favourite album, these fans first experienced it as a living, breathing, newly born extension of Ani’s work.
In short, fans like those bought Ani’s political life as much as they bought her music. Whereas i wince at her painfully preachy “Crime for Crime” and take “Coming Up” as a mere poem, many of the fans she won that early on hung on her every word. The people who turned me on to Ani were as much fans of what she had to say as of how she chose to say it. Half of them were heartbroken when she wrote a rock album about a man instead of a woman. Another half left when she married him. Dilate was my entry point into Ani’s universe, so i missed all of the drama therein. The things i love about Ani DiFranco are her guitar playing and her amazing lyrics. I’ve always found her political stance dubious and lopsided at best. Of course, not everyone did, and so now they’re surprised as Ani adjusts her beliefs to the new star-sized life she’s been (very steadily) growing into. And, while her older fans might still be listening to her music, they don’t want to run obsessive websites about her every breath and glance.
But neither do i. I have this urge to step in and fill the Ani-void, but it’s only to attract large amounts of attention to myself. I’ve never understood fan-sites, because they are resources for everyone but ultimately meaningless to the people that run them. So, i would never let an Ani site bite the dust because i would never create one. But, i love her all the same. I don’t care who she married, i don’t care which stupid causes she fronts and candidates she backs. She plays guitar. She is the reason i play guitar like i do. People sometimes ask me if i’m playing her songs when really i’m playing my own. I love and admire ani deeply on the level of sound, and it is on that level that i will take her or leave her. Having come in on the middle of her career, to the teeth isn’t the biggest stretch in the world for me to love, and it was my favourite album of all of last year. I miss the in-you-face guitar that usually accompanies a new Ani release, but she’s told us that she’s not “angry anymore” and i believe her wholeheartedly. She is no less of a guitar player, no less of a lyricist, and no less of a composer for it.
Maybe her asthetic changed. Maybe there are too many screaming people at her concerts. Maybe i wince when she invokes yet another shakey stance in her songs. But i am not interested in Ani as a person, i am interested in her as a musician. The same is true for Madonna, and David Bowie, and Tori Amos. I don’t expect her to reproduce the same album over and over, and i don’t expect her to stay the same. The people shutting down their website’s now might not have expected her to do either of those things, but i suppose on some level they were hoping she would. And the reason i am so indignant when the sites go down is not because i am childish and selfish, but because i just don’t possess the level that those fans are operating from. Maybe i’m not indy enough, or feminist enough, or fan enough. But i don’t care. I don’t care one bit.
As long as she never puts down her guitar.