Ani DiFranco: Her grassroots are beginning to show.
While her rabid following hasn't noticed the difference, Ani DiFranco hasn't made a good record since 1995's Not a Pretty Girl
. It was at about that time that DiFranco, a self-described grassroots sensation, was on the cover of every major music magazine and being heralded not only for becoming successful without pandering to commercial radio or MTV, but also for running her own label and keeping a large share of the profits for herself -- all of which suggested that, if only every label were like her Righteous Babe and every artist like DiFranco, the recording industry would be a kinder, gentler place. So when DiFranco started whining about the pitfalls of fame, complaining that she couldn't face the outside world in "Glass House," a song on Little Plastic Castles
, she was no longer one of us. DiFranco, who's very deliberate about doing interviews with the biggest publication in any given market and relentlessly promoting herself, wasn't ambivalent about fame before she had it, so the move toward criticizing the mass media seemed out of place. And even though she has refrained from complaining so vociferously on subsequent records, she has recently favored quantity over quality, releasing two studio records in 1999 alone -- both of which had only a handful of good songs. Her live shows, which were once emotionally tasking affairs, have also degenerated into solipsistic events, in which DiFranco jokes with her adoring crowd and tries to get her groove on, oblivious to the fact that she's a white girl from Buffalo -- no matter what funk legend Maceo Parker, a guest on last year's To the Teeth
, might tell her.