Politics according to the songs of Barbra Streisand

Walls the new album by singer/songwriter icon Barbra Streisand was recently released on iTunes.

I chanced upon her new album in the popular carpool karaoke in The Late Late Show with James Corden shown on November 2, with the 76 year old Streisand as his guest.

In the 12 minutes guesting Corden and Streisand sing some of her hit songs and Barbra introduces us to her new album entitled “Walls”. Their short discussion turns to where Streisand draws her inspiration for her new album – the political climate in America (and should I say, worldwide where the growth of populist leaders has changed the political landscape.)

When they go low, Barbra Streisand goes to her songwriting room.  The political climate fostered by the 45th President of the United States inspired seven of the 11 songs here, Streisand’s first set of originals since 2005.  The triumphant call-to-arms “The Rain Will Fall” takes on the spin cycle field by the White House (“Facts are fake/And friends are foes/And how the story ends, nobody knows”).

“What’s On My Mind” and “Walls” find Barbra lost in worry, searching for answers in that singular bloodied-but-unbowed voice.  Despite her state of mind, she sounds peerless and ageless, elegant and delicate as fine silk.

Go ahead and tack “Take Care of This House” onto her all-time great vocal performances, while “Don’t Lie to Me” beats with and EDM spine, ripping the clothes off the back of a “fictional” emperor: “You can build towers of bronze and gold/You can paint castles in the sky/You can use smoke and mirrors, old clichés/Not today, not today.”

She also resurrects classic protest anthems on Walls.  The Burt Bacharach/Hal David chestnut “What the World Needs Now” gets a “hip” replacement with guests Michael McDonald and Babyface.

John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” are combined into a joyous medley (the coda “Just…imagine” could be interpreted as either pained or hopeful, depending on your mood).

The album’s last song, “Happy Days Are Here Again”, reprises her first commercial single, from 1962, when she performed it ironically as a millionaire who lost it all.

– Review from iTunes

It’s worth the album (or the download) and the lyrics are timely during these politically turbulent era.

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