Anohni doesn’t accept it when you call her Antony. She doesn’t accept it anymore because she has finally found herself and her identity. She’s Anohni now. Anohni, who seems so kind and gentle, but also so irresolutely confident. Anohni who has written an album that is the musical representation of 2016, but has managed another, even more important achievement – it’s political and it’s educated.
Born in Chichester in the South of England she soon moved to Amsterdam, then to San Francisco, until she finally found her place in the LGBT scene in New York in the late 80s, early 90s. Since 1998, she’s part of Antony & the Johnsons, but Anohni is a move away from this genre, plummeting into deep synths and House beats. She still writes about the things most important to her like feminism and trans rights, but on this album, she devotes herself to issues like global warming and political landscapes, and more bluntly, more beautifully honestly so than ever before.
Produced by Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never, Hopelessness is an album of musical strength and development. Her lyrics, her voice and the electronic synths and beats combine into an album that completely envelops you that you feel like she’s right in front of you, looking into your eyes. It has an inescapable pull that suits her cause but also makes you want to move to the music and sway with the melodies. “Rage is a fun place to dance from. Expressions of anger sublimated into something beautiful are invigorating,” she says about it herself. Inspired by the HIV crisis in the 1980s, she knows why she wrote this album this way.
Anohni’s voice completely transcends all norms of gender, swinging from a chilling falsetto in 4 Degrees to a brooding chant in Obama.
In 4 Degrees, the first single off the album, she denounces the trivialisation of global warming, taking the position of the perpetrators, singing that she wants to “hear the dogs crying for water, I wanna see the fish go belly up in the sea”, that she wants to see the world boil. In the second single, Drone Bomb Me, she effortlessly and bravely slips into the body of a young Afghani girl whose whole family was killed in a bombing. She screams for death, begging the bombs to blow her from the side of the mountain, blow her head off, explode her crystal guts. A mental image that makes your insides burn. In Watch Me Anohni is long searching for a protector from the evil of this world, yelling the word “Daddy” over glittering synths and a rippling bass beat. In Marrow, she makes clear how ridiculous it is that US citizens have to pay thousands of dollars for medical attention.
Hopelessness is an album about cruel evil in this beautiful world. It tells us that it’s not only okay but right to be angry. But it doesn’t fall victim to the usual problems that arise with this subject matter. It does not lose itself in the hopelessness that gave the album its title, it is not content with crying about the horrors. It motivates the listener on a very personal level. Her lyrics do not remove her from the problem, it does not lay blame on the “bad guys”, but involves all of us on a personal level, as the facilitators of the evil.
And what Anohni tells us is that that is not the end. That we can rise from it by knowing that we are indeed part of a problem, but we can change, we can shape our own little part of the world.