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Barbra Streisand: Walls — a protest album that targets Donald Trump

Barbra Streisand: Walls — a protest album that targets Donald Trump

November 02
18:33 2018

In 1977 Barbra Streisand released “Don’t Believe What You Read”, an uncharacteristically rocking song prompted by anger at press reports that she allowed pet birds to fly around uncaged in her home. A little over 40 years later she resumes the theme on “Don’t Lie to Me” — except now the target is the self-appointed crusader against “fake news”, Donald Trump.

Like “Don’t Believe What You Read”, “Don’t Lie to Me” successfully places the singer in a modern musical setting: moody beat-driven balladry in this case. The shift fits the novel ground that Walls stakes out — it is Streisand’s first protest album — although elsewhere she reverts to type with orchestral pop and showtunes.

Orchestrations swell and shimmer around the grande dame of American pop with maximum burnish, a golden framing for verses about such totemic American symbols as Abraham Lincoln and the Statue of Liberty. Stirring sentiments uttered in the first-person plural (“We will find a way”) position the singer as a unifying figure, “building bridges to a better day” in contrast to the divisive US president.

The lyrics abound with platitudes but Streisand rises to her vocal role with aplomb. “Walls” turns the national predicament into the kind of dramatic Broadway number that plays in the penultimate act of the show, when our heroine is picked out in darkness by a spotlight, clinging to shreds of hope at her lowest ebb.

A version of the standard “Happy Days Are Here Again”, seems to promise a curtain-closing infusion of uplift in the old-fashioned American way as the orchestra builds to a peak. But Streisand delivers its final line in a fragile, almost extinguished fashion, followed by a sigh — as though despairing at what has been uncaged in her homeland.


Walls’ is released by Columbia

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