WebHeader_Grove.png
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Get entered for two chances to win tickets to see Hamilton in Boston with your gift today!

Hear Bob Dylan's New Song, 'I Contain Multitudes'

Bob Dylan released "I Contain Multitudes" at midnight, his second new song in three weeks. Like "Murder Most Foul," the song came with no hint of a new album, no details about when it was recorded or with whom.

The sparse instrumentation and languid vocals are reminiscent of Dylan's three recent albums of mid-20th century pop songs; the quiet allows him to relax into his worn but still expressive voice. The languid tempo contradicts the music, a list of sometimes funny (we often forget that Dylan is funny) and preposterous brags of the singer's power and prowess that evoke the blues: "I carry four pistols and two large knives." The song is framed as a come-on ("Follow me close, I'm going to Balian Bali / I'll lose my mind if you don't come with me"), but ends in a rejection that rivals Dylan's most nasty lyrics: "Get lost madame, get up off my knee / Keep your mouth away from me." He sounds like a drunk in a saloon with no money, but a lot of talk.

"I Contain Multitudes" doesn't play on the epic scale of "Murder Most Foul," but it is equally dense and powerful. The title, of course, comes from Walt Whitman's free verse masterpiece "Song of Myself." It's a fitting conceit for an artist who, in this song, compares himself to Anne Frank and Indiana Jones, and who has made brilliant records as a political folksinger, an amphetamine fueled rocker, a born-again Christian, a country squire and a (croaky) crooner of standards. "What more can I tell you?" he sings. "I sleep with life and death in the same bed."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lauren Onkey is the Senior Director of NPR Music in Washington, DC. In this role, she leads NPR Music's team of journalists, critics, video, and podcast makers, and works with NPR's newsroom and robust Member station network to expand the impact of NPR Music and continue positioning public radio as an essential force in music.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.