Hear Bob Dylan’s Daring New Song, ‘I Contain Multitudes’
“I Contain Multitudes” is Bob Dylan’s second surprise new song in three weeks, making it seem increasingly likely that the Nobel Prize winner has a new album on the way — which would be his first collection of original songs since 2012’s Tempest. The Walt Whitman-referencing new song is much shorter and less overtly ambitious than his March release, “Murder Most Foul” — “I Contain Multitudes” is a delicate ballad with a minimal arrangement (harp-like guitar chords, rumbling cello, tropical steel guitar, zero percussion) and a Tin Pan Alley melody, à la 2006’s “Beyond the Horizon.”
The lyrics, meanwhile, are full of mischief, wordplay, and daring. “I paint landscapes/I paint nudes,” Dylan sings, with a near-audible wink. “I contain multitudes.… I’m a man of contradictions/ I’m a man of many moods.”
He nods to David Bowie (rhyming “all the young dudes” with the title phrase), Edgar Allan Poe (“Got a tell-tale heart/Like Mr. Poe/Got skeletons in the wall/Of people you know”), Irish poet Anthony Raftery’s “The Lass From Bally-na-Lee,” and William Blake, among others. And occasionally, he may be intent on pure shock: “I’m just like Anne Frank/Like Indiana Jones/And them British bad boys the Rolling Stones,” he sings.
“Murder Most Foul,” released in March, is a 17-minute-long song that jumps from John F. Kennedy’s assassination to a kaleidoscopic look at 20th-century America. Dylan’s most recent album was Triplicate, the latest in a series of LPs devoted to covers of prerock standards.
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