How Anti-Trump Is Barbra Streisand's 'Walls'?: A Track-by-Track Guide

Barbra Streisand Album art - Publicity - H 2018
Russell James

A rating of each song — on a scale of one to five Trump Babies — for its rhetorical opposition to the 45th President of the United States.

While she never mentions him by name, Barbra Streisand has made little secret that her new album, Walls, is inspired entirely by Donald Trump and the sleepless nights his divisive brand of politics have caused her. The release has been well-received — The Hollywood Reporter says it "hits just the right level of Streisandian musical-theater schmaltz," while overseas The Telegraph calls it "the most gushing, mellifluous, lushly orchestrated political record ever made" and gives it four out of five stars.

But just how anti-Trump is this protest album? THR took it upon itself to conduct a listening party, and rated each track — on a scale of one to five Trump Babies — for its rhetorical opposition to the 45th President of the United States.

The results: 

1. "What's on My Mind"

A moody, Yentl-esque ballad with a dusting of Spanish classical guitar, the album opener sees Streisand at her most mournful. "I think of every child / How they should have the right to shine / Never lose their innocence / Each one born divine," she sings in a lyric evoking the children of migrants held in detention camps — among the darkest images of Trump's America. "How did we come to this divide?" she asks. "How can people turn away / While lies pollute the air?" It's the record's first reference to lies — a pointed recurring theme. 

Rating: 3/5 Trump Babies

2. "Don't Lie to Me"

Things turn angrier on this Barbra banger, an up-tempo indictment of the president's troubling track record with the truth. (As of Nov. 2, Trump has made 6,420 false statements since taking office, according to The Washington Post.) Like Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," the lyric is directed at one unnamed egomaniac (though Simon took 40 years to reveal her subject was Warren Beatty). Even without Trump's name, clues abound — particularly in one reference to building "towers of bronze and gold." The message, repeated six times in the chorus, is clear: Don't rain B.S. on Barbra Streisand's parade.

Rating: 5/5 Trump Babies

3. "Imagine/What a Wonderful World"

This mashup of two of pop's biggest paeans to pacifism— the first released by John Lennon in 1971, the second made iconic by Louis Armstrong's 1967 version — is like buttah for the soul. But not very anti-Trump.

Rating: 1/5 Trump Babies

4. "Walls"

Besides the specter of children in cages, a vast border wall — whether it ever gets built or not — is one of the defining images of Trump's dystopian vision for the country. In this ballad, Streisand sees them as a metaphor for what keeps humanity divided. "We should be building bridges to a better day / Where no walls would stand in the way," she sings. The only path to a "better day" would be if "all the walls came tumbling down." With Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen beaming recently over two newly erected miles of border fencing, things seem to be moving in the opposite direction. 

Rating: 4/5 Trump Babies

5. "Lady Liberty"

A song sung to the Statue of Liberty, the second verse goes, "Oh, Lady Liberty / Show us how to stand and feel a little prouder / As the anthem plays let's sing / And raise our voices even louder." It's a patriotic sentiment, but it also falls in line with Trump's denunciations of NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem. A muddled message means fewer Trump Babies.

Rating: 2/5 Trump Babies


6. "What the World Needs Now"

The 1965 Burt Bacharach classic first recorded by Jackie DeShannon and then Dionne Warwick sees Streisand, accompanied by soulful backup singers, in easy-breezy mode — and suggests she's found a real crowd-pleaser for her next tour. But there's not a whiff of Trump anywhere around this good-time jam.

Rating: 1/5 Trump Babies

7. "Better Angels"

This one begins as several other songs on the album do — minor, vaguely mystical chords cautioning against things like "angry words and bitterness" — but by the end, as strings swell and Streisand's vocals soar, imploring "our better angels be our guide," it transforms into one of the most stirring tracks on Walls. (The gospel choir helps.) Halfway through, a key lyric — "Hatred only breeds more hate" — feels like a distillation of the entire album's anti-Trumpian message.

Rating: 3/5 Trump Babies

8. "Love's Never Wrong"

A torch song that feels like it teleported in from 50 years ago — the mood is pure, mid-1960s cocktail lounge —"Love's Never Wrong" was actually co-written in 2018 by Steve Dorff, a Jewish country-music songwriter (and dad to actor Stephen Dorff!). It's a near-perfect, perfectly beautiful song. As such, it scores low on the Trump-o-Meter.

Rating: 1/5 Trump Babies

9. "The Rain Will Fall"

A Celine Dion-esque power-bop from the same songwriting team as "Don't Lie to Me" of Jonas Myrin, Jay Landers and Streisand herself, "The Rain Will Fall" goes back to the "Trump is a liar" well, with catchy results. This one has single potential and would benefit from a dance remix. "You can tell one lie a thousand times but that doesn't make it real," Streisand bellows. "Facts are fake and friends are foes...and the truth goes round and round..." There are also several references to walls ("the writing's on the wall," "we can build a wall to Heaven's gate"). It seems the angrier Streisand gets on this album, the more it makes you want to dance.

Rating: 4/5 Trump Babies

10. "Take Care of This House"

A song from the 1976 Broadway flop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — the musical about the construction of the White House closed after just seven performances — "Take Care of This House," by composer Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Alan Jay Loerner, managed to make it out alive. It's a wistful tune that has been interpreted by everyone from Julie Andrews to opera singers Marilyn Horne and Frederica von Stade (who performed it at Jimmy Carter's 1977 inauguration). Now it's Streisand's turn, and in the Trump era, lyrics like "There's a chill in the room / windows are starting to leak" and "Beware of false smiles that lead you astray / When someone is telling you lies let truth lead the way" take on new levels of foreboding. 

Rating: 3/5 Trump Babies

11. "Happy Days Are Here Again"

In Barbra lore, there is no more electrifying performance than her 1963 duet with Judy Garland on CBS' The Judy Garland Show of an arrangement of "Happy Days Are Here Again" and "Get Happy." It's a torch-passing moment that Streisand later noted was terrifying at the time for Garland, who felt the pressure of aging in a youth-dominated business — Garland was 41, Streisand 21 — but ended up serving to cement both of their statuses as two of the greatest American song interpreters of the 20th century.

To close Walls, Streisand returns to her half of that legendary fugue. Streisand is 76 now, and was never entangled by the demons that tragically cut Garland's life short at age 47. It's fascinating to hear her reinterpret this 1929 standard that she made a hit again back in 1966. The tempo is even slower, the undercurrent even sadder. By the time the key change kicks in and the brass section rings out, it sounds less like a Depression-era pick-me-up and more like last call on the Titanic.

Here's to happy days actually being here again.

Rating: 2/5 Trump Babies