When they go low, Barbra Streisand goes to her songwriting room. The political climate fostered by the 45th President of the United States inspired seven of the 11 songs here, Streisand's first set of originals since 2005. The triumphant call-to-arms “The Rain Will Fall” takes on the spin cycle fueled by the White House (“Facts are fake/And friends are foes/And how the story ends, nobody knows”). “What’s On My Mind” and “Walls” find Barbra lost in worry, searching for answers in that singular bloodied-but-unbowed voice. Despite her state of mind, she sounds peerless and ageless, elegant and delicate as fine silk. Go ahead and tack “Take Care of This House” onto her all-time great vocal performances, while “Don’t Lie to Me” beats with an EDM spine, ripping the clothes off the back of a "fictional" emperor: “You can build towers of bronze and gold/You can paint castles in the sky/You can use smoke and mirrors, old clichés/Not today, not today.”
She also resurrects classic protest anthems on Walls. The Burt Bacharach/Hal David chestnut “What the World Needs Now” gets a “hip” replacement with guests Michael McDonald and Babyface. John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” are combined into a joyous medley (the coda “Just...imagine” could be interpreted as either pained or hopeful, depending on your mood). The album’s last song, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” reprises her first commercial single, from 1962, when she performed it ironically as a millionaire who lost it all.