Classic rock legend Freddy Mercury’s bisexuality was brought to my attention fairly late in the last decade (through non-conventional means no less) and with it, the phenomenon of queer erasure and invisibility. One begins to wonder how many musicians suffer the fate of veiled sexuality in order to make it in the big bad music industry. One wonders what this means for the (often self-policed) individual’s personal development. It wasn’t until many years later, slightly better equipped with preliminary readings on gender and sexuality, that I took up that old and favourite project of uncovering a tradition of queer music in my personal capacity. This is the resulting compilation.
1) Elly Jackson of the British electropop duo La Roux has stated she “[doesn’t] feel like [she’s] female or male”. And she isn’t the only one – several other public figures, like former My Chemical Romance Frontman Gerard Way and comedian Eddie Izzard have expressed discomfort with the gender binary. Androgyny in the music world was popular even as far back as the 1960s, but seeing non-binary individuals like Jackson in the ubersexualized visual media of today is a breath of fresh air. Satisfy your nostalgia for that distinct 80s pop sound with the track “Bulletproof”, which should ideally be everybody’s personal anthem against haters.
2) “Snow Bunnies” from openly gay rapper Cakes Da Killa (born Rashard Bradshaw of Englewood, New Jersey) is explicit, striking and boasts of a flow that is both staccato and smooth. Cakes, who “came out in third grade” expresses his concern over the genre: “you have people glorifying negativity like killing people and not taking care of your kids – and that should be scandalous!” As far as his identity goes, being gay is simply incidental for him, and while embraced, it isn’t a cardinal point of his expression.
3) Sam Smith’s win at the 2015 Grammy’s (and his bonus dissing of his ex) have certainly drawn many new initiates to the easy and soulful style of the openly gay singer. The music in “I’m Not The Only One” is light and feather soft, the lyrics heavy, and the meaning relatable, whether you’re straight or not.
4) Dai Burger, a lesbian rapper from Queens, produces a lot of what she calls “hip-pop”, a synthesis of her favourite features of both genres, and her music, peppered with “winky food metaphors“, makes no bones about her sexual orientation. Check out her unique sound in “Soufflé” featuring Junglepussy.
(Also check out her collaborative track with Cakes, called “Rapid Fire” that samples a song off our very own Aamir Khan starrer, Lagaan!)
5) “Fierce!” Manila Luzon sings it, and IS it in the track “Hot Couture”. The music video features the trans artist’s takeover of American streets in colourful attire, and the parallel incident (or recollected memory?) of a little boy happily messing around with makeup and the gender binary. An older woman catches him in the act, as Luzon’s upbeat club style song plays on, and responds beautifully.
6) Turning the clock back by over four decades, I found William “Little Ax” Broadnax’s album “So Many Years” with its lovely swinging sixties music that is sure to charm. The easy lyrics and gospel-y vocals intertwine with twinkling key notes in a way that makes you want to snap your fingers and hum along. Following his death in 1994, it was discovered that Little Ax was assigned female at birth.
7) Mary Lambert’s “She Keeps Me Warm” is a touching ballad and continuation of “Same Love“, the song she wrote for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. “I’ve never seen a relationship like mine portrayed in a music video,” she says, bringing up the issue of lesbian representation. Among Lambert’s other wonderful feats is her book “500 Tips for Fat Girls” that deals with rape, incest, bipolarity and homosexuality, coming from her personal struggles – the last two of which have mention in her song “Secrets” featuring B.O.B.
8) Notorious for her brazen (and sometimes deeply problematic) online statements, bisexual rapper Azealia Banks has riled up people on issues ranging from religion to feminism to race politics (which, while worth talking about, is another article entirely). Besides being a self-proclaimed witch, she “makes hits m*****f*****” and has clearly said so on both “1991” and “Liquorice”.