Querying Cuse: Querying Music

Posted: November 17, 2008 by jerkmag in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Within the vacuum of popular culture, the music industry has been responsible for some of the most skewed renderings of gay artistry.  The 70’s saw a piano-playing rocket man evading gay lyricism for corporate appeal.  The 80’s, age of the music video, gave way to an impending bathroom cruiser clad in booty jeans cooing “I want your sex” to Asian temptresses.  And the 90’s gave a gay boy bander a chance to get in synch with flocks of shrieking young girls, misleadingly waxing hetero on songs like “girlfriend.” Present day, we have a cutesy pop princess who thinks it’s totally awesome that she kissed a girl, and well, liked it.  Appropriation much?  Welcome to “gay pride” circa 2008.  

Amid the flirtation with gay or bisexual persona’s, à la Bowie, T.Rex and Madonna, there’s been an eclectic presence of musicians, both past and present, who’ve unabashedly addressed what it means to be queer with depth and style.  

Antony and the Johnsons 

Drenched in haunting chord structures and the tremolo-laden timbre of singer-songwriter Antony Hegarty’s, Antony and the Johnsons’ music explore themes of transgendered throes.  On “For Today I Am A Boy, off of the bands superlative I Am a Bird Now, Hegarty emotes: 

“One day I’ll grow up, I’ll be a beautiful woman

One day I’ll grow up, I’ll be a beautiful girl

But for today I am a child, for today I am a boy…” 

Melancholy’s never sounded so sweet.  

Bitch and Animal 

Radical lesbians Bitch and Animal Prufrock (yes, they are pseudonyms) of the now defunct band, Bitch and Animal, have had a prominent influence on the queercore movement, a cultural and socio-political offshoot of punk that began in the mid 80’s (think grass roots, DIY version of Le Tigre).  Boasting pointed lyrics spun through transmutable genres of sound, their music moves you to fist-pump, gyrate your hips, and retrace the origins of feminist musicology.  

Hercules and Love Affair 


 

When I heard Hercules and Love Affair’s self-titled debut album earlier this year, a couple of things felt strange.  The anachronistic influence of disco proved astonishingly fresh, spun through New York based DJ Andy Butlers dizzying array of throbbing horns and groovy baselines.  Secondly, Antony Hegarty’s voice, of the aforementioned Antony and the Johnsons, could be heard soaring over most of it, an unsettling juxtaposition to his typically mournful evocation, but one that works to great effect.  

Besides Butler and Hegarty, Hercules and Love Affair consists of Naomi, a male to female transgender vocalist, and Kim Ann Foxmann, a self-identified lesbian from Hawaii who occasionally sings and DJ’s.   Reflecting this array of sexualities and gender-identities, Hercules and Love Affair produces music with queer sensibilities closely intact.  

“‘Blind’ was about growing up a gay kid, my immediate family and social group rejecting me, and asking why I was born into this situation,” Butler wrote in an email to the New York Times.  “But knowing that as soon as I could escape, I would, and that I would find freedom and solace.” 

Meshell Ndegeocello 

Love love love. Since discovering Meshell Ndegeocello in the 8th grade during a particularly intense fixation with neo-soul music, her music now feels like home to me; a comforting place to rest my head when nothing else makes sense. Spanning genres of blues, hip-hop, jazz, reggae and funk, while vocalizing between spoken word and her husky, melodic singing, Ndegeocello deftly plays an eclectic palate.  Her lyrics are a meditation on what it means being a black, bisexual woman living in America.  Together, her sound is the definition of soul, stark naked and raw. 

Beyonce  

For shits and giggles.  Yes, the bootylicious diva made a feeble attempt at tackling gender inequality in “If I Were A Boy,” but the real talk of the town is the video for Beyonce’s jittery new pop-anthem, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”  The only thing more exciting than Beyonce’s uncanny ability to dislocate her hipbone are unconfirmed rumors buzzing around cyber space that one of her backup dancers is male choreographer JaQuel Knight.  Fingers crossed that these rumors are true-how progressive and sneaky would that be!?   Time will tell, but no matter, the video is sasha fierce indeed. 

~ Mitchell

Comments
  1. Snow White says:

    The Beyonce video is hilarious–you can kind of tell that the 3rd dancer is at least partially male–his face is in the dark most of the time but he does a damn good job!

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