As Pride Month comes to an end, it is important to reflect on the core ideas which Pride tries to represent. LGBT Pride is one of the ways in which those in the community can celebrate their identity and commemorate the steps that society as a whole has taken in the direction of equality. However, it also sheds much needed light on the fact that those in the queer community are still subjected to prejudice, discrimination, and stigmatisation.
I believe that one of the best ways to celebrate Pride is to celebrate those individuals within the community. Perhaps one of the downfalls of current Pride marches and events is that it focuses too much on glitter and rainbows, without paying due respects to those who in fact are Pride. By this, I mean those who make up Pride, without which we would have nothing to be proud of. Pride isn’t faceless, it is the opposite. It is, by its very nature, a celebration of people and their achievements.
So, in order to celebrate Pride in my own way, I have created a list of some of my favourite artists at the moment. These artists are all part of the LGBT+ community, and whilst it is important not to diminish queer artists to being nothing more than their sexual or gender identity, I believe that they can be celebrated for expressing and owning who they are whilst also inspiring others in the community. Their music explores LGBT+ themes and often subverts the norms of the largely heteronormative music industry. If you want to discover some new amazing artists, then keep reading!
King Princess, the 20 year old born in New York, explores themes of love, heartbreak and sexuality in her synth pop music. The singer, whose indie vibes melt with a synthesised background to produce soulful hits, debuted with the single ‘1950’ which is a tribute to the 1952 novel ‘The Price of Salt’, written by Patricia Highsmith as an exploration of lesbian love. King Princess told i-D that she decided to gender her love songs, therefore making it obvious that she is singing to a woman, because it didn’t make any sense to her to ‘hide that part’ of herself. King Princess identifies as genderqueer, something that comes across in her name which plays with gender and our expectations of what it means to identify as a gender. Her name alone refutes the idea that one must in fact be a gender. Her entire discography is a metaphorical middle finger to heteronormative values and the language taboos that come with it. For instance her song ‘P***y is God’ is not only a banger but it carries a lot of weight through its refusal to bow down to society’s anxiety about openly expressing female desire, let alone lesbian desire.
Perfume Genius has been cited by Spotify as one of King Princess’ influences, and it is easy to see the connection, as Perfume Genius also plays with indie pop styles by adding his own unique twist. Often grand, glam, and graceful, his performances encapsulate his raw and unwavering self-expression. His popular song ‘Queen’ includes the statement ‘no family is safe when I sashay’. This line is an ironic appeal to the homophobic notion that gay people threaten family life; a belief that is still ignorantly held by many people, as seen by the recent controversy surrounding the Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, who tweeted that Catholics should not support Pride events as they are ‘especially harmful for children’. Perfume Genius also plays with gender norms, confronting the arbitrariness of masculine and feminine beauty standards and often merging the two to create striking looks. In one of my favourite music videos of all time, ‘Die 4 You’, he combines fashion, movement and aspects of mild body horror to explore the workings of the human body and its sexuality. Perfume Genius seems to suggest that gender roles are meaningless, as sensuality can be found in even the genderless.
Kevin Abstract is most widely known for his work as part of the ‘boy band’ Brockhampton. On both Brockhampton and his own solo tracks Abstract is vocal about the struggles he had with coming to terms with his identity as a gay man, his fight to feel accepted, and his experience of being an African American as part of the LGBT+ community. His raw and hard-hitting lyrics reveal the darker elements of the queer community, which has been criticised for discriminating against those who do not fit the Eurocentric beauty standard. Abstract brings this issue to the surface, and expresses the difficulties he has faced with underrepresentation of black queer people. In Brockhampton’s song ‘Junky’, Abstract openly raps about the issues many black men face of internalised homophobia, as they are expected to live up to a certain masculine stereotype which may not align with the stereotypes surrounding gay men. He asks himself ‘why do you always rap about being gay?’ with the frank answer that ‘not enough n****s rap and be gay’. His brutal and heart-breaking honesty permeates his songs, with his solo song ‘Miserable America’ confronting head-on the problems faced by those struggling to accept themselves.
Dorian Electra is not only an amazing vocal artist, but also can be unquestionably described as a visual artist. Their music videos are truly works of art, and bring out hidden meanings behind their futuristic spin on retro music. Dorian told Nylon Magazine that they feel truly themselves when dressed up as a ‘genderless clown’, which can be seen through their use of weird and wonderful makeup and androgynous clothing. Their signature look includes an eyeliner pencil moustache, which accurately sums up Dorian as an artist: fake, yet somehow more authentic than many other popular artists today. This central philosophy also appears in the starting lyrics in their song ‘Man to Man’: ‘you know I ain’t straight, but imma say it straight to you’. Dorian’s style bends gender norms to show that gender is not a binary distinction, but something that becomes blurred through the blending of social norms. Dorian dresses as a certain gender, such as in the ‘Man to Man’ or ‘Career Boy’ music video, in which they wear traditionally masculine outfits; and in the ‘Mind Body Problem’ where Dorian can be seen in a feminine role. However, in both looks, it is clear that they are costumes; exaggerated and theatricalised to show that traditional gendered looks are, to Dorian, inauthentic imitations of what society thinks a man or woman should look like.
These are some of my favourite artists at the moment. I love them not only for their art, but also for the fact that they are subverting societal expectations of what an artist should be. Their queer expression makes a stand against an industry which continues to value traditional gender and sexual identities above everything else, and shows that those in the LGBT+ community are here, and their voices are not going away anytime soon.