With the passing of 2016 came the tragic loss of some of the most distinguished rock & pop artists to have ever graced our eyes, ears and record players.
Many of our late stellar idols had at least one thing in common. From David Bowie to Prince to George Michael, they all shared a tremendous penchant and commitment towards smashing the fragile ego of masculine stereotypes, flexing genders strict binary, and denouncing sexuality as something ever to be ashamed of. This has lead to the three remaining emblematic figures within the queer community, through life and after death.
Bowie's fame sprouted not only from his prolific musical career, but also his bravery to collapse expectations through self portrait and stage persona. Dylan Jones has described his time on TOTP's as a 'dangerous figure on British TV at a point when television didn't do danger'. Bowie was elaborate to say the least; expelling his concoction of straight, gay, masculine and feminine persona's, whirl-pooling into a state that always remained an undefinable limbo. Fans were able to titillate waves of desire, a rejuvenation of the human condition and sexual vigour. Sporting heels, glitter body suits and a full face of slap was not what the common man was admitted to model. Bowie unapologetically exampled the fortitude to dismantle the sex categorisation of clothing in the 70's, making it human. His gender bending wasn't just beneficial to men aspiring for sexual liberation: He fought hard against any easy definitions, repelling labels with remarkable result, as Gucci designer Frida Giannini comments: "[His] shameless androgyny helped women express their masculine strength without losing their feminine glamour and sensuality". His alter egos flourished in style, as he paved the way for all listeners to shed their formal code of conducts and embrace his androgynous, ostentatious presentation of gender moral; striking the mainstream with full force and razing ideologies that had ruled.
A second avant-garde in normalising queerness in music was the most recent and wistfully lost George Michael. Michael's was outed by his arrest for 'lewd acts' in a public place, seized by an undercover police officer. This was in no means a hindrance to Michael's work. He used his experiences to propel the queer image shamelessly into our living rooms; positioning sex at the forefront of his brazen sexual narratives and camp portrayed disco music video 'Outside'. Michaels caricatured the drama of the situation and its fascicle idea that he should engulf utter shame. He followed up with comments in a coming out interview with CNN: "I don't feel ashamed and I don't believe I should", continuing his brash and flippant attitude towards gay sex and its media coverage. George Michael evolved from someone who hid his sexuality due to his mother's fears, claiming "Aids was the predominant feature of being gay in the 1980's and early 90's as far as any parent was concerned", before embellishing self love and bold gratification of self worth, "I'm a dirty filthy fucker and if you can’t deal with it, you can’t deal with it”.
Likewise, a final artist whom teased heterosexuality and gender solidarity from its pedestal was Sylvester. He emerged as a cosmic disco singer who brought 'Do You Wanna Funk' and 'Dance (Disco Heat)' to the international stages, ruling dance charts for a massive 6 weeks in the late 70's. From his childhood church where he was ostracised for his homosexuality, to his record label meetings, where he was pressured to 'butch up a bit', Sylvester's bombastic and androgynous figure has been assailed in his private life and career. However, this never stopped him showing up to meetings in full drag. Despite his explicit queer bravado and gender fluidity expression, his passion and music were embraced fantastically; before entering the Dance Music Hall Of Fame in 2005. Sadly, Sylvester passed away with AIDS in 1988.
Thus, the music industry in the past was adorned by male figures stirring the pot of the conventional artwork. Whereas fresher artists of today are exploding in a more female direction. As social tolerance arguably increases, groups producing music of a queerer disposition are clawing their way out of every crevice onto the mainstream playing field. LGBT music has branched off into an almost entire genre of its own; ample in burgeoning content of complex sexual flexibility created by artists who have no desire to taint themselves for anyone. This music is consequential in reaching a wider scope audience within a colourful, growing industry.
For one of our most recent artist to be catapulted into super stardom, excessive confidence and innate zeal was not always bountiful, until the non sexualised, gender-queer alter ego, 'Christine and the Queens' was born. Named after drag artists from Soho, Heloise Letissier was allowed to unmask a serene sense of sexual awakening, the abandonment of conformity, and most importantly, fluidity of identity, all down to the adoption of this personality. The power of the androgynous microcosm of herself, as she claims in her song 'IT'; "I wanted symbolically with this song to take the place of a guy", as well as her lyrics "Cos I won, I'm a man now" exuding an honest narrative and the dexterity she doesn't believe herself would be fulfilled alone. Despite sporadic and exotic performances that Letissier describes as 'a little boy who wants to be Beyonce', the mainstream audience has lapped it up due to its subtle integration; with international ears cascading the most admiration and her biggest headline to be set in the US. Thus, Christine and the Queens has knitted the dichotomy of these two worlds together through the addictive reverence of pop music and its subsequent culture.
A fellow artist who followed suit in producing exquisite pop music riddled with beat dribbles and hooking tastes is the once frontier of Anthony and the Johnsons, now known as ANOHNI, an open transgender woman. Her emancipating track 'Drone Bomb Me' is infested with dark beats and silky synth drops, all coated by ANOHNI's epicentre vocals. She has spoken outwardly and blatantly, generating much needed discussions surrounding trans issues, stating as laconically as possible the importance of pronouns in an interview with Flavourwire: "I think words are important to call a person by their chosen gender is to honour their spirit, their life and contribution". All of which exhibits the power of a musical platform:
Last but definitely not least, we are brought to an innovator who's ascend up the pop ladder has been consumed so earnestly by so many it's hard to keep track of her ever budding successes. Shura's bloom into the music industry came about as her record 'Touch', enriched with analogue synths along with the roots of a break up embedded in its foundations was plunged onto Youtube, receiving over 27 million views to present. Her home-made video that laudably presents same sex intimacy with all the spaces in between, emboldens queer love visually, flushing out left over hate with shameless exposure. This video allowed Shura the traction she deserved, blowing up into a huge queer-pop solo artist and an idol many were able to relate to.
Therefore, this radical procedure of creating normality with androgyny, queerness and gender fluidity is continuing to make sporadic and behemoth impact within the industry. As music, questionably our most expressive outlet, is used as a platform to share pain, anxieties and liberties, and allow listeners to feel safer about sexuality, that still receives hatred from those privileged enough to face it with ignorance. Without those striding forward in the limelight, less would feel as invigorated as we do down here, and thus is why celebrities perusing these avenues is as important as it is.