Today I explore how alternative music has shaped the queer community with my Alternative List of Queer anthems, yes I am posting it a little later than wanted but we should be full of pride all year round.
Ivy by Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean is known as one of the first openly gay artists to have mainstream success within the Hip-Hop and R’n’B community. His influences are deeply ingrained into his style of music with Jazz and Funk featuring heavily while being combined with R&B beats, creating a truly experimental and alternative approach to the genre.
Ocean’s second studio album, blond, was released as an iTunes & Apple Music exclusive on 20th 2016, which was the day after the release of his video album Endless. Upon its physical release, a magazine was included entitled Boys Don’t Cry, which could be a reference to the Cure hit as well as the 1999 film of the same name starring Hilary Swank. The album is highly influenced by 60’s bands The Beach Boys and The Beatles, who also experimented with psychedelic ideas in their later work.
I could of picked anything from Frank Ocean’s two studio albums, and his more recent singles, if you haven’t listened to the Channel Orange album please do, as this album explores love, heartache, and being a queer man. There could be arguments for songs such as Pink & White, Thinkin Bout You, Sweet Life or In My Room, but for me, I’ve picked Ivy from his second album, blonde. It ended up on a wide variety of end-of-year lists, with its mix of indie rock, guitar pop, and Avant-R&B which enhances the nostalgic lyrics that explore lost love, it’s no wonder it was popular.
Kiss Me Girl by Hands off Gretel
Hands Off Gretel are an English punk rock band fronted by singer, songwriter, and guitarist Lauren Tate, she is joined by Dean Bon, Sam Hobbins, and Becky Baldwin. As a little punk kid, I have become a huge fan of this band, it’s refreshing to hear a female voice in punk music, exploring so many themes and really capturing the feel of what the Riot grrrl scene could be for the millennials and Gen-Zers.
Kiss Me Girl is off the band’s 2019 album I Want The World, with themes of loneliness, guilt, and girlhood explored within their lyrics, this has to be on every feminist punk, yes if this is you join the Riot Grrrl movement, playlist for years to come. Kiss Me Girl is the story of wanting to kiss a girl and all the thoughts and feelings that run through your head when you are the shy one in the situation.
That’s So Gay by Pansy Division
Pansy Division has been a part of my life for the last decade at least and my first look, knowingly, into the world of Queercore music, all of my knowledge of this genre, and my interest in exploring Queer Punk and Riot Grrrl music all come from this band. Formed in 1991 by singer-songwriter Jon Ginoli and bassist Chris Freeman, the band is known as the first openly gay rock band with its members being queer or allies.
With this list being all about alternative pride, Pansy Division had to be included, emerging from the queercore movement of the 1980s, their music is a mix of pop-punk and power pop. Lyrically the band explores LGBT issues, sex, and relationships while keeping it very tongue and cheek, often making fun of the ridiculous nature of homophobia and the language that surrounds that. The band were also the subject of a 2008 documentary, Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band.
By 2009 Pansy Division had changed record labels, from Lookout to Alternative Tentacles, and released the phenomenal album, That’s So Gay on 31st March 2009. The album has a much more grown-up sound than their last release, fully embracing their age while also capturing a whole new generation of fans’ attention. The lyrics still talk about the same things with hints of dirty jokes and gay references, but it’s now delivered in a cleaner way. The song of the same name talks about the way people use the word Gay as a negative and how that feels and how queer people won’t stand for it anymore, it’s fun, angry, punky, and a must-listen.
Where the Girls Are by Gossip
With their mix of post-punk revival, indie rock, and dance-rock it’s surprising Gossip aka the Gossip became the poster child for queer representation and teenage angst at all. Formed in 1999 in Searcy, Arkansas, USA the three band members, Beth Ditto, Brace Paine, and Hannah Billie released their debut album That’s Not What I Heard on 23rd January 2001.
Gossip rose to prominence with their 2006 album Standing in the Way of Control, the song of the same name became a huge success thanks in part to its use in the trailer for the E4 teen dramady SKINS.
Queer Girls by Awkward Marina
Marina Sneider known by their stage name Awkward Marina hails from New York, New York, USA and describes themselves as a musical mess.
Her website reads “Marina Elise Sneider, also known as Awkward Marina, is a musical mess from Westchester, New York. Her unique sound combines quirky electronic beats with Broadway-inspired theatricality and emotionally-raw lyrics. Performing frequently in both the Westchester and NYC areas, Marina is a skilled singer and electronic producer, and plays both the piano and the ukulele.
Marina grew up surrounded by music: Her mother, father, brother, and uncle are all musicians. In 2012, Marina created a YouTube channel, which now has 29,000+ subscribers and over five million views. Inspired by her favorite artists’ abilities to connect with and inspire fans, Marina’s goal is to write music about her experiences with mental health to let others going thru the same thing know they are not alone. She released her first full-length electronic album, “Crushed Creations”, in 2016, followed by a stripped-down acoustic EP “Tragical” in 2018; both deal with heavy themes such as mental health and self-image. Marina is perhaps most well-known for her TV work: Since 2015, she has been on the songwriting team for Nickelodeon’s hit show “ALVIN!!! And The Chipmunks”. Her other work for television includes original music written for Wawa’s HOAGIEFEST, the feminist app “The Whole Story”, and national Dawn ad campaign “It Gets Better With Dawn”.
Most recently, Marina has released her third full-length album. “I Don’t Wanna Be Famous”,. She continues to write for television and commercials.”
And Then She Kissed Me by St. Vincent
St. Vincent has released six albums to date, Marry Me , Actor , Strange Mercy , St. Vincent , Massseduction  and Daddy’s Home . Her music is heavily inspired by the likes of David Bowie, Kate Bush, Jimi Hendrix, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Pink Floyd, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. This can all be heard in the way her music is arranged and the combination of Rock, Pop, Experimental Rock, Electro Pop, and Cabaret Jazz creates quite an experience for the listener, teetering between happiness and madness in sound and lyrical content.
She doesn’t label herself saying in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2014 “I don’t think about those words. I believe in gender fluidity and sexual fluidity. I don’t really identify as anything. I think you can fall in love with anybody. I don’t have anything to hide but I’d rather the emphasis be on music.” Later that year she told the Sunday Times “I’m not one for gender or sexual absolutism in the main; I fully support and engage in the spectrum.” Her most notable relationship publicly had been with model Cara Delevingne.
I have picked St. Vincent’s cover of And Then She Kissed Me, originally performed by the Crystals as And Then He Kissed Me, was written by Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich, and Jeff Barry released in July 1963. It’s got a more rocky and edgy vibe while instead of sinning about a young man, she has chosen to sing about another woman, making the song feel more modern and accepting than the original ever could.
LGBT by Lowell
Elizabeth Lowell Boland is a Canadian singer-songwriter and producer who is more commonly known by her stage name Lowell. She released her first EP in February 2014, I Killed Sara V, with a full-length follow-up that September, We Loved Her Dearly. Her second album was released on 6th April 2018, Lone Wolf, and her song Palm Trees featured on the soundtrack for FIFA 15.
LGBT is an indie synth-pop anthem, taken from her debut album We Loved Her Dearly, and includes lyrics detailing what it means to be proud of being a part of the colorful spectrum of the LGBT community. Her music deals with many different subjects including rape, women’s rights, and empowerment, and LGBT is no different in tackling difficult and polarizing subject matters. As a queer woman, this song is powerful and has a great singalong chant that makes me want to shout from the rooftops that “I AM QUEER AND I AM PROUD”
MONTERO [Call Me By Your Name] by Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X, born Montero Lamar Hill, rose to fame after his smash hit country rap song “Old Town Road went viral in early 2019, resulting in a remix version with Billy Ray Cyrus gaining worldwide attention and climbing the charts all around the world. He is inspired by Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000 and Kid Cudi while crediting the likes of Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator with making it easier for him to be who he truly is within this world. By June 2019 Nas X had come out as gay, during the last day of pride month, he tweeted “some of y’all already know, some of y’all don’t care, some of y’all not gone fwm no more. but before this month ends I want y’all to listen closely to c7osure. 🌈🤩✨”
MONTERO [Call Me By Your Name] was released on 26th March 2021 as the lead single off his upcoming album Montero. The songs name comes from Lil Nas X birthname along with the gay romance novel and film called Call Me by Your Name. the song and subsequent music video deals with many queer themes, including explicitly homosexual lyrics while the music video explores the themes of queerness in relation to religion. The single cover also ties into these themes by portraying Lil Nas X as both Adam and God, recreating Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam painting. The reinterpretation was created by Spanish-Croatian artist Filip Ćustić.
I DON’T TRUST U ANYMORE by Left at London
The first time I ever heard Left at London was while I was listening to Welcome to Nightvale, a horror-themed podcast that everyone should listen to, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Nat Puff, known by her stage name Left at London is an American singer-songwriter, producer, and comedian who identifies as a non-binary trans woman, using she/her pronouns, and is a lesbian.
Left at London’s music is best described as indie-pop with a collection of Eps released before her first studio album was released on 4th June 2021, T.I.A.P.F.Y.H. is a beautifully crafted album and she plans on releasing her second LP later this year. Her lyrical content deal with what it means to be her in this world, with Left at London being neurotypical this makes her music even more inclusive than some other people’s, she has struggled with ADHA, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, autism spectrum disorder and OSDD-1b, making her work truly a beautiful combination of experiences many can find relatable.
Girl I Met On The Internet by GIRLI
GIRLI is the stage name of Milly Toomey, and English singer, songwriter and wrapper based in London whose music has gained notoriety due to its catchy yet deliberately discomforting nature. Her sound is best described as a mixture of bubble-gum pop, pop punk, rap and PC Music, having released three Eps she finally released her first full-length studio album, Odd One Out in April 2019.
Lyrically GIRLI explores the themes of feminism, sexuality, queer culture and mental health, pulling from her own experiences as an openly bisexual/queer woman who is also medicated and suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which inspired her single Up & Down. She has also spoken about how she also identifies as pansexual and has commented on her gender identity, saying: “Right now I identify as a woman, but what does that even mean? Is that what I say, who I am? Right now, I feel like a woman, but that may change. Some days, I’m like ‘fuck it, I don’t feel like a woman or a man.”
GIRLI is a feminist, and this can be seen in everything she does from her music, style and performances. Her fashion influences include Harajuku Street fashion, the 90s riot grrrl scene and 00s girl bands, her pink hair could be a nod to Gwen Stefani during the early days of No Doubt’s career while her combining pink and tartan and fishnets was heavily influenced by the female lead bands she was listening to at the time. She has also thrown tampons into the crowd at shows as a way of challenging society’s taboo on menstruation while going on to partner up with Girls Against, an organisation that works against sexual harassment in live music venues.
Did You Know? STONEWALL WAS A RIOT
If you don’t know what Stonewall was then you better learn your queer history.
I say this as a queer woman who has come across people in the community who don’t know their history, who don’t know why we have pride, are blissfully ignorant about the AIDS epidemic and who don’t know what Stonewall was.
Stonewall was a Riot.
Stonewall Inn was a bar and recreational tavern in Greenwich Village, New York City that was frequented by people within the LGBT community, mainly gay men, which came to prominence because of the Stonewall riots of 1969. This is considered one of the most i9mportent moments in the gay liberation movement leading to the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.
In the early hours of the morning on 28th June 1969 the Stonewall Inn was raided by the police, which was common practise at the time for places that existed in queer spaces, leading to the Stonewall Riots. The village was a hot spot for queer bars and the patrons of Stonewall and other lesbian and gay bars in the neighbourhood rose up and fought back after the police became violent. Enough was enough and the community where not going to stand for it anymore, being treated like second class citizens within their own country and persecuted within their own community.
The next evening protests started up amongst the community, with another a few nights later, with residents forming their own activist groups demanding the right to live openly regarding their sexual orientation, and without fear of being arrested. They used concentrated and confrontational tactics to make their point known, with Newspapers being created to promote the rights of gay men and lesbians. A year later the first gay pride marches took place in four major cities across the United States, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, commemorating the day that the Stonewall Riots took place, since that day we have celebrated Pride Month during June for this very reason.
Today it is a celebration of our liberation, but it should also be a time for community, reflection and education, we are so far from full equality and the fight isn’t over yet.