LGBTQIA+ Voices Pushing Genre Boundaries

LGBTQIA+ Voices Pushing Genre Boundaries

Working in the music industry and being an artist can carry conflicting ideals for every musician looking to make a name for themselves. Artistic freedom of expression is juxtaposed by the industry’s need to categorize and market the product under a set number of boxes. For every artist this is part of the challenge; but for artists in marginalized communities, this effect can be exacerbated. Subverting the gender and sexuality expectations of listeners takes bravery and commitment to self. This Pride Month, we want to highlight artists in various genres that go against the grain to give a fresh perspective and share their story with the world.

Orville Peck

The country genre is known for its homogeneity in many ways. Orville Peck’s crooner voice alone is enough to stand him out from the crowd, however he has a few other quirks that push the envelope for this genre. Peck is minimal with what he shares with fans, never disclosing his real name or origins. His identity is further mystified by his trademark mask he’s never caught without. In an interview, Peck explains: “I don’t feel like I’m hiding behind a mask at all… It’s actually quite the opposite — the mask and all of that has allowed me to be a lot more exposed.” Though his sound is very traditional, his lyrics and brand is anything but. Peck doesn’t shy away from his identity as a gay man and many of his songs’ subjects being romance in the wild west. This unique coupling has garnered Peck a wide audience. In another interview Peck mentioned: “straight, white, middle-aged men actually make up a big portion of my fan base. They probably can’t relate to exactly what I’m singing about but they connect to the music on a different level. I’d like to think it’s because there’s a sincerity to it. That’s what country music is, it’s sincerity combined with bold storytelling and theatricality of performance.” Peck toes the line of challenging the expectations of country listeners while maintaining the integrity of the genre’s tradition.

Becca Mancari

Mancari is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who works in the folk and southern rock world. She is a solo artist as well as a member of Bermuda Triangle, a band with Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and Jesse Lafser. Originally from Pennsylvania, her upbringing was unusual and unsupportive of her identity. Mancari describes the community she was raised in as a “Christian hippie cult.” As someone who knew she was gay from a young age, music became a coping mechanism. When she finally came out to her family at age 21, she was shunned, forbidden from seeing her siblings, and effectively left homeless. This is what began her journey of finding her true self as she traveled the country looking for a new way of life. She now uses her voice to acknowledge the pain she and so many others have endured for simply attempting to live authentically.

Dorian Electra

Dorian Electra is an experimental pop artist known for their fluidity of gender expression, conceptual projects, and flamboyant style. They grew up in Houston, Texas with their mother and father who divorced when Electra was five years old. After the split, their mother began dating women and was very open with her child about her sexuality. They credit their parents for being open to any identity they chose from a young age. Dorian Electra identifies as non-binary, explaining: the core of my being is not gendered at all — even ‘gender fluid’ is a form of identity that can put somebody in a box. In line with the high-concept art they produce, Electra is known for their pencil thin, drawn-on moustache that has become apart of their brand but also their identity. After their first time in a photoshoot with the moustache makeup on, Electra described the feeling: “I had never felt more like myself than I did in that picture. It communicates man, masculine, within these two little symbols. Putting it on, all of a sudden it makes me feel grounded. Claiming any creativity in identity is the hallmark of their work, using this to further the conversation on gender norms, cultural standards and socio-political issues.

Angel Haze

Angel Haze is a female rapper who hails from Detroit. She was raised in a Greater Apostolic community which is a Pentecostal sect that has very conservative values. Any forms of pop culture, jewelry and even associating with people outside of their community was prohibited. Despite these closed-minded beginnings, Angel Haze has continued to explore her identity as an artist and a person. Though she identifies as pansexual, she explains that the label is more for others than it is for her own definition of self: Sexuality is like having a favorite color. It doesn’t rule you, you know? And I should be able to do whatever and whoever I want at any given time. For Angel Haze, it’s the mentalities and personality of a person that are important in finding love over anything else. Her music tackles the difficult circumstances of her youth: molestation, eating disorders, and grappling with her idea of God and her sexuality. Her aim is that her stories can help others.

Kevin Abstract

Kevin Abstract is a solo rapper as well as a member and co-founder of the group BROCKHAMPTON. Originally from Corpus Christi, Texas, he was born into an extremely religious Mormon family. He left home at the age of 17 to pursue his musical aspirations. Though he doesn’t speak much on his family connections in interviews, his music says all it needs to on the subject. “My boyfriend saved me, my mother’s homophobic” is the opening line to one of his most-streamed songs “Miserable America.” His openness with his sexuality is a stand-out in the hip-hop world and he hopes that it can inspire change in a genre that has historically not embraced the LGBTQIA+ community.

Though he’s bold with his lyrics and tackles the larger issues with homophobia and southern culture, he’s clear that his music is for everyone. He’s using his platform to be completely himself, and in that was he makes it known that there’s a space for queer people in any pursuit they choose. Abstract’s openness has also helped propel the success of his other project, BROCKHAMPTON. The group commended him in an interview with the BBC, explaining that his openness has helped the relationships of its members, urging them to speak honestly about their issues and opinions.

Note from the editor: We’re celebrating Pride all year long with our Pride Party playlist; featuring upbeat tracks from members of the LGBTQIA+ community— updated weekly.

Hyperpop | GENRE SPOTLIGHT

Hyperpop | GENRE SPOTLIGHT

Abrasive, metallic, industrial, textured, aggressive, exaggerated, rowdy, experimental: all words that have been used to described one of the fastest growing new genres. Though the originators of hyperpop have been consciously (or subconsciously) pushing the elements of pop music for years, only recently has the term become a part of the mainstream vocabulary. More than just a genre, hyperpop describes a community of creators and consumers who have a maximalist approach to music. The irreverent nature of this subculture has become a polarizing pop culture talking point. With many Gen Z-ers unapologetically embracing the absurdity of the genre, other more traditional listeners find it grating and overdone.

This has led to the memeification (is that a word?) of hyperpop: its artists being easy targets with their flamboyant content — lyrics, music and visuals included. But most artists seem to be in on the joke: reinventing cringe-y trends from the 2010s for nostalgic indulgence. Some examples including Rebecca Black’s remix of her well-known 2011 single, “Friday,” and 3OH!3’s collaborations with hyperpop pioneers: 100 gecs. However, for many newer artists on the scene, hyperpop doesn’t exist as a parody or gimmick but as their musical identity. Though it’s still in its infancy, this genre is already witnessing an evolution as newcomers to the scene explore what’s next for what’s been called “the future of pop.”

ORIGINS + PC MUSIC

Though hyperpop is quickly becoming a universally known term, it really only reflects a relatively small number of creators. One of the largest (and only) collectives in this genre is PC Music, who have laid much of the groundwork for the development of this new sound. Founded in 2013 by A.G. Cook in London, the collective includes various artists who frequently collaborate with each other. This is where the style of breaking down and restructuring 90s and 2000s musical trends and tropes really began. Heavily influenced by cyberculture, the music is self-aware and the musicians are enigmatic characters often going by pseudonyms. Lyrical themes from PC artists can range from vapid consumeristic fantasies to harsh social commentaries. Around the mid 2010s, the validation of Pitchfork’s endorsement and high-profile features and collaborations transitioned PC Music from a niche underground community to a trend worth watching.

SPOTIFY’S + MEDIA’S INFLUENCE

The Spotify platform also has a responsibility in the formation and popularization of hyperpop. The term itself was first used by a team of Spotify editors, led by Lizzy Szabo in 2019 in an attempt to define the growing traction of this style of music. Because the genre is still in its infancy, there are few voices of authority on who’s “in.” Szabo and her team have transcended the title of tastemakers and have become kingmakers. You make the playlist, you become a major player in this relatively small community. They’ve made a habit to feature “takeovers” from popular artists, the first one being 100 Gecs. This marked a shift in the credibility of the playlist — it had been officially endorsed by one of the originators of the community. Szabo claims that the playlist has one of the highest save-rates (the number of songs people save to their own libraries) on the entire platform.

But Spotify isn’t the only media company driving the narrative of hyperpop, TikTok’s viral sounds have featured many tracks as well. The dramatic and exaggerated qualities of the sound making it a favorite for trends. 100 gec’s “money machine,” ElyOtto’s “SugarCrash!” are both viral sounds on the platform and the carryover to Spotify has amassed both songs tens of millions of streams. By getting this style in front of millions of new ears, TikTok has played a major role in propelling hyperpop into the lexicon of internet culture.

CULTURE + SOUND

When tuning in to the Spotify’s playlist, one may be surprised by the lack of homogeneity in sounds. The genre is more community-based than genre-based and artists with backgrounds in many various genres create hyperpop. There are many different pre-existing genres that have been embraced: emo rap artists like Yung Lean and Bladee, house and electronic artists like 100 gecs, ethereal vocalists like Caroline Polachek, and straight-up party-pop artists like Charli XCX and Slayyyter. The different sounds and perspectives of hyperpop reflect this new generation’s thoughts, values, and coping mechanisms.

It’s youthful and playful but also sarcastic and ironic. Self-deprecation, naive fantasies, and daring rebellion all being defining characteristics of the music and the generation that has embraced it. This reflection can be further observed in the marriage of the LGBTQIA+ community and hyperpop, with a large share of creators and consumers alike belonging to both camps. The generation that is promoting and consuming the genre are progressive and fluid when it comes to identity of person and sound. Laura Les of 100 gecs spoke to the New York Times about the labeling and commercialization of hyperpop:

As one of the fastest moving new genres from the youngest generation of music consumers, hyperpop will be one to watch. More and more tracks are breaking through to top 100 lists and Spotify’s hand in its development makes the birth of this genre entirely unique. The community embracing hyperpop have had the expectations of their youth changed and subject to the whims of a cyber-drenched and pandemic-burdened world. In a simplified way, hyperpop reflects the feelings of growing up in an uncertain environment: the range of mundane to profound, innocuous to contentious. The story of this genre is still being written, but for now, it’s a subculture that exists outside of the mainstream but interacts with it — each having a measurable cause and effect on each other.

Editor’s Note: This story was written by 

Red Dirt | GENRE SPOTLIGHT

A rebellious side of southern music gets its name from the color of the soil in the location of its origins: Oklahoma. Named for its story over its sound makes the most sense for this particular genre, as the term represents many artists with different musical backgrounds. Some of the predecessors of Red Dirt music include honky-tonk, folk, rock-and-roll, southern rock, blues, bluegrass and Tulsa sound. Known for its disregard of industry influence and the openness of collaboration. In the soil of Stillwater, Oklahoma, far from any big city, Red Dirt got its start.

Though there have been many variants of sound within the Red Dirt genre from the beginning, and now term encompasses even more. The sound can be broadly described as anything that bridges rock and country. As is the same with many other genres: there are other places, styles and cultures responsible for the melting pot that is Red Dirt music. However, marketing, branding and packaging musical acts necessitates a term for labels to name what they’re selling. In this genre’s case, around the early 2000s Texas country and Oklahoma country were both lumped under the umbrella term of Red Dirt. Though the lines between these two locations and genres have been blurred for convenience’s sake, the story of Red Dirt comes from a specific time and place in Oklahoma, and the influence of the culture that was created there is responsible for much of the development of the sound.

The Farm

A rebellious side of southern music gets its name from the color of the soil in the location of its origins: Oklahoma. Named for its story over its sound makes the most sense for this particular genre, as the term represents many artists with different musical backgrounds. Some of the predecessors of Red Dirt music include honky-tonk, folk, rock-and-roll, southern rock, blues, bluegrass and Tulsa sound. Known for its disregard of industry influence and the openness of collaboration. In the soil of Stillwater, Oklahoma, far from any big city, Red Dirt got its start.

Though there have been many variants of sound within the Red Dirt genre from the beginning, and now term encompasses even more. The sound can be broadly described as anything that bridges rock and country. As is the same with many other genres: there are other places, styles and cultures responsible for the melting pot that is Red Dirt music. However, marketing, branding and packaging musical acts necessitates a term for labels to name what they’re selling. In this genre’s case, around the early 2000s Texas country and Oklahoma country were both lumped under the umbrella term of Red Dirt. Though the lines between these two locations and genres have been blurred for convenience’s sake, the story of Red Dirt comes from a specific time and place in Oklahoma, and the influence of the culture that was created there is responsible for much of the development of the sound.

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Many notable artists either found residency at The Farm. Bob Childers, Jimmy LaFeve, The Red Dirt Rangers, Tom Skinner and Garth Brooks to name a few. Bob Childers even had his own trailer on the property next to the carriage house he was renovating into “The Gypsy Café:” the main stage for shows at the Farm. For twenty plus years The Farm served as a communal living hotspot for creatives, the birthplace of many bands and records. Unfortunately, the decline of The Farm came in 2003 when the house burned down. However, the Gypsy Café still stands and the legend of The Farm lives on in the people of Stillwater.

Though there have been many variants of sound within the Red Dirt genre from the beginning, and now term encompasses even more. The sound can be broadly described as anything that bridges rock and country. As is the same with many other genres: there are other places, styles and cultures responsible for the melting pot that is Red Dirt music. However, marketing, branding and packaging musical acts necessitates a term for labels to name what they’re selling. In this genre’s case, around the early 2000s Texas country and Oklahoma country were both lumped under the umbrella term of Red Dirt. Though the lines between these two locations and genres have been blurred for convenience’s sake, the story of Red Dirt comes from a specific time and place in Oklahoma, and the influence of the culture that was created there is responsible for much of the development of the sound.

Because of the rich story of the making of this genre, the term Red Dirt gains a lot more meaning. It can refer to Texas country, Oklahoma southern rock, as well as the music of any artists who come from or have spent significant time in Stillwater. The All-American Rejects are even considered Red Dirt artists who they met and formed there. The Farm’s impact also continues to live on in “Bob Childers’ Gypsy Café,” a songwriter festival which just celebrated its tenth anniversary. The festival is held at the same stage Bob Childers built himself and all benefits go to the Red Dirt Relief Fund, benefitting Oklahoma artists in need.

Since the shut-down of The Farm, new Red Dirt music is much less centralized. But the spirit of the community that was formed nearly forty years ago continues to be fundamental to the sound. Collaboration, thoughtful lyrics, cross-polination of genres and a supportive community are the pillars of Red Dirt.

Though there have been many variants of sound within the Red Dirt genre from the beginning, and now term encompasses even more. The sound can be broadly described as anything that bridges rock and country. As is the same with many other genres: there are other places, styles and cultures responsible for the melting pot that is Red Dirt music. However, marketing, branding and packaging musical acts necessitates a term for labels to name what they’re selling. In this genre’s case, around the early 2000s Texas country and Oklahoma country were both lumped under the umbrella term of Red Dirt. Though the lines between these two locations and genres have been blurred for convenience’s sake, the story of Red Dirt comes from a specific time and place in Oklahoma, and the influence of the culture that was created there is responsible for much of the development of the sound.