Pride // Playlist

Happy Pride Month!!!! I was inspired by Spotify to make a playlist of all of my favorite queer and allied artists (but mostly queer). I also added some commentary for a few of my favorites. Check out the playlist below!

 

Gasoline – Troye Sivan

I remember Troye’s first EP being released not too long after he posted his coming out video on YouTube. Knowing that one of my favorite queer YouTubers was releasing music made me REALLY excited, especially when I heard this song. He was (and still is) a very young kid who has a major platform, so hearing him share a song with male pronouns made me feel like such a proud mom.

Hold Each Other – A Great Big World

Truly the first time I’ve ever heard both male and female pronouns sung by the same person in one song!

Born Naked – RuPaul

The quote “we’re all born naked and the rest is drag” is so revolutionary. This song encompasses Ru’s ability to challenge norms, break barriers, and serve as a prime example of living as your true self even when you’re told it’s wrong. If RuPaul is wrong, why would anyone want to be right?

Strangers – Halsey feat. Lauren Jauregui

MY 2 BISEXUAL QUEENS!!!! Seriously, I’ve been such a big fan of these ladies for a while, and not only is this song an absolute jam, but it’s so important that the bi community has a song from two strong women who can sing about dudes in one song and ladies in another.

Ease My Mind – Hayley Kiyoko

All the female pronouns!!!! Hayley is so unapologetically WLW in all of her songs and I love it.

Come To Mama – Lady Gaga

This song makes me feel like Gaga is my queer mom who will hug me for 20 minutes whenever I’m sad.

Can I (Call You Summer) – Tyler Conroy

I met Tyler when I was a baby gay freshman and he was the president of our school’s GSA! He has always been such an inspiration to me as someone who works incredibly hard to achieve their dreams, and does so while being fearlessly true to himself. Also, it’s the perfect summer jam.

Girls/Girls/Boys – Panic! At the Disco

My true bisexual anthem from the marvelous Brendon Urie (…naked)

The Thrill of First Love – Falsettos

I will never shut up about Falsettos!!! But honestly, this show is such an important snapshot of queer history. It shows how far we’ve gotten, how much further we still have to go, and it’s all told from the perspective of a seemingly normal family who are flawed, complex, and ultimately relatable.

Know Your Name – Mary Lambert

Not only does this song make you want to dance all around, but the music video is basically the fun, queer version of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood”. Instantly obsessed.

I Know A Place – MUNA

I love MUNA’s entire album, but this song stuck with me when I read an article about how it was written in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando last year. Listening to the song in that context gives it an even greater impact of love and amazingness. Plus, this performance had me crying like a baby.

GDMML GRLS – Tyler Glenn

This entire album is a testament to Tyler’s strength as he navigated his journey toward the queer community while being dismissed from another. For me, listening to this song gives me such a clear image of a young kid whose identity is being constantly questioned by those around him, even though he wants to explore the truth that he knows has always lived inside of him.

I wish everyone a Happy Pride! Let’s continue to support each other while we stay strong, keep learning, resist, and be proud ❤ Enjoy these jams!

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“Suddenly I’m…”

I wrote this little ditty for my Feminist Literature class in college (because DUH) and I’ve been wanting to share it so here we go! Contains spoilers.

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The musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, written by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, explores the themes of sexuality, gender, and the body in a way that is very rarely seen in media. The story is told in monologue form, focusing entirely on the life of German rock star Hedwig and her band “The Angry Inch”. Hedwig offers a perfect example of a queer character that challenges the definitions of supposedly understood concepts, such as sex and gender. The way Mitchell presents the complex character of Hedwig invites discussions and conversations about how we perceive what society deems normal about identity politics. Hedwig and the Angry Inch offers a brand new dynamic of exploring sex, gender, and the body by encouraging ideas of multiplicity and how we construct identity.

Multiplicity and the Rejection of the Norm

After escaping communist East Berlin by getting a sex change operation and marrying a United States lieutenant, Hedwig is forced to navigate her life in a new body, a new country, and with a completely new identity. Hedwig uses she/her pronouns throughout the play, but also describes herself as a “girlyboy from communist East Berlin” so there is a question of how exactly she identifies in terms of gender. Her sex change was motivated by her desire to leave Berlin, so she did not actively set out to transition based on her identity. However, with wigs, makeup, and clothing, she presents extremely female and takes ownership of her femininity through her overall appearance. With Hedwig comes multiplicity; while some may label her as trans or genderfluid, it seems that Hedwig doesn’t feel the need to associate herself with a label at all.

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There is an excerpt from the song “Tear Me Down” that discusses this tension that exists within Hedwig. Her husband sings the words that compare her to the Berlin wall, claiming that Hedwig lives “in the divide between East and West, slavery and freedom, man and woman…” This struggle to classify Hedwig’s identity is discussed multiple times throughout the play. There are many parallels found between physical borders – like her inability to leave Berlin – and borders of sex and gender that exist in terms of her identity. Rather than conforming to one particular label, Hedwig explores herself through the creation of her own unique identity. She does not decide between being a man or a woman, and she does not explicitly identify with either her German or American identity. Instead, she rejects the idea that she needs to fit into these predetermined boxes, and decides she would rather live as someone completely new.

In a song about Hedwig, her former boyfriend Tommy sings “you were so much more than any God could ever plan, more than a woman or a man”, exploring the ways in which she introduced him to a new way of thinking about identity. Tommy is described as a “Jesus freak”, and he had been taught since he was little that the most valued qualities of identity could be found in the Bible. But after meeting Hedwig, this concrete, binary-driven ideology that Tommy learned from Catholicism is suddenly destroyed. He realizes, unlike his parents, that he can choose how to construct his own identity without any guidance from the Bible. Hedwig helps Tommy to create his stage persona of Tommy Gnosis, who unlike Tommy Speck, does not care about authority or rules, and rather focuses on the intrigue of uncertainty. But with this resistance against the norm comes tension, which can be seen through Hedwig’s relationship with Tommy.

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At Tommy’s hesitance to take their relationship to the next level, Hedwig asks him “What are you afraid of?” Without a clear answer, it is obvious that Tommy is not ready to understand the ways in which Hedwig challenges the norms of sex and gender. Even with his own experience of rebellion against his parents, Hedwig’s rejection of what people expect from her instills a sense of fear. There is an essential fear of the unknown that people must confront when they are introduced to Hedwig. Therefore, Hedwig is forced to come to terms with continuing to face this struggle unless she fully embraces the multiplicity of her identity. She must further construct what it means to be Hedwig, her individual self, rather than what it means to be a man or a woman or any other label that may be assumed about her. By creating an identity surrounded by ambiguity and queerness, Hedwig works to make this new space and ultimately find acceptance within herself.

Not only does Hedwig refuse to follow any of society’s expectations about what it means to be a woman, or genderqueer, or any other label, but she also does so loudly. With her exaggerated use of feminine and glamorous aesthetics, as well as the conservation of a strong and dominating attitude, Hedwig lives honestly and without gender boundaries. She forces herself into the spotlight. She wants people to know who she is, ambiguity and all.

Queer Performance

Drag culture is another tool the show uses to discuss identity. Once Hedwig starts her new life in the United States, she must make the abrupt transition from Hansel Schmidt to Hedwig Robinson, and she turns her persona into a performance. She uses makeup and a variety of wigs to create different versions of herself, until she settles on the “punk rock star of stage and screen”. While this is perceived to be a very feminine way of presenting, the fact that Hedwig draws from over exaggerated drag and glam-punk styles of expression suggests that there is still no clear assumption one can make about her identity.

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Once Hedwig meets her husband Yitzhak – who also has a passion for drag culture – her constructed identity becomes threatened. Because of their similar styles, Hedwig feels like the space she has created for her own personal identity is being replicated, therefore it may no longer be unique. Yitzhak’s stage identity, Crystal, is something he considers to be an important part of his identity. There is a part of him that connects closely to it, as shown through his jealousy of Hedwig’s role of lead vocalist in the Angry Inch. But while Yitzhak longs to explore this part of his identity, Hedwig prohibits it in order to maintain her own spotlight and validation. If Yitzhak were to play around with gender in the ways Hedwig does, would his uniqueness undermine Hedwig’s, therefore making it less special? Rather than risk this, Hedwig forbids him from performing in drag. She forces him to give up a part of his identity in order to maintain her own unique ambiguity.

The dynamics of Hedwig’s marriage also demonstrate how she and her husband do not prescribe to the assumed gender norms created by society. In traditional straight marriages, the man is the dominant one, often times dismissing the woman in the relationship in order to maintain power. But it quickly becomes clear that Hedwig and Yitzhak complicate these roles. For example, Hedwig controls Yitzhak’s every move and every decision. She dictates the role he plays in the band, and he very often is shown taking care of Hedwig – brushing her wigs, getting her drinks, and constantly waiting on her hand and foot. He has no power in the relationship. Hedwig created these skewed power dynamics between the two of them by erasing the expectations that the wife had to be submissive and passive; though Yitzhak would label her as his wife, this term could be used loosely, as it is identifying Hedwig ultimately as female.

Sexuality and the Body

Throughout the play, there are a lot of references to Hedwig’s biology rather than how exactly she identifies in terms of gender. There is an entire song called “Angry Inch” that discusses the messy results of her “sex change operation” (Side note: this term is no longer acceptable and has been replaced with the more accurate “gender affirming surgery”). Along with her ambiguous gender identity, her perceived sex is also impossible to define, as she uses the words “where my penis used to be, where my vagina never was” to describe what is now an “angry inch”.

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The theme of the body in Hedwig ultimately works to deconstruct the binary. For example, along with her gender presentation, Hedwig refuses to prescribe to any certain expectation about her sexuality. On her journey to constructing her unique identity, Hedwig struggles to navigate how her own life story will compare to the story of Plato’s Symposium. This famous work, which is heavily discussed in the play, explores the story of the children of the sun, the Earth, and the moon – humans who were once combined respectively as two men, two women, and a man and a woman. When Hedwig’s mother tells her this story, she seeks its truth in her own life. She spends the majority of the play longing for her other half. While contemplating whether or not two people are actually meant to become one again – which Plato’s work suggests is the ultimate paradise – she wonders “is [my other half] a he or a she?” Along with these thoughts Hedwig also considers if sex is the physical way people themselves back together after being separated by the Gods.

But by the end of the show, Hedwig realizes that this duplicity can come from within. Once again, Hedwig must come to terms with the fact that rather than picking a side or finding the person who physically completes her and signifies the binary of her identity, she can continue to allow the multiplicity that exists within her to grow and develop. In doing so, she allows her body and her identity to live in a state of ambiguity – she is neither man nor woman, and she is not one half of a person looking for another to complete her. She is whole.

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There are many tools Mitchell uses throughout the play to offer new ideas about sex, gender, and the body, such as deconstructed notions of the body, drag culture, multiplicity, and rejections of the binary. Hedwig’s character is essentially queer in the ways she refuses to prescribe to society’s expectations of what it means to be a woman, or any gender at all. Hedwig struggles with the conflicts that are born from her preferred ambiguity, but she ultimately comes to terms with the fact that it is her difference that defines her honest identity. Hedwig learns how to construct her own unique identity both through her appearance and her behaviors, all which are applicable to the notion of identity as a construction and performance. Hedwig explores the ways in which sex, gender, and the body can be used as tools for people to construct their own brand of identity and express themselves through genuine authenticity, despite what society may deem “normal”.

DNCE, Tyler Glenn, and Jane the Virgin

Happy Wednesday! Here’s a little roundup of what I’ve been loving lately 🙂

DNCE

BE STILL MY JONAS BROTHERS HEART!!!! I thought I was completely satisfied with the Jonas brilliance when Nick released Last Year Was Complicated…but DNCE took it to an entirely new level for me. Basically, this group lives up to their name. I dare you to listen to this debut album without immediately feeling the need to dance around. I joked with a lot of my friends that every song on this album passes Tom Haverford’s “is it a banger” test, and while that’s totally accurate, the best part about this album is how unique it is. When DNCE came out with their first song “Cake by the Ocean”, I was instantly intrigued. Their sound, their look, their entire vibe was something new to the pop scene. Of course, as comes with the pop territory, DNCE’s songs venture into the repetitive constructs of radio tunes we love to sing along to, but I think their approach and the group’s overall style is a way for them to combat the predictability a lot of pop artists face today. This album achieves cohesion while also giving you a taste of everything from dancey, upbeat tunes to slower jams with thoughtful lyrics. They have a funky sound that weaves its way through the entire tracklist, thanks to the work of notable songwriters like Justin Tranter and Mattman & Robin. Basically, these dudes are geniuses and their work definitely shines through with DNCE.

Also, I would give anything to be their bass player. JinJoo can hit me up anytime.

Excommunication

Some of yall may be familiar with Tyler Glenn from the group Neon Trees (“Animal”, “Everybody Talks”). Excommunication – largely written by Tyler Glenn himself along with Tim Pagnotta – is his first solo album, and let’s just say, if you didn’t know who he was before listening to it, you’re about to find out some really deep stuff. I vaguely remember the media circulating around him when he came out a few years ago, but other than that, I went into listening to this album with the sole thought of really digging Neon Trees and interested to hear what Tyler’s own sound would be like. As I listened to the tracks, the theme of religion was hard to miss. The titles of the songs like “G.D.M.M.L. GRLS” (God Didn’t Make Me Like Girls), “Gods + Monsters”, “First Vision”, and finally, “Devil” set you up for very profound stories, and I was intrigued to dig deeper into the album. A simple Google search helped me connect all of the dots: the album’s title is a nod to Tyler’s Mormon family and the anti-gay policies of the religion.

Radio.com’s piece about Excommunication set a completely new tone for the album as I gave it another listen. I paid special attention to the order of the track list and was completely taken by both the profound stories from Tyler’s personal journey and the well-matched sounds mixed on each song. When you listen, you can physically feel how much of himself is poured into this album. The style is still very much his own, with electro-pop, rock vibes, but adding in lyrics like “I found myself when I lost my faith” and the exploration of truly understanding what you believe in really drives home this compilation of songs. I haven’t experienced many albums recently that are theme-driven and specifically focused on the different phases of an ongoing story, so listening to Excommunication felt like something totally brand new in the modern pop-rock genre. I really can’t stop listening to it.

Jane the Virgin

I know, I know, this review is WAY overdue. It’s widely known that getting me to start a new television show is nearly impossible, so the fact that I not only caught up with Jane but also continued watching it is a very big deal.

Not surprisingly, the ability for TV shows to skillfully feature what are considered difficult issues is always impressive to me. Jane has been achieving this from the beginning of the first season, tactfully and efficiently discussing the topics of religion, abortion, and immigration. The show is structured from telenovela storytelling, which is known to be overly saturated with drama, romance, and suspense – all of the qualities people tend to love most about current TV dramas. But Jane offers so much more. There are three generations of women of color as the main characters, one of which is an immigrant who solely speaks Spanish, and they are suddenly surrounded by scandal. The writers of this show make very thoughtful decisions about how these women navigate the obstacles they face. Their decisions are very much based around family values and relationships, rather than being dictated by the guys they are dating. The writers craft a plot in which the characters are fully immersed in real life struggles – grad school, conflicting feelings about significant others, and early parenting – while still maintaining the thrill of cleverly planned unsolved mysteries. Not to mention, the fact that it’s narrated like a classic telenovela gives just the right amount of structure and humor. Each season, the writers unfold more and more about the lives of these characters, leaving the audience constantly engrossed in their stories. Now on its third season, Jane somehow manages to be a totally unpredictable show with a completely predictable structure. So long as the writers continue to stir up this seemly perfect magic formula for storytelling, I’ll keep watching.

 

What music/show/entertainment has you hooked right now? I’d love to hear!

What’s My Age Again // Playlist

My music taste is often hard to describe because I like so many different genres for different reasons, but quite consistently, my favorite jams tend to fall into the realm of pop/rock. From my booster-seat days listening to Guns N Roses with my mom and The Beatles with my dad, to my teenage days listening to Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato with my sister, I gravitated toward anything that was able to catch my attention and peak my interest further than the three minute track. And with so many influences, I found myself interested in these songs and artists on a nuanced level. I wanted to learn why certain songs were catchy, and I was intrigued by artists’ abilities to share such intimate experiences. My music library grew and I remained captivated by the magic of it all.

All of this to say, I’ve noticed something interesting about a lot of the artists I’ve been listening to lately. I think the first time I made a connection was with Betty Who’s track “Somebody Loves You” – it was such a fun, catchy song, and along with the vibrant music video, I was struck with the song’s 80s vibe. There were obvious elements that you hear in typical pop and upbeat dance tracks, but there was also a mix of the new wave that was so popular during the post-disco era. It sounded different than the Britney Spears/boy band pop that I was so used to (and absolutely enjoyed, don’t get me wrong).

I had also jumped on the Walk the Moon train during this time, and I was struck with the disco-y, dance-y, rock sound they managed to capture in every song on their first album. Tracks like “Shiver Shiver” and “Lisa Baby” reminded me of a solid mix of Bowie and Queen, and I fell in love. And then when their second album hit, “Aquaman” reeled me right back in with those 80s flashbacks. Not to mention the “Shut Up and Dance” video that set the perfect tone – “Aquaman” plays in the background of a school dance scene completely reminiscent of John Hughes classics.

I could go on and on about how often I’ve had these moments, but instead, I made a playlist. While I listen to these songs, I can’t help but notice influences from top artists like Heart, Madonna, Joan Jett, and other big names from the 80s…which happens to be before I was born, so cut me some slack and enjoy.

PS. Honorable mention = “New Romantics” by Taylor Swift