Not only did the 20th anniversary of …Baby One More Time fix climate change and end world hunger, but it also led to newfound appreciation of Britney’s debut album. There’s a whole generation of young people out there who weren’t even alive when Godney brought us this precious, precious gift, so it’s gratifying to see her first record receive some love from the Spotify generation as well.
A number of articles and social media rants posted over the weekend prove that hits from the album like “…Baby One More Time” and “(You Drive Me) Crazy” will continue slaying us till the world ends, but there’s one track, in particular, that’s still not getting the love it deserves and that’s “Soda Pop.”
You’d assume that a song that also appeared on the first Pokémon movie soundtrack would be universally loved by all, but to do so would make you even more wrong than the Ash/Pikachu porn that circulates online.
Despite appearing early on the original tracklist between classic singles like “Sometimes” and “Born To Make You Happy,” “Soda Pop” is often dismissed as an unfortunate byproduct of the time in which it was made, much like Napster or The Phantom Menace.
In a brand new ranking of the album’s track listing, Billboard placed “Soda Pop” in tenth place, besting only “The Beat Goes On,” and EW was even harsher when they argued that it’s one of the four worst songs Britney’s ever recorded. We were more generous when we ranked it in seventh place, but on an album full of classic material, “Soda Pop” still deserves to be celebrated and not just because it’s catchy AF either.
Although super-producer Max Martin was the one who elevated Britney to stardom with her debut single, the lion’s share of …Baby One More Time was actually written and produced by Eric Foster White, who basically worked on every song that wasn’t a single and eventually won a Nobel Prize for his work on “E-Mail My Heart.”
Along with reggae star Mikey Bassie, White co-wrote and produced “Soda Pop,” drawing on influences from the seemingly incongruous worlds of dancehall and bubblegum pop. While the song seems to have left a bad taste in the collective mouth of critics everywhere, fans at the time fizzed with joy at Britney’s soaring vocals and her infectious love of soda popping, even if it did sound like nothing else on the album.
Although it’s easy to see now why the song’s reggae vibes might have sounded out of place back in 1999, it’s also clear that the experimental nature of “Soda Pop” would go on to inform the genre-bending that defined later albums like Femme Fatale and In The Zone. Part of Britney’s appeal has always been her weirdness, and it doesn’t get much stranger than singing about opening a “soda pop, bop, shu-bop, shu-bop” to dancehall rhythms.
Scratch that. It does get weirder, but only when you stop dancing around to this carefree bop and take a closer look at the lyrics. On the surface, Britney’s obsession with soda seems to harken back to more innocent times when dates would meet up at their local diner over a chocolate malt. In reality, though, “Soda Pop” might be more interested in the taste of something else altogether.
When Bassie’s guest vocals first kick in, younger me assumed that he and Britney were just enjoying a casual soda together as all good friends do. However, talk of “monster riding to the music tonight” and leveling the vibes “for a wicked time to the end” took on a whole new meaning for older me.
That’s right. It’s not just soda that Britney’s watching “fizz and pop” in the chorus.
Many are quick to claim that “E-Mail My Heart” is the weirdest song that the Princess of Pop has ever recorded, but “Soda Pop” could easily give it a run for its money, which is why this naughty little ditty will remain a fan favorite “on and on until the break of dawn” and beyond.
“Soda Pop” is many things to many people; A cheesy nostalgia trip, a hyper-sexual ode to ejaculaton, a “vibical expedition” that rivals even the work of the “great poet Homer”… it’s tough to fully encapsulate the song’s strange, strange appeal, which is why we’ll leave it up to Weirdney herself to explain:
“’Soda Pop’ is such a fun song, when you hear it you’re just like ‘oh, I wanna go outside and just, y’know, party’ it’s like a really fun summer song everyone, y’know, just, in your car, listening to, y’know, it’s a great song, it’s a lot of fun.“
Can you believe that in 2019 we still have to deal with the same stale bi- and lesbophobia?
The Weeknd’s new song “Lost in the Fire” not only sounds like most of his other songs post-“Starboy,” but also puts its listener through an annoying and tired narrative. In the first verse, he’s singing about being sad and alone (again!), but in the second, he starts to opine about a woman who is interested in women, before promising to “fuck her straight.”
The entire stanza is as follows:
You said you might be into girls
Said you going through a phase
Keeping your heart safe
Well, baby, you can bring a friend
She can ride on top your face
While I fuck you straight
Let’s just clarify something here, Mr. Weeknd: No one can be fucked straight. I don’t care how big or powerful you think your dick is, it’s just impossible. Queer women are queer, whether they identify as a lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or sexually fluid. No amount of your D will fuck up her life into thinking she’s strictly dickly from now on. Should she somehow fall for you, she would not be “straight.” There’s not a switch in our G-spot (should you be able to find it).
Secondly, this shit has been done over and over again. Rappers, in particular, have enjoyed this idea of turning lesbians. A few choice examples:
“I take a dyke chick if she like dick I kissed the dyke chick and I liked it Fucking each and every Katy Perry for the night bitch, light this.” A$AP ROCKY
“I be fuckin’ broads like I be fuckin’ bored/Turn a dyke bitch out, have her fuckin’ boys; beast.” A$AP ROCKY – repeat offender!
“Girls kissin’ girls, cause it’s hot right? But unless they use a strap-on then they not dykes/ They ain’t about that life, they ain’t about that life.” KANYE WEST – another repeat offender!
“Black girls say they like girls, say they dyke girls/ Type girls lose their boyfriends to them white girls.” JOEY PURP
It’s not just rap, of course — misogyny and homophobia knows no genre — but this brand of braggadocio has been the most consistent there.
And yet in 2019, we’re still singing the same old songs about queer women as conquests. As if those same ideas don’t connect to the corrective rapes happening in places like South Africa, or the hate crimes taking place in America as well as the rest of the world. The idea that a queer woman’s sexuality can be changed or fixed is the same faulty, fictitious narrative laid out by those who believe in conversion therapy, which, if you didn’t learn in 20Gayteen, STILL DOESN’T WORK. As if we can’t be trusted to know ourselves and our own bodies.
When #MeToo started to go viral and Cara Delevingne spoke out about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual advance on her and how homophobic it was, I wrote about my own experience with a rapper who attempted to challenge my identity, chastising me and my relationship with my partner, and eventually cornering me and forcing me to look at his dick.
Reader, I am still gay.
That dick was not enticing nor life-changing. In fact, it made me gayer. I was so repulsed by this man thinking he had the magic dick — and, for the record, I am not at all dickphobic — it’s all about the person behind the appendage, and the ones who think their dick is magic are delusional and not great role models. His Louis C.K. act did not convince me to be something other than what I am because cis dudes, despite the power dynamics they so often utilize to their sexual benefit, do not have this magic ability they’ve convinced themselves they have. And furthermore, if a woman wants to have a threesome with you, it won’t be because you are giving her permission and then dictating how it’s all going to go down. Unless you’re coercing her, which, if you haven’t heard, is not fucking cool.
Frustratingly, media outlets and Twitter are paying attention to “Lost in the Fire,” sussing out clues about ex-girlfriends or Drake disses. We’ve become so used to hearing “dyke” tossed around and boasts about girl-on-girl for the sole pleasure of a dude that perhaps it seems like old news, or something easily swatted away as tongue-in-cheek or some kind of funny song fodder. But compared with how little mainstream representation we have of songs by queer women about queer women, the prevailing storytelling done in popular songs that get major radio play dictates how our sexual identities are framed in the larger picture. Yes, we have Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani and King Princess and more visibility than we’ve had ever before, but The Weeknd’s reach is massive, not solely because of his artistry but because of the women that he’s been connected to romantically.
The way popular music frames sexuality is often problematic because it insists women’s queerness is so fleeting. The Weeknd literally calls it “a phase”; exactly the kind of language lesbian and bi women have been trying to do away with since, like, Sappho. Men just can’t stand that women don’t want them, and songs like this just prove as much. I’m honestly surprised he wasn’t added to the mix of Rita Ora’s “Girls.”
Queer women have to endure a special blend of homophobia and misogyny that seeks to invalidate us in the name of keeping a man from feeling emasculated, and as a card-carrying member of Lesbian Club, I can say that these kinds of bi and lesbophobic song lyrics are embarrassing — not just for us, but for you Weeknd. For you, ASAP Rocky and Kanye and Eminem and anyone else who needs to use our identities in order to feel better about their manhood. That is pretty much the exact opposite of our collective job, which is to make sure women are treated with love and respect and to actually have orgasms.
And just in case The Weeknd says, “This was based on a real woman! She said those things!” I have a message for that woman, who believes dating another woman wouldn’t and couldn’t end in heartbreak: You’re probably straight.
We have already been in the month of January for 525,600 minutes and we have not only brought the B.S. of 2018 with us but compounded it with even more foolishness. However, since I love social media, petty moments, and celebrities’ inability to find good PR professionals these days, you could say I’m in heaven.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I was tired of Kevin Hart. A few weeks later I am STILL tired of Kevin Hart. Kevin Hart’s timeline from the past five weeks has sort of read like this:
“I apologized for being homophobic so I’m not going to apologize again, but then I lost the Oscar hosting gig so I then apologized again, but it was found out that the apology after losing the Oscars gig was actually my first apology and the myth that I told everyone was an apology was really me calling LGBTQ people too sensitive for my humor which has now sent me on a promo tour about my new boring ass movie where instead of talking about the movie I talk about how I have moved on over, and over and over again, proving that I haven’t moved on but that my ego is too strong to let it go because I’m used to getting away with everything — look at both my marriages!”
Where is the damn PR industry? One thing about social media is that a story that usually would last a day or two at the most can now last for a person’s entire career if they handle it wrong. Kevin Hart’s story has been going on for 10 years now. However, this is a story that won’t die because of his own doing.
Now listen. I am not expecting every straight person to want to be LGBTQ people’s best friends, nor do I want to be the reverse of that. What I do expect is respect, and for you to understand the damage that is done when you talk badly about a marginalized group in your own community. Had Hart, when initially questioned simply apologized, this would not be a thing. Unfortunately, people have become so ego-driven that they think they can operate above the law because they have wealth and some power. That’s not how any of this works, though, and being un-humble and disrespectful could end your career.
Because, honestly, If people began addressing things when they happened, if they ever popped up again they could simply repost the original apology and then reiterate what was once stated. But that’s not what we have anymore. What we have is a system where people do things that are dead-ass wrong, and then they remain silent until an opportunity is threatened by it years down the line.
Which is how we get to Lady Gaga, who decided to pull out her Notes app and apologize to herself more than anyone else. And the timing, four days after a shocking loss of the Golden Globe to Glenn Close and shortly before the Oscar nominations, is questionable.
I understand people need the time and space to grow. People who may have been misogynistic, homophobic, etc. in the past can definitely show growth over the years and become advocates in places where they were once abusers. However, that doesn’t absolve you from addressing your original mistake.
It was 2013 when, at age 27, Gaga decided to work with R. Kelly. Yes, the R. Kelly who at that time had 20 years of sexual abuse allegations under his belt. Not only did she work with Kelly, but when questioned about it, she made a statement saying,“R. Kelly and I have sometimes very untrue things written about us, so in a way, this was a bond between us.”
First of all, yuck. Secondly, her decision to double and triple down against Black victims of R. Kelly was very telling. However, by 2014 Gaga started talking about her own sexual assault and became the voice against it…still never talking about the R. Kelly situation. A situation that she has been questioned about in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and the first week of 2019 prior to her apology, which conveniently came during award season.
And then there is the apology. A very long explanation saying everything except “I messed up.” There was legitimate talk of her own bouts with sexual abuse, but sweeping generalizations of apology towards others and no specificity towards the Black women she hurt.
So last night I saw a question posed about what would be an acceptable apology. The first step is timing. The closer to the offense the better.
A great apology should follow these six steps:
I messed up
This is how I messed up
This is who I harmed by messing up
I apologize to all that I hurt by messing up (not that “may have offended” crap)
This is what I have learned since messing up
Moving forward I plan on doing these things to fix it and not mess up again
Easy, breezy, beautiful APOLOGY. I hope folks move to a place of sincerity and accountability, with the understanding that all may not forgive. If you are giving apologies simply looking for praise afterward, then the apology wasn’t real to begin with.
Described as just “shameless schlock” and “a pretty great piece of fluff” back when it was first released, Britney’s debut album didn’t exactly receive the rave reviews one might expect from the birth of an icon. Britney herself even looks back at that era now as “bit of a blur,” and when fans rank each of her records, …Baby One More Time usually hovers near the bottom, just one or two places above the often maligned Britney Jean.
While the lead single will continue to be praised and worshipped till the world ends, the rest of …Baby One More Time isn’t always given the same respect, despite breaking every record going when it dropped on January 12, 1999. Much was made of that video and its subsequent impact on pop culture yet again following its 20th-anniversary last year, but now it’s time to give the album as a whole the glory it deserves.
It’s no exaggeration to suggest that music today would be unrecognizable if Britney hadn’t pulled on that school girl outfit and revealed to the world that her loneliness is killing her. Critics are usually quick to point out that without this song, we probably wouldn’t have pop icons like Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, but there’s obviously far more to Britney’s appeal than one single could ever capture. After all, there’s a reason why she didn’t end up as just another one hit wonder and for that, we have the album as a whole to thank.
With just three piano notes and a swish of her pigtails, Britney almost single-handedly revived the teen pop genre, but it was the release of subsequent songs like “Sometimes” and “(You Drive Me) Crazy” that cemented her iconic status. While nothing else on the album could ever quite match up to the superstar power of “Baby,” each of the other singles helped Britney shine brighter and brighter, quickly confirming her status as the new Princess of Pop.
“Sometimes” was the first song that hinted at Britney’s longevity, proving that she could carry a hit song without sexual innuendo or fierce dance moves. Following the worldwide success of her second single, Britney released “Crazy,” which continues to be remembered long after the film it was supposed to promote slipped from memory.
Hitney’s second UK number one then came from “Born To Make You Happy,” and while “From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart” didn’t match the success of her other singles, it did prove that she possesses impressive vocal chops of her own which could rival the many, many pretenders to her title.
Before Godney decided to grace us mere mortals with her presence, it was the vocal acrobatics of powerhouse singers like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey that defined ’90s pop. By tapping into the teen market with her beguiling (and perhaps problematic) mix of sex and innocence, Britney brought new vitality to the industry, becoming the biggest superstar on the planet in just a matter of months.
Detractors would go on to mock the unique quality of Britney’s voice in the years to follow, but the “oohs” and “baby’s” that characterized her first few singles went on to define an entire era of music. Even now, after all of the various lip-sync dramas that have taken place since, it still feels special hearing her distinctive tone on record. It’s Britney, bitch, and there’s no one else quite like her, something which she proved from the get-go with her very first album.
Whether she’s projecting joy on songs like “Deep In My Heart” or singing earnestly about the benefits of electronic messaging on “E-Mail My Heart,” Britney’s voice has never sounded stronger than it did on her debut record. Even in the moments where she belts the hardest, there’s still a rough rasp to her register that dared to sound different in an industry full of emotive divas.
Deep cuts like “I Will Be There” still sound strong, and if you listen closely to songs like “Soda Pop” and “The Beat Goes On,” you’ll hear how she had already begun to experiment with genre in ways that would come to the fore in later albums such as In The Zone. Visionney at her finest.
Britney’s upcoming tenth (!?) album has been delayed due to her father’s hospitalization, but executive producer Justin Tranter has promised fans that there’s a “whole spectrum of bops” coming our way once the project’s finally finished. Where this new record will rank in her overall discography remains to be seen, but in the meantime, listen to some old-school bops on …Baby One More Time again and experience pop princess realness firsthand, untainted by the pressures of fame — before the whole world wanted a piece of her.
On January 12, 2019, 20 years will have passed since Godney first blessed us with a holy collection of instant classics. While we wait for the world’s various governments to celebrate this anniversary as an official holiday, we here at INTO have decided to celebrate by ranking every song on Britney’s debut album from best to best.
Of course, such an undertaking is entirely subjective. Every single song on …Baby One More Time has been seared into the minds of young girls and fledgling gays everywhere since it first came out in 1999. Therefore, any attempt to rank each track is pointless. Indulge us though as we take a look back at a time when Britney Spears ruled the world, long before she made slaves of us all.
14. “I’ll Never Stop Loving You”
I stopped loving this bonus track a very long time ago.
13. “The Beat Goes On”
Fans are often quick to dismiss this early Cher cover, but if Beatney re-released it as a duet with the “Believe” singer now, it would instantly skyrocket to number one on this list and in our hearts too.
12. “I Will Still Love You” (ft. Don Philip)
Messy doesn’t even begin to describe the awkward reunion that Britney and Don Philip shared during the X Factor USA auditions in 2012, adding new and cringey layers of meaning to the line, “Time may take us apart, but I will still love you.”
11. “Autumn Goodbye”
Like pumpkin spice lattes, “Autumn Goodbye” is a basic yet enjoyable treat that everyone should enjoy exclusively between the months of September and December.
10. “E-Mail My Heart”
Remember that time Britney Spears invented Email? Of course you do, and it’s all thanks to this ballad that Techney herself once claimed “everyone can relate to.”
9. “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart”
It’s somewhat ironic that Britney ditched her sexy schoolgirl image in a promo directed by someone who was once referred to as “the Martin Scorsese of the erotic thriller.” Gregory Dark’s previous career in porn worried the label once news got out, but the wholesome song and video still remain Britney’s most innocent.
8. “Thinkin’ About You”
Honestly, I spend my days thinkin’ about Britney’s gorgeous deep register which comes to the fore in this chilled deep cut. Modernney could learn a lesson or two from this track.
7. “Soda Pop”
Whether you originally encountered “Soda Pop” on …Baby One More Time or the first Pokémon movie soundtrack, the fourth track on Britney’s debut fizzes with some reggae vibes and a not so subtle metaphor about male ejaculation.
6. “Deep In My Heart”
“Deep In My Heart” is joy personified and it was foolish of Jive Records to leave it off the original US track listing. Facts are facts, America.
5. “I Will Be There”
Imagine a world where the southern twang of “I Will Be There” propelled Britney to country stardom and she ended up recording a whole album full of Shania Twain inspired ditties. Y’all know you want it too.
Sweet like bubblegum, Britney’s second single slowed things down to a surprising degree back in 1999, and unfortunately, she rarely sings it live these days, but diehard purists will always have a soft spot for this gooey classic.
3. “(You Drive Me) Crazy”
If the single remix was included on the album, “Crazy” could have potentially taken the number one spot, because honestly, what song doesn’t benefit from a breakdown where Britney shouts “stop!”?
2. “Born to Make You Happy”
Not only is “Born To Make You Happy” the soundtrack to countless pillow fights worldwide, it’s also one of the best ballads that Britney has ever recorded, something which we Brits knew when we helped propel it to number one on the UK charts.
1. “…Baby One More Time”
Dun DUN DUN… You’re not surprised, we’re not surprised and anyone with ears shouldn’t be surprised either. This is the one true Mona Lisa of pop music and literally any other choice in the top spot just wouldn’t make sense. To suggest otherwise would be blasphemy against both Godney and the Holy Spearit combined.
When lesbian pop star Hayley Kiyoko dubbed last year #20GayTeen, none of us were ready for how queer it’d it’d actually be.
Last year, queer women in music were more visible than ever before, with major releases from Lesbian Jesus herself, Halsey, Cardi B, St. Vincent, King Princess, problematic transgender queen Kim Petras, and the massive (and controversial) Rita Ora/Cardi B/Charli XCX/Bebe Rexha collab “Girls.” Just eight days into 2019, the queer women of pop haven’t wasted a single second; they’re already out here dropping new visuals and teasing us with new music. Yesterday alone, four super queer acts announced new projects coming soon. I’m elated, vibrating, and ready to dance. Here’s the current state of lesbian and queer pop music, and everything queer women have to look forward to this year that isn’t Captain Marvel.
To kick off 2019, Annie Clark (AKA one of Cara Delevingne’s exes AKA St. Vincent), announced the gayest of gay collaborations: In 2019, our queer lady thirst will be quenched with a brand-new Sleater-Kinney album—their first in four years—and it will be produced by St. Vincent herself. Sleater-Kinney frontwoman Carrie Brownstein has dated both her bandmate Corin Tucker and Clark, furthering my belief that the future of queer pop music is collaborations with gay exes. I also portend that the future of pop will be unanimously inspired by Cara Delevingne (see: Rita Ora’s supposed Sapphic single nodded to her fling with the British model). Please look for my dissertation on gay exes in pop music, coming this summer to Twitter dot com.
In addition to Sleater-Kinney and St. Vincent, it looks like lesbian alt-pop will have quite a moment this year, as Tegan and Sara revealed on their website that new music and a memoir was on the horizon. King Princess is set to tour her most recent EP, Talia, and even has some major festival dates set, like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Firefly.
Actually, it’s worth mentioning that Coachella is getting gayer and gayer (despite being owned by an anti-LGBTQ Republican donor). This year, queer female artists like Janelle Monae, Lizzo, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Christine and the Queens, and transgender DJ SOPHIE will also be performing. Plus, Ariana Grande will be headlining the California festival—she doesn’t identify as LGBTQ, but has been lovingly and aggressively adopted by the community. Grande will be the fourth woman to ever headline Coachella.
Speaking of A-List pop stars, queer Top 40 queens like Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga are already delivering in a major way. In November, the pansexual singer-songwriter released her first single post-Younger Now, a throbbing bassline, disco-meets-country collaboration with Mark Ronson called “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart.” She performed the song in a dazzling dressed-up tracksuit on Saturday Night Live. The recently married musician’s seventh studio album is due out this year, and I’ll be crossing my arms and impatiently tapping my foot awaiting more disco tracksuits lewks. I really need a new phone background—new year, new wallpaper!
Lady Gaga, who once came out as bisexual and maybe-kinda-sorta rescinded it, launched her brand-new Vegas show Enigma on December 28th. The show, which features robotic Transformer-like set pieces, has already stunned fans of the flamboyant performer, and is set to run through November, with four special jazz and piano performances. According to NME, Gaga’s sixth studio album is currently being recorded at NYC’s Electric Lady Studios, and the working title is LG6 (sound familiar, Little Mix fans?). Hopefully, we’ll get our grubby gay hands on that music this year rather than next. Until then, we have awards season to look forward to, and a possible Oscar for the decorated musician’s role and song in A Star is Born.
And JoJo Siwa is set to release music on—I’m totally kidding. Can you imagine?
Like Gaga, bisexual pop stars are dropping music left and right. Today, former Fifth Harmony member Lauren Jauregui announced a second single from her debut solo album (untitled so far). “More Than That,” the follow-up to “Expectations,” is set for release on January 11th. The sultry singer revealed the goddess-like album art for the single, which offers a strong nod to Sandro Botticelli’s iconic painting of The Birth of Venus. Bisexual artist Halsey has already tweeted her support for her “Strangers” collaborator.
Speaking of, a new album is expected from Halsey either this year or next—no date yet, but the pop star said she’s started “collecting” new material.
The very pregnant and bisexual Kehlani also teased a new song and video. The single, “Nights Like This,” is due out tomorrow (Thursday). It’s been two years since the release of her debut EP, and since then, she’s been featured on everything from Cardi B tracks, to Hayley Kiyoko’s album, a pregnancy, and my tombstone, probably. Can my epitaph please say “(feat. Kehlani)?”
Cardi B, Kehlani’s frequent collaborator and fellow bisexual mother in hip-hop, is reportedly in the studio working on her second studio album. Her debut record Invasion of Privacy swept pop and hip-hop fans off their feet last year. The reigning queen of hip-hop took to Instagram Live to announce the second album, which she hopes to release around the same time that Invasion of Privacy came out, which was in April of last year. Personally, I’m looking forward to more outrageous music videos, Instagram rants, and queer collabs from Cardi B this year. In December, the Bronx-native released her “Money” music video, which intercut shots of a strip club and the MC breastfeeding her baby Kulture. So, I’m definitely hoping for more motherhood meets hip-hop content, which was the most ambitious crossover event in history.
Another hip-hop/pop fluid queen, Lizzo, who told Teen Vogue last year that she refuses to identify as straight, released a new music video for her single “Juice” this week. The ’80s-inspired video is the vivacious performer’s latest release since last year’s singles “Good As Hell,” “Truth Hurts,” and “Boys.” No word on when her next album will drop, but according to Vulture, 2019 is the year. I want to say my body is ready, but how does one actually ready their body for a full album of Lizzo bangers? Unclear.
Of course, there’s R&B star Janelle Monae, who might just be the hardest working pansexual in pop music. As previously mentioned, the Dirty Computer singer will be performing at Coachella in April. She’s also set to headline Glastonbury this summer. After wowing queer fans with her gilded red carpet look at the Golden Globes, Monae released a music video for “Screwed,” another track from Dirty Computer, yesterday, and yes, it’s another video starring Tessa Thompson.
But wait, there’s more! Betty Who, who came out as bi in 2018 and gifted us with multiple Sapphic music videos, is currently on tour with the pansexual-led Panic! at the Disco (the same tour that Hayley Kiyoko opened for in 2018!). Last week, Betty teased a new song on her social media called “I Remember.”
And finally, queer pop singer-songwriter FLETCHER has also announced a new project in 2019, hopefully coming soon—I adored her 2017 and 2018 releases “You Should Talk” and “I Believe You,” both of which perfectly blended the happy-sad sounds of pop with lyrics about painful memories and longing. Queer women love to yearn—it’s kind of our thing.
Currently, there’s more mainstream music being released by queer female artists than ever before. Just a year ago, while anxiously awaiting Hayley Kiyoko’s debut album Expectations, I felt severely underrepresented in pop music, which is not only my favorite genre, but is unimpeachably one that belongs to the LGBTQ community. Queer fans have created and elevated pop music since its very inception, but it wasn’t until very recently (arguably last year) that our stories were being centered in the art form itself.
In a post-Expectations, post-Dirty Computer world, I’m fucking thrilled that me and other queer women aren’t begging for scraps of music about women loving women, or once-a-decade male gazey bops like Demi Lovato’s “Cool For The Summer” and Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl.” I’m thankful for the sheer volume of Sapphic pop music that’s flooded my Spotify playlists in 2018, and am overwhelmed by 2019’s gay pop forecast. Consider me soaked—sorry, I meant quenched.
I’m still not sure how I feel after watching the first two episodes of Surviving R. Kelly, which premiered last night on the Lifetime Channel. Angry is probably the closest. Angry that this man continues to sell out tours while harming young Black girls and women. Angry that so many men and women aided in this process and now talk about it on camera like they have no fault in this. Angry that girls like Aaliyah continue to be harmed by men of the world like R. Kelly with no recourse in sight.
Malcolm X once said: “The most disrespected woman in America is the black woman. The most unprotected woman in America is the black woman. The most neglected woman in America is the black woman.” Last night was further evidence of words spoken over 50 years ago still ringing true. For those who didn’t see it the first two parts of the series, here is a quick synopsis.
R. Kelly met Aaliyah when she was 12 years old. He then produced and wrote most of the songs on her first album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number, where she was overly sexualized at a young age, singing songs that were mirroring what was happening to her behind closed doors. By the age of 15, a backup singer on the tour walked in on Aaliyah having sex with R. Kelly, who was then 28 years old. After having potentially gotten Aaliyah pregnant, Kelly and his tour manager went to the courthouse, forged documents saying Aaliyah was 18 years of age, and the two were officially married in 1994—a marriage that would eventually get annulled.
Aaliyah, unfortunately, was not the only victim. Kelly’s friends and other people on his tour would go into local malls and find girls to bring back to the studio to meet him. On the docuseries, multiple producers and managers discussed walking into rooms and seeing him touching and feeling on girls who were naked—GIRLS WHO WERE NAKED—and rather than stopping it, walking out because they didn’t want to participate. So many failed these girls. So many continue to fail them.
It took everything in me to not cry listening to how many people failed Aaliyah—from backup singers to tour managers to Aaliyah’s very OWN UNCLE WHO INTRODUCED HER TO HIM AT AGE 12—and all the other girls. And truth be told, the majority of us have been complicit in this behavior. Not just here, but in our own families and communities. Keeping these secrets as family secrets, more worried about the possibility of shame than the well-being of the victim. Calling young girls “fast,” but never holding the men who are fast enough to catch them accountable.
I want to be clear that when I say “us” I mean all of us, or at the very minimum, 90 percent of us. Those of us who have known what R. Kelly was doing to young girls for a long time and still found a way to listen to his music—”separating the music from the artist.” I can speak for myself when I say that I haven’t purchased, downloaded, or supported R. Kelly in over a decade. I’ve kept my foot on the necks of anyone who has even tried to do so in my presence. I’ve gone as far as asking the DJ to change the song when an R. Kelly track comes on. There are still not enough of us doing that, though—including rappers like Kendrick Lamar who threatened to remove his music from Spotify if they removed R. Kelly. Are these your kings?
Sex in itself is still a very taboo thing in America. We have watched the scandal of the Catholic Church, where thousands of little boys were violated for decades and the abusers were protected. We now have the #MeToo movement in full swing, taking down the Hollywood elite whose predatory behavior has caused harm to thousands. Yet, here we are nearly 25 years after the first R. Kelly allegation, still fighting to get rid of one man from our community. Enough is enough already.
Seeing Bill Cosby finally have his reckoning let me know that, although it may take a long time, sometimes victims can get a form of justice. I’m not sure if any of the R. Kelly victims will ever get theirs, but I am glad that they at least have the opportunity to tell their stories; to have the world bear witness to their truths in a way that it would be hard for one to ignore. I can only hope that now, those who continued to “step in the name of love” will have a hard look in the mirror and start to think.
People have served for far too long as the gatekeepers of pedophiles and sexual predators. We must do the work to get them up out of our families and our communities. So much harm has been done, and it’s time for us to end that. There is no place for these predators in our community.
The Coachella lineup was announced yesterday and gay fans were elated to see that our queen, Ariana Grande, will be one of the three headliners this year, making her the fourth woman to ever headline the festival. However, the “thank u, next” singer isn’t the only person to get excited about—the 2019 Coachella lineup is packed with LGBTQ artists that just may draw me out to Indio, California for the very first time.
Coachella hasn’t historically been the most queer-friendly space, as one of the festival’s owners at the major entertainment corporation behind Coachella is very publicly anti-LGBTQ. However, the lineups have been getting gayer and gayer each year. So, tradeoffs!
Here’s what LGBTQ fans have to look forward to in April.
Janelle Monae memorably came out as pansexual last year, releasing a visual album, Dirty Computer, which featured her flirting with Tessa Thompson in multiple music videos. In 2018, Monae gave us queer pop music, dapper red carpet looks, and vaginal harem pants for Tessa Thompson to poke her head through. This year, she’ll be storming the Coachella stage Friday, April 12th and 19th. But be forewarned, Janelle: If you don’t bring out Tessa Thompson in a suit, we’re leaving!!
In the past, The 1975’s lead singer Matty Healy has alluded to being queer, and his band will take the stage alongside (or in the shadow of) Janelle Monae on the Friday dates.
The infamous spawn of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith will be performing this year. In 2018, Smith announced that Tyler, The Creator, who is an out bisexual, was his “fucking boyfriend,” and later confirmed it again on Twitter. Although many speculated that Jaden was joking, the artist has also taken to Twitter to slam those who have criticized his gender-bending outfits. The 20-year-old released an album toward the end of last year.
Mikaela Straus, best known as King Princess, really came for Hayley Kiyoko’s throne last year. In 2018, the gender-queer singer-songwriter released her debut EP Talia, along with a bunch of super-queer music videos, and a social media endorsement from Harry Styles himself. In November, she released another Sapphic music video called “Pussy is God,” and has also been publicly dating Amandla Stenberg. Lesbian Jesus better watch her back—there’s a new gay pop star in town (just kidding—in this house, we stan all lesbian pop stars and don’t pit them against each other).
Transgender DJ and producer Sophie has produced for the likes of Madonna and Charli XCX, so she’s basically pop music royalty. This year, she also earned a nomination for her own album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides.
Hurray for the Riff Raff
Led by queer Puerto Rican frontwoman Alynda Lee Segarra, Hurray for the Riff Raff will perform at Coachella this year. The band’s fiddler, Yosi Perlstein, is trans, too, making for a super queer band that sounds like folk rock with tinges of Lana Del Rey.
Christine and the Queens
Another pansexual “queen,” Héloïse Letissier of Christine and the Queens will take the stage on Saturday, April 13th and 20th. On being queer and androgynous, the artist once told Dazed, “I wasn’t able to relate to the magazines and advertising I was seeing and their depictions of women. I was polluted by all of that and Christine and the Queens was a way to escape, a survival technique.”
Also known as Josiah Wise, serpentwithfeet is an out queer musician, with a neo-soul vibe, who has worked with Björk and toured with Grizzly Bear. On growing up queer, he told NPR, “I didn’t know how to talk about how I was feeling. It just needed to be a full conversation, because my day is a queer day. I eat breakfast queer. I walk queer. I think that takes time for a young person.”
Javiera Mena is a queer lesbian Chilean pop star who has made trippy Sapphic music videos in the past. She’s making a splash stateside on the Saturday dates of Coachella.
Bad Bunny may not be explicitly queer, but the Latin trap star has ruffled feathers by challenging the toxic masculinity that’s customary to hip hop and reggaetón. The Puerto Rican artist can often be seen donning feminine getups, painted fingernails, hot pink microphones, and giant hoop earrings. You may know him best from his 2018 collaboration with Cardi B and J Balvin, “I Like It.”
Blood Orange is the brainchild of British pop/R&B artist Dev Hynes, an inclusive artist who dedicated his first album to trans performer Octavia St. Laurent. He’s played with 1980s ball culture and has publicly announced how inspired he is by gay art. He doesn’t necessarily identify as queer or straight, but has admitted to being sexually attracted to men and transgender women in the past—so maybe he’s a little pan!
DJ & Producer Kaytranada came out as gay in 2016. The Haitian-Canadian artist told The Fader, “I felt like there were two people inside me. I was trying to be somebody I was not, and I was frustrated that people didn’t know who I was.” He will return to Coachella on the Sunday night dates, having performed in 2017, too.
An LGBTQ fan favorite, the flamboyant rapper Lizzo will finally perform at Coachella, and will hopefully play the flute and hit the shoot live. Last year, the musician told Teen Vogue, “When it comes to sexuality or gender, I personally don’t ascribe to just one thing. I cannot sit here right now and tell you I’m just one thing. That’s why the colors for LGBTQ+ are a rainbow! Because there’s a spectrum, and right now we try to keep it black and white. That’s just not working for me.”
New Jersey rapper 070 Shake is getting her big Coachella break this year. The 20-year old MC told Billboard in 2018, “I do not see myself as being gay or being straight. I just like to see myself as who I am.”
Esteemed A Star is Born actress, Stefani Germanotta — some know her as Lady Gaga — had a pretty epic ending to 2018. On December 28th, Gaga debuted the first show of her new Las Vegas residency “Enigma,” which focuses on pop music. When the first footage of “Enigma” was uploaded online, fans were immediately curious about the sci-fi and anime themes that Gaga had in her set and costumes. In her Instagram teaser for the show, Gaga also showed some of the clips that ended up being used in her actual show, most interestingly the virtual version of Gaga.
While we’ve seen her embrace some pretty out-there aesthetics, none of them have screamed anime or video games in the same way this virtual character does. We know that Lady Gaga has recently been playing some games, specifically Bayonetta, which does feel appropriate given that the titular character is a witch who fights with her magical hair.
When you beat Chapter IV of Bayonetta and then realize Chapter V is going to kick your ass ☠️😂 secret #gamergirl THE SHADOW REMAINS TOUGH!!!!!!
Still playing #Bayonetta middle of chapter XIII and my hands hurt and I have to sleep and it’s 4 In the damn morning but this damn dragon with the face that I have to kill with my weave. Smh. Give it another go in the morning #gamer respect to the experts I need emotional support
The inspiration for this virtual look didn’t come out of thin air, not for pop culture and not for Lady Gaga. The most famous virtual pop star is Hatsune Miku from Japan. Miku, a foundational figure in tech culture, is basically always the first name to come up when artists work with digital avatars.
Hatsune Miku performs all over the world and has many dedicated fans. The main difference is, unlike Gaga, she has no physical form. Miku’s voice comes from a real singer who spent time in a studio recording different phrases and syllables.
Those sounds were then entered into a program called Vocaloid that is now used to produce music without a traditional singer. Through the program you can type lyrics and musical notes and the Vocaloid sings them. There are other Vocaloid avatars with different voices, but Miku is by far the most famous. We also know that Lady Gaga is very aware of Miku because the Vocaloid actually opened for her during some ARTPOP era concerts. It makes sense then that Gaga would bring back similar imagery to a show that focuses on her pop discography.
Another reference in those teaser clips seems to be the magical girl genre of anime, like Sailor Moon, and specifically the transformation sequence. In the beginning of the show, after she performs a few of her early songs, we see a clip of Gaga’s virtual self being created. The scene takes place in open space and resembles a lot of what you’ll find in Sailor Moon transformations.
The result of her transformation, though, doesn’t look as cute as the magical girl anime characters who usually appear in bright colors and nice shoes. Lady Gaga’s transformation is more mechanical and resembles some looks from Ghost in the Shell — the animated original, not the racist Scarlett Johansson garbage. Many posters for the movie showed the lead character’s android body which feels like what Gaga is going for.
Outside of the virtual pop star stuff, there is one additional reference to video games, and it’s a huge one.
During her performance of “Scheiße,” Gaga appeared in a massive mech suit. A mech is a machine used in Japanese anime and video games that is basically a large robot with a human on the inside — think Power Rangers or D.Va from Overwatch. This particular mech though, as many pointed out, is clearly inspired by Gaga’s time playing Bayonetta 2, in which a similar looking machine is used to fight.
Many fans, myself included, are just happy to see Gaga embracing her pop music roots, let alone producing a new era of weirdness for her Vegas show. And the fact that she’s including some nerd shit makes it even better. It’s hard to know if video games or virtual avatars will continue to be a part of Gaga’s art after her residency is over, but Jesus, how amazing would it be if it was a major part of her next album? Give us a Samus cosplay, Gaga, please.
As a kid in 1998, living in a household where everything on TV over a PG-13 rating was locked behind parental control, there wasn’t much that captured my imagination beyond Xena: Warrior Princess and I Love Lucy reruns. Sure, as a latchkey-lite kid there was time to figure out the passwords every once in a while, but all that deciphering taught me two valuable lessons: that it was a waste of time, and that I had no business watching Oz at the tender age of 13 anyway.
Music was fair game though, and so my teen years were spent watching MTV (it used to be a channel for music back then) and VH1. Pop music helped shape me, and got me through some painful and awkward years as a young queer kid in a Catholic household coming to terms with my lifelong conflicted feelings for Kirstie Alley in It Takes Two. Music videos made me realize it wasn’t just Kirstie Alley I had these feelings for, but all women.
Making a playlist recently, I noticed most of my favorite throwbacks are from that time, and it made me realize 1998 had some serious bops. Here are 20 of them that shaped my lesbian awakening.
“The Boy Is Mine” – Brandy & Monica
It might be hard to understand how a song about two girls fighting over one guy could inspire any kind of Sapphic feeling, but the music video explains some things. Brandy and Monica spend most of the time sulking in their respective apartments over a guy that’s clearly playing them both, but the match that sparked my fire was the moment in the end where Mekhi Phifer knocks on Brandy’s door thinking he’s slick, only to find Monica is also there before they slam the door in his face. Art is up for anyone’s interpretation and I interpreted this as two former rivals who have fallen in love and now live together and would soon be adopting two cats.
“This Kiss” – Faith Hill
Long before Taylor Swift glided across the line between country and pop with the finesse of a ballerina and the business savvy of a stockbroker, there was Faith Hill, whose country-lite pop hit “This Kiss” cemented her crossover status. It’s a song about a snog that you can sing along to without thinking about pronouns. It also features lyrics that my little gay ears immediately zoned in on where Cinderella tells Snow White she’s wanted a white knight with a soft touch and a fast horse before adding, “Ride me off into the sunset, baby I’m forever yours.”
I ship it.
“You Look So Fine” – Garbage
The first time I listened to Version 2.0, the album from which this single hails, I felt like someone was slowly pulling my heart out of my chest, and the first time I saw Shirley Manson in the video for “You Look So Fine” I wanted her to be the one to do it. Everything about her made my heart race; her red hair, her unapologetic feminism, the gritty melancholy in her voice. Sure, Garbage has always been an LGBT ally, but we all want Shirley Manson to sing us back to consciousness on a sandy beach and that’s the true takeaway.
“Ex-Factor” – Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is arguably one of the best albums recorded in the past 30 years. Hill’s meticulous blend of heart-wrenching lyrics and haunting melodies made her solo debut album an essential part of anyone’s music collection. It was not only an awards magnet, but a masterclass in what makes a great album. I was nowhere near experienced enough to understand the complexities of of “Ex-Factor” in 1998, but it did preemptively give me a go-to breakup song that I’ve revisited more than once since then, and no one gets it like Ms. Lauryn Hill.
“…Baby One More Time” – Britney Spears
I envy those who didn’t live through the stress of Britney vs. Christina. The pressure of picking between two pop queens was a demand I was not equipped to undertake then, nor am I now, but Britney came first so, let us all appreciate the schoolgirl outfit that both divided a nation of creepy adults who considered a 17 year-old girl’s midriff a perverse abomination, and united a generation of kids, queer and straight, who agreed that Britney Spears was a gift to pop music.
“Heartbreak Hotel” – Whitney Houston
It’s Whitney Houston, featuring Faith Evans and Kelly Price. I don’t think this needs much of an explanation. There are three beautiful women, Whitney’s got a white fur coat on, they sound amazing, there are no men in it. It’s the perfect video for a pretty good song.
“Reflection” – Christina Aguilera
Christina Aguilera’s debut single was from Disney’s Mulan, and it is a song written from the point of view of a girl who has to hide her real self from the world, pretending she’s something she isn’t for the sake of those around her. If you don’t see how “Reflection” is a coming out power ballad, then you’re probably straight.
“Are You That Somebody?” – Aaliyah
Aaliyah was a talented, charismatic, beautiful artist who overcame an ordeal no girl should have to overcome, and publicly no less. Despite the gossip that surrounded the release of her first album regarding her relationship with R. Kelly, she achieved admirable success during her short career in both film and music, and out of the perseverance came “Are You That Somebody?” Apart from being an absolute bop, I dare you to watch this video and not be existentially changed by Aaliyah in that crop top and baggy pants.
“Jumper” – Third Eye Blind
Coming out is a process, and that process begins with first coming out to yourself. For many it can be a struggle. Whether the challenge is spiritual, familial, or something else, coming to terms with one’s identity can be bleak, and “Jumper,” which is a song Stephan Jenkins wrote about a gay high school friend who committed suicide, takes all the toxic, self-harming thoughts and turns them into an anthem about survival and leaning on each other. That kind of message really resonates when you’re at catechism class and a nun is telling you being gay is a sin.
“Suavemente” – Elvis Crespo
“Suavemente” has been playing at every Latinx function since its release in 1998. From baptisms to weddings, this song is still the best way to fill up a dancefloor. And since the only acceptable public girl-on-girl contact in Latinx family parties is dancing, it’s also the best way to dance with the really cute daughter of the family friend who only comes around for special occasions.
“I Don’t Want To Wait” – Paula Cole
Technically, this song was first released in 1996, but it blew up in 1998 when it was used as the theme song for Dawson’s Creek, and it will forever be a song I associate with my love for Joey Potter, the character played by Katie Holmes in the teen drama, and my theory that she was in fact a lesbian who deserved to live her best life with Jen Lindley, played by Michelle Williams.
“Too Much & Stop” – Spice Girls
The cinematic masterpiece that was Spice World premiered in 1998, and from it came the boppiest soundtrack we could have hoped for. Spice Girls gave young girls a sisterhood philosophy and four Sex And The City type characters to identify with. I was a Ginger who secretly wanted to kiss Mel B.
“I Get Lonely” – Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson had me at “Rhythm Nation” when I was four, but “I Get Lonely” made me nervous and squirmy in a way I didn’t yet understand. I’m pretty sure this the root of my thing for women in ties.
“Kind and Generous” – Natalie Merchant
Natalie Merchant has a voice like a beautiful witchy lesbian that lives in a cabin by a river, where she grows her own food, has a pet goat, and occasionally takes in queer runaways from nearby villages. I’m convinced that if Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks had a baby, you’d get Natalie Merchant, human embodiment of Lilith Fair and mother to Florence Welch, probably.
“Ray of Light” – Madonna
There’s no particularly Sapphic reason to include this song except that Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell’s relationship is my favorite celebrity friendship of the 90’s and when Madonna was on Rosie’s talk show to promote Ray of Light, it was the League of Their Own reunion we deserved.
“Torn” – Natalie Imbruglia
Where were you when you found out “Torn” is a cover? I don’t personally recall but I do remember learning Natalie Imbruglia was dating David Schwimmer and recognizing immediately that she was far too good for him or any man.
“Malibu” – Hole
Everyone was in it for Courtney Love, but my heart belonged to Melissa Auf der Maur, the band’s ethereal bassist. Not long after the release of this single, Auf der Maur left Hole to pursue a solo career, but she will always be the reason I changed the channel every time my mom walked in the room and the video for “Malibu” was on, just in case my gay was showing.
“Uninvited” – Alanis Morissette
Something truly terrible must happening in the world for gay icon Alanis Morissette to have become culturally irrelevant. She didn’t have to go this hard for a movie soundtrack, and yet here she is, and wigs are flying off all over the place.
“Believe” – Cher
Cher said “Gay rights!” when she gifted us the epic Believe album, which still holds up today. The iconic diva has been blowing people’s expectations out of the water throughout her career, but no one saw the explosion of “Believe” coming. The single was everywhere, including Spanish radio stations, and it introduced a new generation to Cher’s iconic body of work through TV specials like Behind The Music on VH1, a made-for-TV biopic titled The Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story, and even reruns of Cher’s variety show from the 70’s, simply titled Cher. I know the gays like to claim Cher, but citing Silkwood as reference, I believe the lesbians have a strong case for custody.