Lady Gaga says we were "born this way" (Well, she wasn't, but whatever.) Katy Perry sings about kissing a girl! (Even though she admittedly never has.) As much as I appreciate the Gag in particular for throwing her gay audience a bone with a Madonna-pilfering banger, discerning gays can do a little better when it comes to our new musical heroes, can't we?
Plenty of gays and hipsters love Robyn, but most of the rest of the world still only knows her from her fun '96 hits like "Show Me Love" (remember her awesome flippy hairdo?). Robin Miriam Carlsson has done a lot of growing up, musically and otherwise, since those mid-'90s hits she performed at age 16. Her latest album, Body Talk, was like a greatest hits package of eurodisco from the last 30 years. Her best songs focus on specific, awkward emotional territory, like seeing your ex with someone else ("Dancing on My Own") or getting your new flame to dump what's-his-or-her-name ("Call Your Girlfriend"). Her songs feel relatable, whether you're male, female, transgendered, gay, straight or bi, for their emotional nakedness but ultimately triumphant nature. Plus those throbbing synths could melt the icy heart of the most hardened music critic.
Owen Pallett has been releasing records as Final Fantasy since 2005, full of avant-garde songs that incorporate Pallett's training as a classical musician and lyrics that reflect his sexual orientation -- and also songs about the schools of magic in Dungeons & Dragons (hey, D&D and Final Fantasy the video game are pretty, pretty gay). His latest album shed the chocobo-lovin' moniker and silly album conceits in favor of more straightforward (but still outré) orchestrated pop released under his own name. The result, Heartland, is his best, most moving work yet.
Patrick Wolf writhes onstage in sometimes little more than a loin cloth, singing lyrics like "I am fucking and I am fucking too" ("Tristan"). And he likes to toss of ambiguous statements about his sexual orientation, telling the Sydney Star Observer, "My sexuality is kind of liberal. I fall in love with men and women. I guess you would call me bisexual." But this is all sideshow to Wolf's brilliant music. Wolf, a multi-instrumentalist with a knack for infusing his songs with unpredictable twists and electronic noise, can write a heartbreaking ballad as easily as he can write a perfect pop song, such as "The Magic Position." And whereas before he sang about never getting married, in January he announced via Twitter that he would marry his boyfriend. Plus, he and Pallett are totes friends and collaborators.
A lot has been said about everyone's favorite plus-sized lesbian frontwoman of rock band The Gossip, but mere words -- and reductive descriptions such as the one I just wrote -- don't do her justice. While her outsized personality and spandex outfits command a lot of attention, it's her voice and delivery we really care about. Seeing her perform is believing.
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Gender-neutral queer hip-hop stars don't just fall out of the sky, but Big Freedia is finally getting her big break with recent hyped appearances at SXSW and on Last Call With Carson Daily. Her Hitz Vol. 1 (1999-2010) shows the claim is warranted that Freedia is the "Queen Diva" of Bounce Music, high-energy hip-hop born on the streets of New Orleans. Whether Freedia would ever cross over into the mainstream seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened -- after all, everyone and their mothers can sing at least a few bars of RuPaul's "Supermodel."
See also: the girl-group-as-gay-garage-rock of Hunx and His Punx; Ed Droste of magnificent indie crooners Grizzly Bear; the lesbian electro-crunk of Yo! Majesty; Deerhunter's Bradford Cox, who cut his teeth cross-dressing and screeching into the mic onstage, until the band evolved into its current incarnation as an atmospheric pop band; the (sometimes brutally) tumultuous, neo-classical electro goth of Xiu Xiu; and Antony Hegarty, whose gorgeous ballads sound like Nina Simone singing the blues of gay history, while his voice graces some of the best disco anthems of the new millennium.