Happy pride! As I mentioned a few days ago, I’ve created a playlist of songs that feature largely queer artists singing songs with queer content. Thanks for all of the help and suggestions!
You can download the file here. It’s one long playlist, but you can see the tracklisting on the “lyrics” tab in iTunes, or you can read the full listing after the jump. I’ve also written a rough essay prompted by the creation of this playlist.
I wish I could go back to a time when we all loved each other. We flung bicycles into the grass and lay, braiding grass blades into bracelets, complaining about work. The sun is that yellow circle lost up there. If we were lucky, someone would come with a bottle of red wine and raspberries. We could kick a ball as if we knew what sports were. Later, there would be dancing. Maybe mistakes, a broken strappy heel and tears in an alley. All those hasty texts flitting around. And then, you and I, figuring out if it was one-sheet or no-sheet hot. Our skin lubed with sweat. But nothing can stop us from tangling us together, forever.
“The discaire* was mixing old songs with the new, unlike the mediocre ones in town (who must play new music, music the crowd loves; or worse, music the crowd has never heard), and the old songs brought back the magic of whole summers to the people there. He danced with John Schaeffer in a corner, allowing him finally to be overcome by the music, and showing without a word a step he could be comfortable with. They danced together as if they were falling in love, but John Schaeffer’s love only produced in Malone a gloomy helpless guilt. They faced each other at opposite ends of an illusion. And then those first unmistakable beats of the bass guitar, those first few notes of that song that had made everyone at the Twelfth Floor holler in a communal shout of ecstasy began, those first, repetitive, low notes that had caused Sutherland to say with great hilarity one night: ‘Each E-flat is like the thrust of a penis,’ that curious song that had the power - even though it was just a song played at discotheques one year, was never the most popular there, or surfaced in public - to change the whole tenor of the place. Malone drew John Schaeffer nearer to him, closed his eyes, and began shaping the words that Patti Jo sang: ‘Make me believe in you, show me that love can be true,’ his eyes wild when he finally opened them.”
You could complain, and it has been complained, that Kylie is a second-rate Madonna. And a second-rate Madonna in the worst way: apolitical, non-confrontational and superficial. While Madonna’s mid-career sexuality stemmed from an “Are you afraid of fucking me?” antagonism, Kylie is much too comfortable in her role as sex kitten. Her little gold booty always spins around, knocking boys off their feet with a kick of her impossible legs. Many of her dance moves stretch her arms above her head - as if she waking up, birds singing, to the sensual delight of her own sun-kissed perfection.
But this is her genius. Kylie’s blissed-out resting face betrays her perpetual search for some internal euphoria. Listen to “In Your Eyes”: her voice hovers above a sigh, only really solidifying for a ghostly “oooOOooo.” Her closest thematic predecessor, vocal-wise, is probably Donna Summer. Both singers are the living embodiment of ecstasy on the dancefloor. But while Summer’s voice is often threatening to drift away from the beat – the mind and body moving in opposite directions - Kylie’s is unified and tied up with it. Her songs’ beats are the thump of her girlish and ever-hopeful heart.
Listen to “In Your Eyes” again – a song I chose specifically because it is not Kylie’s best. Listen to that beat, so like lipstick, tacky and sweet. Listen to the confection of French robot synths. In others’ hands, they’d be cold. Here, they keep resolving and then dissolving into a joyful goo you can’t wash off. The candy metaphor is intentional: she might be over forty, but Kylie is forever the girl losing herself on the dancefloor for the first time. In song after song, she asks herself adorably teenage questions like “How do you describe a feeling?” She’s not taking for granted her happiness; she wants to precisely describe it. And they are perfectly valid questions. After all, how do you describe a feeling?
Her search is not just internal – it’s always prompted by something she’s found outside of herself: “It’s in your eyes/I can tell what you’re thinking/My heart is sinking, too.” That emotion she feels is love’s first blossoming. Her blissed-out search, which seems passive and closed off, is actually an ecstatic way to achieve a deeper connection. And it’s not just a deeper connection with her dancefloor love, but with the songs themselves. “The music you were playing really blew my mind,” she sings in another song, “It was love at first sight.” It would be a mixed metaphor if the music wasn’t the same as her love.
No wonder Kylie draws such affection. Kylie is a supernova of love. To listen to Kylie is to want to be her: the girlish ingénue first discovering the emotional riot prompted by both music and lover. Her music won’t let you lean against the wall, sad and lonely. It perpetually bubbles and froths, encouraging you to - simply, dumbly, magically – be happy. “Dance,” she whispers in “All the Lovers,” the music silent except for a piano and some strings. “I’m standing here with you/Why won’t you move?/Even if it throws you to the fire…” There are some people who are left cold by this sentiment. But they are probably the same people who don’t trust the aesthetic power of happiness.
This is probably the gayest thing you will see today. The cover is a little messy: Marc mostly moans sexily while Somerville does all of the soprano heavy lifting, and I don’t know what’s going on with the backing keyboards and percussion. (Wikipedia tells me that Marc didn’t even bother reading the original’s lyrics and just made some of them up.) But, come on! A+ for this simply existing.