The millions of Americans who have attended music festivals in the past year have witnessed a growing trend - the queer female revolution has reached mainstream pop. Alongside Billie Eilish's musical coming out of the closet, rising stars such as Chappell Roan, Renee Rapp, and Girl in Red present their sexuality in songs and on stage - without shame or fear - in an endless celebration of love.

The 150,000 young people who arrived at the beginning of this month at the Governors Ball music festival, which takes place every summer in New York, witnessed one of the most monumental moments for female queer pop. Chapel Rowan, one of the rising voices in recent months, swept away the huge audience that came to her performance and surprised them hugely. Rowan (whose real name is Kylie Rose Amstutz) emerged on stage inside a huge apple structure dressed from head to toe (including metallic green body paint) as the Statue of Liberty - and holding a giant joint. It was not only a very New Yorker moment, but also a defining moment for the singer who celebrated her sexual freedom with crowds of fans. With her butt peeking through her outfit and her songs dealing most nonchalantly with love - unrequited or not - between women, it's obvious. Gen Z's progressive revolution is complete - the fringes and the center are mixing.

With an unforgettable hit called "Good Luck, Babe" and an aesthetic directly influenced by the world of drag - Rowan is just the latest in a long line of female singers, joining others such as Renee Rapp, Girl in Red and of course - Billie Eilish - taking part in this dominant moment for lesbian and bisexual pop that reflects in the charts and exploding on the net.

It seems that up to this point the general public has not always responded with joy to female sexuality when it is performed by women. When Harry Styles sang "Watermelon Sugar" in 2021, a wonderful and light pop hit about the female orgasm (and to be specific, then about oral sex) the music press, the listeners and the listeners freaked out. But "WAP" on the other hand, in which Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B talked about Wet Ass Pussy (a very wet pussy, loosely translated), was the most hated song for Galgalatz listeners in 2020. Even if you separate the genre thing, and focus on the preference for the pastoral and soft pop of Styles over the aggressive rap of Cardi B and Stallion, discover that the lack of social acceptance of female pleasure in music and culture is really nothing new. But now something seems to be changing - and not only are there more songs about women's love, they are also performed by women.

You can't say that queerness is a new trend, but it seems to be the biggest momentum for mainstream queer artists since the golden age of the eighties. In the last three decades, female queerness has been present in music mainly in the indie realms, with the list of female artists long and including names like Peaches, Tei Shi, King Princess, St. Vincent, and more, but these appeal to smaller audiences.

The trend is expanding into the mainstream thanks to a growing number of female star musicians who openly talk about loving women and are not afraid to incorporate complex situations into the lives of young queer women, while celebrating the beauty of the connection between two women. Unlike indie - which appeals to a relatively small audience - these women fill huge stadiums, appear on the biggest stages at festivals, are signed to the biggest record companies in the world and huge sums are invested in them.

Even though pride parades are held every year, the visibility of the LGBT community in pop music - the driving and commercial force in music - is unprecedented. Generation Z is challenging the conservative boundaries dictated by record companies for many years, and sexual orientations, like personal lives as documented on social media, are reflected in the music of those creators.

Billie Eilish: Leading the Queer Pop Revolution

She may be one of the last on the list to get on the boat, but by virtue of her position it seems that the one who leads the trend is Billie Eilish. The singer did talk in past interviews about being "very straight", until recently she realized, as she told Rolling Stone, that she "wants my face in a vagina". In the song "Lunch" from her new album "HIT ME HARD AND SOFT" she talks about how delicious the girl she is in love with is. "I could eat this girl for lunch / The way she dances on my tongue / By the taste she might be the one," she sings.

It sounds like Eilish is beaming with happiness during her performance, and the contagious look only emphasizes the joy you feel when you no longer need to hide in the closet. Compared to the complex struggle experienced by artists in the 80s, who had to hide their queerness and could not talk about it openly because of draconian and abusive demands from the record companies, Eilish's queerness does not pose a real threat to her career, on the contrary, this honesty exposes her to a new audience that perhaps until now was interested in her. Thanks to her powerful position, Eilish shows others the way: you can be attracted to both boys and girls, and that's okay. Bisexuality is a real thing that exists, and it is possible and desirable to sing really successful songs about it.

Chappell Roan: The New Pop Icon

Next to Eilish, who declared in her song about her passion for women, a significant figure in the queer renaissance in mainstream pop is, as mentioned, 26-year-old Chappell Roan, whose career has taken off in recent months. "Everybody's talking about you, you're exploding in the world, how does it feel?" asked her host of the Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon. "It feels like I've been right this whole time," Rowan smiled triumphantly.

What exactly makes the redhead with the arched eyebrows the star of the moment? Drag star Trixie Mattel described Rowan as the "missing link" between drag queens and pop stars. I mean, while drag queens often don't excel at singing skills, Rowan gives the devout viewers of "RuPaul's Drag Race" the pop stardom they've been missing. The influences on her style also come from the worlds of burlesque and horror movies, and she manages to stun and surprise every time. Rowan does not use drag culture and throw it away, her performances are warmed by drag queens (unlike other musical acts) and she is known for her gratitude to the performance community.

Like Lady Gaga before her, Rowan has created an iconic image for herself based on a campy concept - the more exaggerated, unexpected, extreme and strange - the more people will talk about you. In her performances, she uses a lot of make-up, huge wigs and everything that is not socially acceptable to wear outside the stage. Her look screams "icon" before she even sings a single note. She's the rejected-cool kid from a theater major who's finally getting the attention she's been getting all this time.

Her smash hit "Good Luck, Babe!" is a farewell song to her lover who disappointed her - but without blaming her. Rowan refers to her ex's choice to leave her to be in a relationship with a man, and along the way she normalizes the fact that there are women who are attracted to both men and women, without punishing her for it. The song is based on a calm and confident Eighties melody, with Rowan channeling Florence and the Machine in her singing and, according to the listeners, Kate Bush and Madonna as well. The latter influence is particularly evident in the way Rowan mixes Christian aesthetics with Catholic contexts and content that deals with sex.

"Good Luck, Babe!" is her first song to enter the charts of Billboard and it has received over 200 million listens on the streaming networks since it was released last April. After that, she already managed to put two more hits from her debut album with the pretentious name "The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess" into the charts.

Renee Rapp: The Queen of Pop

If Rowan is the girl who sits in the last row of the class with a notebook of poems, Renee Rapp is the extrovert queen of the class, who also happens to be a lesbian. The 24-year-old from Carolina became famous at the age of 19 as the star of the musical "Mean Girls" on Broadway, the masterpiece written by Tina Fey, and then also starred in the film version. Rap stepped into the shoes of Rachel McAdams as the undisputed queen and played the main evil plastic, Regina George. According to Rapp, by the way, it is possible that Regina George herself is in the closet - as someone who acts like a bully and takes care of others based on their sexual orientation.

"It's not my fault she'll leave the party with me," she rapped in the song that accompanied the movie "Not My Fault" with Megan Thee Stallion. Those who listen to her songs understand between the lines that she may not be exactly straight either - although she never declared it. Rap is not ashamed of being attracted to girls - but flaunts it, and the main thing in the song is its lightness. There is no attempt here to produce a Born This Way-style pride anthem. The song is organically and authentically uplifting, as pop should be. But apart from ballads, rap also knows how to feel. In the song "Pretty Girls" from her debut album "Snow Angel," a song that received more than 4.2 million listens on YouTube, Rap sings without shame: "You say I'm your favorite, when your hand is between my thighs [..] you get closer to me, And you say your boyfriend doesn't care, you think it will flatter me, it's pathetic because you're right." She later admits that "your boyfriend is cute, and damn well, he can come too."

There is a dimension of failure in this song: Rap seems to admit that the girl she desires does not want her enough, so she is ready to "give up" and join her partner. This is not an attempt to turn to a pornographic image designed to make the audience horny in front of the imaginary threesome, but rather a kind of statement of - I don't care if he comes and feel more comfortable, because you are the one I really want. It's the kind of embarrassment familiar to anyone who's been attracted to the wrong girl, and it seems that now it's getting the proper representation in pop as well.

In an interview with the queer magazine them, Rapp said that it took her a while to define herself as a lesbian. In the past she identified as bisexual, but even though she no longer felt that the definition represented it properly, she did not want to distance herself from it in order not to "make bisexuals feel bad", according to her. "I still have very homophobic thoughts towards myself, I felt I was 'not gay enough'," she admitted. "The word 'lesbian' was not a good word for me when I was told it as a child. But today it is something that I have a strong emotional connection to." At the height of her success, Rap celebrated her lesbian sexuality on one of the biggest stages in the world at the Coachella festival that took place last spring in Indio, California - when on the stage behind her was a huge sculpture of sharp scissors, which looked a bit like knives. Scissors are a familiar symbol in the lesbian community for sex between women. This is an unusual choice: this stage setting can characterize extreme artists like Peaches, but it is less obvious to see it on the stage of a rising pop and film star performing in front of a huge audience. She even hosted the musician Toa Bird - her partner - on stage and kissed her in front of hundreds of thousands. To be as lesbian as possible, she also brought the holy trinity of lesbianism - Shane, Tina, and Alice from the lesbian series The L Word." It doesn't take much more than that to make happy queer hearts of generations that grew up on the series.

Girl in Red: An Icon from the Start

Even when she was 17 years old, Girl in Red (Marie Ulven) already established herself as an icon in the queer canon. As a teenager she started recording music in her bedroom in Norway in the best of the low-fi tradition. She uploaded to the music platform Soundcloud her first song, "I Want to Be Your Girlfriend," back in 2016. When she started her career, she didn't sound like anything before - her delivery was distant, indifferent and almost monotonous, while at the same time bursting with emotion. Today, 25-year-old Ulven continues to excel in writing catchy and pop choruses, which are accompanied by bright melodic production, songs that are modest in their production but can make huge clubs dance. In her personal texts she brings herself - and her love for women - to the front. Thus, the way in which Ulven combines textual sensitivity and acute talent for larger-than-life choruses, led her to the ears of Finneas, the super producer who is Billie Eilish's older brother, who polished her sound in the single "Serotonin."

Since she is a clear lesbian from the beginning of her career, Girl in Red has become a kind of meme, a sort of ancient code: "Do you listen to Girl in Red?" A question that seems to say - "Are you from the community?", an attempt to check if the girl on the other end understands the matter. Videos accompanied by the hashtag of the meme code have been filling the web and Tiktok since 2021.

This type of coding has historical roots in the LGBTQ community. "Dorothy's friends" was a well-known phrase in the community, originating from the character played by the beloved queer icon Judy Garland. The code was necessary during many decades when gays suffered from police and constitutional discrimination. That is, this tradition rooted in the days when it was dangerous to identify as gay, and this identification could cost a person career or consequences for his personal life. Today, the question is used for cute flirting on the Internet, in private messages, and as a convenient option for a non-awkward or threatening way to start a conversation. The singer's second album, "I'm Doing It Again, Baby!", was released about three months ago on Columbia Records, and among other songs, she deals with the insecurity caused by the fact that her partner identifies as bisexual. In the song "Pick Me", Ulven describes her difficulty in dealing with the fact that her partner is also attracted to men, she sings. "Let the loser win / there are so many things I want to say / but don't know how to communicate. I'm always waiting for you to say / that it was my insecurity that drove you away."

In an interview with Gay Times, Ulven explained the lyrics, and the connection to shame not out of sexual tendencies - but out of struggles and emotions that float in relationships: "I had feelings of jealousy and insecurity and I knew it had nothing to do with her [her partner]. I think there is a lot of shame that comes with jealousy. I used to think, 'Oh, I'll never be man enough for her', or 'I'm never going to be everything to her.' But now I think, 'Who cares? I'm a motherfucking cool girl'." In the last two years, Girl in Red has been breaking out of the boundaries of the community members into the broad mainstream realms, when she had the privilege of hosting, along with other names, a segment in the biggest concert tour of our time - Taylor Swift's The Eras Tour. While Eilish's coming out of the closet was accepted with open arms, the audience does not always respond with the same enthusiasm. The child star JoJo Siwa, who became famous at the age of 10 in the reality series "Dance Moms," encountered difficulties with her rebranding as an avowed queer artist. She told Billboard that she was doing "something new, and it's called gay-pop", she raised the ire of many queer artists who for years have been working within the realms of this musical genre, which she suddenly claims to have invented. Siwa has since recanted, citing Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Michael Jackson as examples of artists who have come. But the case of Siwa emphasizes that it is not enough for the audience that the artists bring the burning issues to the fore, but that the quality of the songs, the musical influences and the way they argue for the audience - are just as important.

Stay tuned for more insights into the vibrant world of LGBTQ+ pop music at Woke Waves Magazine.

#LGBTQPop #BillieEilish #Chappell Roan #ReneeRapp #GirlInRed #PopMusic #MusicRevolution #GenZIcons #QueerArtists #MusicTrends

Posted 
Jul 3, 2024
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