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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender topics • protest songs • gay anthems
|Cultural origins||1980s in United Kingdom and United States|
|Typical instruments||Entire spectrum of music instruments|
|Disco – Homo hop – Queercore – Diva house|
LGBT music (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender music) is music that focuses on LGBT issues. A common misconception is that LGBT music can only be produced and performed by LGBT individuals; any individual, regardless of sexual or gender identity, can create LGBT music. LGBT songs address concerns of the LGBT community. There are LGBT songs in every style and genre of music. The lyrics of LGBT songs typically express the frustration, anxiety, and hope associated with non-normative sexual and gender identities. LGBT music is a powerful tool for LGBT communities and their allies. The artists that create LGBT music have the chance to become some of "the most vocal activists calling for tolerance and equal rights." Recently, popular music has "provided an arena where marginalized voices can be heard and sexual identities shaped, challenged, and renegotiated." The increased representation in popular music symbolizes society's movement towards acceptance of LGBT communities. LGBT music both raises awareness and encourages people to reevaluate their own identities. LGBT music gives hope of freedom to many individuals who feel trapped by the normative gender system.
Additionally, LGBT music plays a role in motivating and organizing movements that fight for LGBT rights. Protests can be driven by "singing and songwriting... [which] help build collective identity, keep spirits up, and encourage creative exchange." LGBT music can become an anthem, or symbol, for LGBT individuals who feel oppressed. It can represent everything that a LGBT community hopes for, or bring awareness to what it is trying to escape from. Just as there is "no one gender, racial, sexual, class politics that fits all," there is no single type of LGBT music. LGBT music allows disheartened individuals to transcend their everyday realities, which is essential to alleviating the oppression of LGBT communities.
Music and LGBT issues work well together because they are so closely associated with subjects such as desire, emotion, and sexuality. Music, which is by nature flexible, allows people to explore and "try on" different gender and sexual identities in a safe environment. Sexuality and music are both "intimately embedded in an individual sense of self." Additionally, music allows for "queer expressions of gender and sexuality because of its theatrical and fanciful elements... [it] indulges all manner of gestures, get-ups, accessories, poses and public announcements" that are typically associated with LGBT communities.
The origin of the genre arose during the 1980s, when Dance, Hi NRG, House and Freestyle music became more prevalent in the United States. LGBT artists began performing popular music in their own ways, which was given the name "LGBT music". DJ Larry Levan started his DJ career at the gay disco Paradise Garage.
In the 1890s New Orleans began testing different prostitution policies which led to brothels and gay musicians like Tony Jackson or Bessie Smith. Jazz was born from many homosexual artists, as it flourished women like Lucille Bogan and Ma Rainey began singing about their sexual adventures with other women. Soon after jazz took off, Broadway shows and musical audiences began to take shape as well.
Historically there has been homophobic tendencies and anti-gay beliefs, while those have improved over the years, musicians and composers have not always been widely accepted. Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), a musical icon, had many homosexual relations, often with other musicians and composers. While this was the 1950s, Leonard presented a heterosexual life with a wife and children to the public while he was having his own sexual relations with other men. The industry did not support homosexuals even though they were arguably the founding fathers of music and Broadway as we know it today. People like Leonard Bernstein, Stephan Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Dimitri Mitropoulos and many others were subject to hiding their homosexual feelings from the public. Broadway has always been home to many LGBT people as well as produced pieces like Kinky Boots, Hair and The Color Purple.
In the 1970s David Bowie became popular and soon later came out, changing the way the world saw LGBT artists. In his 1972 performance of “Starman” Bowie stroked the shoulder of his guitarist Mick Ronson and stared into his eyes. This started a whole new future for gay kids and other artists; to see someone famous be gay it opened doors and made it more acceptable. The industry had a brief period of growth and tolerance until 1979 when Hair was made into a film and the industry decided to stop supporting musicians to come out as LGBT anymore. In the 1980s you begin to see lesbian women appearing at grassroots music festivals, this sparked interest for women's movements and lesbian movements which have carried through ever since. Since then we have seen many artists come out or produce music supporting the LGBT community as the world has progressed into a more accepting society.
While popular music has always included LGBT artists, the increasing social tolerance of the late 20th and early 21st centuries allowed such artists to come out publicly. Early examples of this arose with the sexual liberation movement, with artists such as Elton John, Village People, Sylvester, Tom Robinson, Jill Sobule, Indigo Girls, kd lang, Queen, David Bowie, Little Richard, Esquerita, Melissa Etheridge, Janis Ian, The B-52's, Cher, Kylie Minogue, Grace Jones and Marc Almond, among others. In the 80's, the exposure of openly LGBT artists became richer, with artists such as Culture Club, George Michael, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Pet Shop Boys, Dead or Alive, and Erasure. Other popular artists include Diana Ross, Cyndi Lauper, Britney Spears, Melba Moore, Loleatta Holloway, Jessica Lowndes, Gloria Gaynor, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, and Pink, Bob Mould, Madonna, Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford, and Lance Bass. The 1990s saw a marginal increase of pro-LGBT laws, and artists condemning homophobia in their music. Groups such as Placebo, Alcazar, Right Said Fred, Mana and more joined the ranks of allies and LGBT musicians.
The 2000s saw LGBT music branch off into its own genre, and new artists like Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera, Will Young, The Scissor Sisters, The Gossip, RuPaul, Jeffree Star, Blood on the Dance Floor (duo), Mika, Dario, Adam Lambert, t.A.T.u., Kent James, Dawnstar and Troye Sivan supported a growing industry, spreading the message of equality and positivity.
In the 2010s, Against Me! singer and guitarist Tommy Gabel announced he would be transitioning to life as a woman named Laura Jane Grace. Chely Wright, a country singer, came out in 2011 and faced death threats and declining record sales. She made a documentary called "Wish me away" about her experience and it won several major awards in 2012 including trophies from the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Seattle LGBT Festival and the Tallgrass Film Festival. And openly gay artists such as Tegan and Sara gained popularity; the duo produced a pro-tolerance advert jingle for Oreo in 2014.
Many openly LGBT musicians have become very successful, such as Elton John, who has the best-selling single in Billboard of the 1990s ("Candle in the Wind 1997"), and the single "Anything is Possible"/"Evergreen" by Will Young, which was the best-selling single of the decade in the 2000s. Country singer Ty Herndon came out as gay in 2014, after three number one hits on Billboard Hot Country Songs.
Since the early 1970s, dance music genre's like disco garage and house have been linked to western gay males in particular. But today, these and other types of music like electronic dance music (EDM) genre's such as electro, techno and trance can be heard in queer clubs all around the world. Music and dancing are integral to public queer lifestyles and, queer cultures have been most closely identified with dance music forms. Groups that are commonly heard are, house group Deee-lite, electro group Underworld, electroclash artist Peaches, dance punk band Gossip or electro house producer Benny Benussi.
Some popular LGBT artists and bands today are Kehlani, Hayley Kiyoko, Pabllo Vittar, Mary Lambert, Halsey, MUNA, Kevin Abstract (Brockhampton), Sam Smith, Le1f, Azealia Banks, Sia, Perfume Genius, Courtney Barnett, Angel Haze, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Against Me!, Rostam, Tom Goss, Shura, Superfruit, Years and Years, PVRIS, Frank Ocean, ILoveMakonnen, Billy Gilman, Syd, Ladyhawke and Mykki Blanco. Prominent electronic music artist and synthesist for the band LCD Soundsystem, Gavin Rayna Russom came out publicly as a transgender woman in July 2017. In April 2018, Janelle Monáe came out as queer with her album Dirty Computer, and released the song "Make Me Feel"; the music video detailing a woman's attraction to two club goers.
Some LGBT music is not made by LGBT musicians, but rather by allies: country artist Phil Vassar released the song "Bobbi with an I" in 2009, which uses a humorous narrative to encourage acceptance of transgender individuals. Singer and songwriter Hozier released the song "Take Me to Church", which was partially focused on religion-based homophobia (as demonstrated by the music video). "1-800-273-8255 (song)", a song performed by Logic and Alessia Cara, dealt with homophobia and the pain that it results in. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis teamed up with Mary Lambert to make "Same Love", a song about same sex marriage that focused on the message that love conquers all. Avicii produced the song "Silhouettes (Avicii song)" ; the music video detailed the struggle of being transgender.
Lady Gaga's 2011 song "Born this way" has been called an LGBT anthem for its message of self-love. While other have used music to fight for other things like, Christian Chavez a member of a popular Mexican teen pop group RBD used his song "Libertad" to make a stance for gay rights and sexual freedom. Bands such as Pansy Division and Tribe 8 led the Queer Core frenzy that helped solidify LGBTQ arts in the 1990s and inspired artists such as Pink Sheep's Brett Basil to be out and no longer constrained by the stereotypes imposed by gay music. Media, such as music, has been see to influence self-realization, coming out, and current identities by providing role models and inspiration. These role models serve as sources of pride, inspiration, and comfort which overall positively influence LGBT identity.
Since 2001, the U.S.-based, annual OUTmusic Awards program has functioned as an LGBTQ award event that mirrors the Grammys. OUTmusic Inc., a 501 (c) 3, was re-founded as the LGBT Academy of Recording Arts by Diedra Meredith in 2007. The awards are to recognize some of the LGBT artists who have made significant contributions to the music industry. Their mission statement emphasizes the need to acknowledge, document, and celebrate LGBT artists.