2009年1月12日 星期一

2008 Year in Review: Music

2008 Year in Review: Music

2008 saw even more lesbian and bisexual women making a splash in the music world then ever before – and more straight women trying to capitalize on the media's obsession with bisexuality.

Several bisexual and lesbian musicians released new music this year, and increasingly utilized digital resources to promote their work. Whether it's recording their own video blogs, or blogging on their MySpace pages, artists are clearly getting the hang of the internet marketing revolution, bringing them closer to their fans, and helping them reach new ones.

Here's an overview of some of the year's most notable releases, trends, music and moments related to lesbian/bi musicians.

The Katy Perry Syndrome

Despite the positive technological advances in artist promotion, other trends were all too familiar, such as the borrowed use of lesbianism for songs like Katy Perry's hit single, "I Kissed A Girl."

Hotly debated since it premiered, Perry's debut as a pop-rock singer utilized the kitsch of being a straight woman "gone bad" by singing, "I kissed a girl and I liked it / Hope my boyfriend don't mind it" and "Don't mean I'm in love tonight."

By trivializing the kiss of another woman in the hugely commercially successful song (which was nominated for a Grammy in early December), Perry became the poster woman for bisexuality. Unfortunately, the song, as catchy as it may be with its electro-synth beats and major chord chorus, portrays bisexuality as a drunken moment of naughty behavior.

This concept was furthered by Perry's statements to the press that largely consisted of jokes about who she might kiss had she have the chance, ranging from 16-year-old Miley Cyrus to "I like to kiss boys, but there is no doubt in my mind if Angelina Jolie or Gisele Bündchen came a callin', who wouldn't pucker up?"

In the same vein, the performer often speculated to be bisexual, Pink, raised eyebrows when she divorced her husband and engaged in a lesbian lip-lock with herself a section of her music video, "Sober."

Scenes from Pink's "Sober" music video

Symbolism aside, it was an odd choice for someone who has in the past touted her relationships with women, but more recently went on the record to declare her straightness. In October, she told the press, "I'm not gay so I guess I would not try a relationship with a woman. I didn't say I haven't experimented but I love men too much to make it a permanent thing."

It would appear, then, that Pink has utilized her butch aesthetic to drum up interest and shock from the mainstream public, which also happened to bring her a lesbian fan base.

Hit songwriter Lady GaGa debuted her first album, The Fame, in 2008 with the club track "Just Dance" garnering a lot of applause from the gay community.

In an interview with HX Magazine, GaGa said she was boy and "girl-crazy," saying "It really depends on where I am. I love men, I love women and I love sex, but I'm actually pretty introverted right now because I'm so enveloped in my work, and it's hard to let anybody near that."

She has yet to discuss her sexuality further, despite being interviewed several times in both the gay and mainstream press.

Much like Lady GaGa, Jess Origliasso of the Australian sister duo, The Veronicas, has spoken very little about her bisexuality, but has been photographed with out MTV VJ Ruby Rose, which was rumored to be a romantic involvement. Her interest in women was further discussed when The Veronicas released the video for "Take Me On The Floor," which featured women dancing close and kissing at a nightclub.

The Veronicas' Jess Origaliasso (left) with Ruby Rose

When asked about her sexuality and the video by Australia's The Herald Sun, Jess replied, "If a celebrity doesn't come out and make a statement about their sexuality they're a 'fake lesbian...'

I'm not going to be tricked into feeling like I have to make a statement about something because everyone wants confirmation. I'll just live my life how I want. If they want to call me a fake lesbian and degrade my sexuality and my choices, go ahead, I'll just ignore it."

Similarly, both Katie Melua and Shelby Lynne addressed their sexualities this year, with Melua telling the press not to ask about it ("People can think whatever they like ... I like to keep some mystique around my public image."), while Lynne told The Advocate it shouldn't matter who she sleeps with.

"People are going to come up with whatever they want to come up with on their own," Lynne said. "I don't have to make announcements. Come on!"

Mainstream success

While some artists were not interested in discussing their private lives, others were more open to addressing their sexuality, including Australian singer, Sia, who came out rather inconspicuously to U.K.'s Attitudes Magazine when she divulged she was involved in a serious relationship with a woman, later to be identified as J.D. Samson of Le Tigre.

Sia with J.D. Samson (far left)

Sia's bisexuality was treated as a non-issue of sorts for the singer, who told AfterEllen.com that she'd only dated men up until meeting J.D.

"The thing is I feel kind of straight because she's kind of like a boy," she said. "[My love interest] thinks I'm straight. She's like, 'You're straight; it's just that your girlfriend is gay.' So I'm straight, it's just that my boyfriend's a girl? She's like, 'I don't care, whatever you'd like.'"

Labels aside, Sia's 2008 album Some People Have Real Problems was a hit, reaching number 26 on the Billboard 200 and spawning singles "The Girl You Lost," "Day Too Soon" and "Soon We'll Be Found." She also had a song on the Sex and the City film soundtrack, and performed on several late night talk shows.

Another Aussie transplant, Missy Higgins, achieved success in 2008 with her album, On a Clear Night.

Despite being well-known and award-winning in her home country, Missy was a relative newcomer to the U.S. this year, and her singles like "Where I Stood" and "Steer" were picked up to play on shows like Grey's Anatomy. The album has remained consistently high on Billboard charts, reaching number three on the Top Heatseakers chart.

After coming out as bisexual in late 2007, Missy told AfterEllen.com that several of her songs are written about relationships with women, including "Secret" from On A Clear Night.

"When we first started our relationship," Missy said, "[my girlfriend] was not comfortable with bringing it out into the open, and I was so head over heels in love with her I kind of wanted to shout it out to the world, so it was just a song about keeping something under the covers and not being comfortable sharing something with the world, keeping it away locked in a little room."

Since coming out and releasing her hit album, Missy has toured with the Indigo Girls, Ben Folds and also headlined her own sold-out international tours. For 2009, she's working on a film version of the musical Bran Nu Dae alongside Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush.

Tegan and Sara released the single "Call it Off," the third from their 2007 album The Con, and alongside their consistent touring and involvement on several projects outside of the band have made them household names.

Tegan recorded a song for the audio book version of Augusten Burrough's New York Times best seller, A Wolf at the Table.

Together, the twins penned essays for AOL's music site, Spinner.com, kept up their own blogs and released the iTunes exclusive Live Session EP: Tegan and Sara. They also contributed a track to Friends of P – Tribute to The Rentals in March 2008 and said they were working together on writing the songs for their new album, which Tegan told AfterEllen.com would be very different from the rest of their repertoire.

"Sara's definitely writing some really good stuff, definitely writing about a lot of different themes, writing about our childhood and not necessarily about love and relationships, which is cool," Tegan said. "I mean, we don't think too much about it. We never ever sit down and think about it and focus too much on what the plan is. Sara tried to do that with me the other day about stuff that she potentially wants to take one step further than we did on The Con, with a completely different band and completely different producers. So we'll see."

Tegan & Sara

Photo credit: Autumn de Wilde

Lesbian musician Kaki King released Dreaming of Revenge in 2008, the follow-up to her successful 2006 CD, Until We Felt Red. She also released a collaboration with indie band The Mountain Goats called Black Pear Tree and contributed a cover of Justin Timberlake's "I Think She Knows" to the compilation, Guilt by Association: Volume 2, which releases in Feb. 2009.

Also in 2009, she'll be working on the scoring for a documentary film on homosexuality and the church called Fish Out of Water.

Bisexual frontwoman of the Dresden Dolls, Amanda Palmer, embarked on a tour in support of her solo debut, Who Killed Amanda Palmer? She announced that her band would be on hiatus, temporarily, but fans were happy enough with her work on her own that they didn't seem to mind.

Who Killed Amanda Palmer? featured collaborations with Ben Folds, St. Vincent and Zoë Keating of Rasputina, receiving very favorable reviews.

The release of the video for "Leeds UNITED" sparked controversy when Amanda wrote on her blog that the record label, Roadrunner Records, wanted to re-shoot scenes in which she bared her belly. Fans were outraged, and protested the label with shots of their own stomachs, calling it "The reBELLYon."

Palmer, who refused to re shoot the video in the first place, wrote about the request: "do you have any idea who i am, what band i've been in, what kind of music i write, who my fans are...who didn't send you the memo that i'm not britney spears? i'm not TRYING to look hungry. i'm trying to look HOT. there's a difference."

In return, the label utilized the protest as a marketing tool and selling-point for the album. It peaked at 77 on the Billboard 200 after being released in September.

Hip-hop trio-turned-duo, Yo Majesty, released their highly-anticipated Domino Records debut, Futuristically Speaking: Never Be Afraid in October. Lesbian Christian MCs Jwl B and Shunda K brought both aspects of their lives to their brand of club-rap on tracks like "Get Down on the Floor" and "Party Hardy."

Yo Majesty's Jwl B and Shunda K

Photo credit: Karl Walter/Getty Images

Their performances at CMJ and on tour were lauded as must-sees by critics, including The New York Times, whose acknowledgment of them being gay was just a sidenote to their incredible talent at making an audience laugh, dance and respect them, all at the same time.

As of late 2008, Jwl B and Shunda K continue to tour together, but also work on separate projects, noting that they have creative differences and might not be together for another album.

New and out on the scene

Another group whose gayness has taken a considerable back seat to their talent is Hercules and Love Affair.

Members Andy Butler and Kim Ann Foxman are both out, and guest contributor Antony Hegarty is transgender. The band's self-titled debut album was hailed by critics as the best dance album of 2008, and the singles "Blind" and "You Belong" reached peak positions on charts in the UK, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Norway and Ireland. It peaked at number five on the Top Electronic Albums.

Leisha Hailey's long-awaited return to music came in the form of Uh Huh Her, her duo with musician Camila Grey. The group's debut, Common Reaction, was delayed release for several months, as Leisha told AfterEllen.com, because of the unexpected buzz the band was receiving.

The label, Nettwerk Records, decided to give it a bigger promotional push in the summer of 2008. Common Reaction debuted at No. 9 on the Heatseakers chart.

Uh Huh Her embarked on two separate tours and released two videos for singles "Not a Love Song" and "Explode."

Tegan and Sara tour-mates An Horse released their debut album, Rearrange Beds, and also lent their track, "Postcards" to Mercedes-Benz CLC-Class for use in a commercial this year. Sara Quin served as their A&R rep, and out frontwoman Kate Cooper and bandmate Damon Cox signed with mom & pop music in the U.S.

One of the year's biggest indie phenomenons was Baltimore-based noise band, Ponytail. Out singer Molly Siegel lead the art rock quartet in receiving attention from nationwide music fans who loved her Yoko Ono-esque style of singing/screaming into the microphone.

Ponytail's 2008 album, Ice Cream Spiritual, was only 33 minutes in length but the single, "Celebrate the Body Electric," was 7 minutes long.

Molly Siegel (far left) with Ponytail band mates

Band photo credit: Frank Morgan

Pitchforkmedia.com rated the album 8.4 out of 10, and said of Siegel's spastic vocals: "Listening to her, I think of John Cage's quote about poetry taken to its logical extreme: She has nothing to say and she is saying it. Loudly. And with a sense of joy that's nothing short of infectious."

Other groups with lesbian members that released albums in 2008 were Sick of Sarah, New Bloods, Bound Stems, and The Organ.

Icons keeping up with the times

Several lesbian musicians whose careers have been big for the past decade or two (and in some cases, three) released new records this year, including k.d. lang, Tracy Chapman, Ferron, Patti Larkin, Janis Ian, Melissa Ferrick, Amy Ray and Thalia Zedek.

All were logical next steps in their respective careers, but they also managed to keep up with current trends in popular music (Ferron's CD even featured a remixed track by J.D. Samson and had her album produced by Bitch.)

Ani DiFranco released Red Letter Year. After having a child with her male partner, many in the press debated whether the bisexual singer had lost her lesbian fan base because of her personal life decisions.

Ani DiFranco

Photo credit: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

Nonetheless, the album peaked at No. 8 on the Top Independent Albums and No. 55 on the Billboard 200.

Other lesbian favorites such as Ellis, Catie Curtis and Sarah Bettens continued to tour and see support from their lesbian/bisexual fan base.

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