Tag Archives: Queer-Pop

New EP From Queer Singer Madison Lawrence

On Yours, Madison Lawrence transitions from being a sweet, straight singer to being an edgy, queer pop artist.

The purple-haired singer-songwriter has been making music for years. In fact, she got her start on YouTube, where she now has over 8,000 subscribers, in addition to 20,000 followers on Twitter. She has found financial success as a sugary pop singer writing songs about boys and heartbreak.

Yours was inspired by her last relationship with a man – particularly the end of that relationship. In four short songs, she leads listeners by the hand through the discovery of her sexuality, to the fires of frustration and the depths of despair, to the break-up, to the healing. She describes the EP as “cathartic.”

It was the first time Lawrence had sung so openly about sexuality, which shocked some fans but ultimately expanded her catalog.

The most popular song is Take Care, an upbeat anthem about self-care that might be playing at your nearest discotheque. She wrote the song after realizing that the last year of her relationship was messy and painful and that she hadn’t been taking care of herself. In fact, it wasn’t until months after the relationship’s end that she began the slow process of cultivating her health.

Since the breakup, she has begun dating women and recently wrote her first song about it.

She was nervous, and told Out and About Nashville,

I knew [that I was queer] from when I was young, but I didn’t think that I ever wanted a relationship… So I didn’t want to write a song about a girl.”

Nevertheless, her passions won out, and she wrote a song for her girlfriend’s birthday. Fans are eagerly awaiting its release.

Lawrence first came out as bisexual, then realized that the term was too limiting and that she doesn’t identify with labels. If she had to choose a label, she says that it would be “queer.”

So what’s next for the artist? She’s currently very happy with her girlfriend so that will likely play a role in her upcoming work. She also plans to tour in the near future.

Keep up with her at her twitter.

Lesbian Singer Zhala Makes Ethereal Queer-Pop

Zhala’s performances look more like an art installation than a concert.

The singer, often called “Kurdish Lady Gaga,” drapes herself in Kurdish and Swedish flags. Tie-dye sheets adorn the stage, flowers line the walls, and a hookah steams near the microphone. She sprays the audience with rose water before the first song’s track clicks into place.

This fiery, queer singer does not look like your average Swiss person – she’s not tall, blonde or blue-eyed. Both of her parents are Kurdish, and her mother even spent five years in the mountains fighting in the Iraqi Kurdi military Peshmerga. Her father still lives in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Zhala was raised Muslim in a predominantly atheist country, and although she was born in Stockholm, other Swedish people question her identity frequently.

The young artist decided to blend Kurdish dance music with Swedish pop in order to create a unique, otherworldly sound. She creates a different type of Swedish songs: She discusses identity politics without being “prepackaged,” she said.

She discusses her experiences growing up in Sweden which, through no fault of her own, have always been closely tied to Middle Eastern and European politics. For example, due to the war in Syria and Sweden’s rising nationalist parties, Zhala has experienced greater xenophobia and physical threats in the past few years.

She says,

If you’re not white, you always lose. There is a lot of racism and it is growing in Sweden.”

She creates music for people who, like her, have struggled to define their own identities. She says about her music:

It’s anti-nationalism. I don’t even care about the nations. It’s simplifying something complicated, but it’s [also] about having no borders. That’s how I see it. Having a lot of flags is not making it nationalistic, other people are doing that. They think the world needs to be that. I’m not going to change my opinion, I’m not a nationalist. People mirror themselves when they look at someone when they perform. I am trying to be transparent when I perform. I’m trying to be me. Here I am, whether you like it or not.”

On top of being the child of non-white immigrants, Zhala is also queer, which adds another layer of complexity to her assimilation into Swedish culture. In response, she has created what she describes as a “maximalist” musical aesthetic. She says, “To take the energy off me being Kurdish as an identity, I dress more extreme. It takes the pressure off of your nationality, which can be a nice break.”

Her genre is hard to pin down, although you could describe it as cosmic electropop or perhaps spiritual electroshine. Spirituality has always played a major role in Zhala’s life; even after converting from Islam, she remains close to her spirituality through crystals and meditation.

Check out her ethereal music at her official website.

Meet Queer Indie Band Mashrou’ Leila

This queer Lebanese indie pop band is tired of being political.

Mashrou’ Leila made waves when they debuted in 2008 – the western world wasn’t prepared for their Arabic indie pop sound.

Over the next eight years, the five-piece pop experience made headlines for creating unconventional music. They refused to produce mainstream, general pop like the more famous groups in Beirut, and they also didn’t create the “Oriental” sound that many Western music journalists expected from an Arab group.

The dynamic frontman of the group, Hamed Sinno, is openly queer, an identity that still carries a lot of stigma even in Beirut, one of the Middle East’s most liberal cities. Sinno and the band’s other members have not shied away from the difficult subject matter. Their hit song “Shim El Yasmine” narrates a queer relationship that cannot be realized in Lebanon:

“I would have liked to keep you near me/

Introduce you to my parents, have you crown my heart/

Cook your food, sweep your home/

Spoil your kids, be your housewife/

But you’re in your house, and I’m in another house/

God, I wish I had never let you go”

They openly swear that they’re not trying to be political, but their songs address issues that are very close to their heart, such as homophobia and violence. For example, one of their most popular songs, “Maghawir,” chronicles a night out in Beirut that ends with a nightclub shooting. Nightclub shootings are fairly common in the city.

When the members of Mashrou’ Leila talk about their own experiences, many Westerners music journalists label them an overly political band – apparently, only straight, white American men can sing about their experiences without considering “political” hardships such as homophobia.

The band might object to being called a “queer band,” because they insist that they are more than their political identities. However, I believe that this label is important. The band members are queer in that they shrug off typical gender roles and do not all ascribe to a rigid heterosexuality. Their songs do the important work of narrating what life is like as a non-heterosexual person in Lebanon – their lyrics are an “exercise in demystification.”

The band is also queer in that it is atypical. Their most recent album, Ibn El Leila, epitomizes the sound that the band creates best: “romantic angst and turbulent grief and caustic humor, set against the drama of everyday life in Beirut. It makes you want to weep. It makes you want to dance.”

Mashrou’ Leila offers a different type of queer experience. Their songs are honest, and they resonate with queer people, especially queer Arabs, who are often locked out of the (cisgender, white, male) American gay narrative.

Check out the band’s official page, and read more about Simmo’s experiences confronting homophobia.