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From Quadrophenia to Queerphobia: How Sam Smith Unveiled the Contemporary Toxicity of Heteronormativity in the Music Industry

Tolerance of difference has always had its limits in alternative cultures. Take the Rockers, with their raw conceptual masculinity and their contempt for the perceived effeminate nature of the Mods, as the ultimate example.

Brandished as weedy snobs due to their clean-cut style, Mods became the natural enemy of the leather-clad greased-up Rockers who took insult to what they saw as the adoption of feminine cleanliness. You would have hoped that masculinity would have become slightly less fragile in the 21st century after the infamous culture clashes in 1964. Alas, men are still lambasted for straying from the normative presentation of masculinity.

Mods v Rockers: Two tribes go to war - BBC Culture

Anything from showing vulnerability to being kinder to expressing emotions to being a feminist is enough to leave men subject to a barrage of misogynist or queerphobic insults. This archaic gender policing is why there is still an inclination to conform to socially constructed gender stereotypes and keep the myth of a real man alive and well. With that in mind, it is no real surprise that so many people can’t even begin to wrap their heads around non-binary people and those who identify as genderqueer.

Furthermore, this time last year, the BBC reported on how LGBT tolerance is going backwards after a significant rise in hate crimes was reported. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation have risen year-on-year since 2016. In 2016/17, 8,569 of these hate crimes were reported to the police. In 2021, hate crimes based on sexual orientation doubled to 17,135, as did the number of hate crimes against transgender people (1,195 to 2,630 in the same period). But that isn’t even the full picture; an investigation into LGBT hate crime and discrimination by Stonewall revealed 81% of LGBT people have experienced an incident and didn’t report it to the police.

How Sam Smith Held a Mirror to Widespread Queer Phobia

Unless you have been living under a rock, you will have undoubtedly seen the memes and videos taking the piss out of Sam Smith’s performance and red-carpet outfit at The BRIT Awards by now. And while I really wouldn’t expect any less from the mainstream, which loves to ridicule and demonise the people that don’t compromise their autonomy and adopt the desperation to fit in, I would hope for slightly more tolerance from members and figures in alternative circles.

Seemingly, the tragedy of Sophie Lancaster’s death did little to influence our acceptance of difference. Caroline Flack committing suicide after an online hate campaign? Simply water under the trolls’ bridge. But sure, let’s imply that Sam Smith expressing their gender is a symptom of a mental health disorder while tearing them to shreds and pretending that this isn’t indicative of a much more prejudiced picture.

And yeah, the outfits were outlandish. I’m not going to attempt to justify them in the same way a couturier would sell their high fashion collections. As for the attention-seeking claims, behave. If you don’t see garnering attention and hype as a fundamental part of an artist’s existence, you shouldn’t be allowed an opinion on anything revolving around the music industry.

The Rising Tides of Hysteric Hypocrisy

Can we just recollect what Lemmy said about people not wanting their rock stars to look like the blokes from down the pub; we want them other-worldly and alien from the monotony that breeds in the mainstream. To use another dead icon to prove a point, when Bowie died, his death was treated as a national tragedy – yet he was one of the most influentially androgynous people to ever walk the path of popular culture. Was he only so tolerated because his androgyny was alongside a mostly closeted sexuality? Or was it because he was heroin thin that his non-traditional presentation of gender was so widely accepted?

Sam Smith David Bowie - QNews

At this point, I wouldn’t expect people that are giddier than someone coming up on ecstasy for the opportunity to tear shreds out of Sam Smith’s willingness to disrupt heteronormativity to get the point.

Even if the point stabbed them in the eye, it is much easier to attack an individual than to contemplate the fallacy of the gender binary and realise that there are miles of personal growth between their current mentality and appearing as a semi-decent human being.

Many voices, including the horror show Matt Walsh, are fully open in their admission that they do not understand the concept of being genderqueer or non-binary. Still, they stand with so much conviction on their soapbox when attacking Sam Smith. Going as far as to call them the white Lizzo, as if something is disparaging about being compared to one of the most culturally influential artists of this generation.

You only need to look at the language surrounding Sam Smith’s latest music video for their single, I’m Not Here to Make Friends, which is on 10 million streams within two weeks, by the way, to see how insidious the prejudice surrounding them is. “Disgusting”, “Revolting”, and “I Feel Sick” were up there with the most inventive tropes surrounding the video, which, honestly, really didn’t live up to the lewd hype.

Hypersexuality in the music industry is hardly a new phenomenon; sex has always sold, and it always will. The issue with the I’m Not Here to Make Friends music video is that it doesn’t appease the male gaze, which is tearing up through the prospect of not dominating popular culture anymore. Remember when everyone was FURIOUS about the All the Things She Said music video by t.A.T.u.? No, me neither; men were too busy getting hard over it to complain.

t.A.T.u. - All The Things She Said (Official Music Video) - YouTube

Unfortunately for those determined to regress progression, 2023 isn’t like the good old days of coercive sex with minors, drugs that become the gateway to the 27-club and rock n roll, which glamourises the aforementioned and a plethora of other toxic traits. We’ve moved on, and we will continue to do so – despite the reluctance to leave prejudice and persecution for being queer in the past.

Sam Smith may never see your memes posted as shitposter fodder, but countless non-binary people will. If you can be content with yourself making staying repressed and closeted more appealing to the silently queer out there, knock yourself out, champ. Just know that negativity never stops with one sour throw-away comment because you’re so miserable in your own lives you need to tear down others. We all see you, and we pity you.

Article by Amelia Vandergast

Mel Fine wonders if this lover really means those words on ‘Alone Together’

Urging this dreamy lover to say the words that have been yearned for so long while they are far away from each other, Mel Fine sends an honest message to those who understand this feeling that is lodged deep inside the soul with ‘Alone Together‘.

Mel Fine is a Boston, USA-based, Sharon, Massachusetts-born non-binary indie-pop/folk singer-songwriter and Berklee College of Music student.

Mel grew up singing jazz standards and admiring Etta James’ soulful vocals, and later fell in love with the storytelling lyrical stylings of folk singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell.” ~ Mel Fine

Showing us why this excellent song is so highly regarded with so much excellent lyrical ability and beautifully-lipped vocals, Mel Fine sends the world a captivating single with so much to embrace and hold tightly.

Alone Together‘ from the Boston, USA-based non-binary indie-pop/folk artist Mel Fine, is a gorgeously-sung single by a romantic soul who wants to be more than a fleeting lover. Mel projects these kind emotions in such a stunning way, showing us into this special moment that will take our awakened consciousness to a happy place of contentment. This is the type of single that will have you wondering if this romantic partner will take the next step – to move those words into action – to prove that they are for real and not just a fleeting summer crush.

Hear this lovely new track on Spotify and see more on IG.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Elliot Wren drops honest don’t-fall-through single about social anxiety on ‘Time Bomb’

Inspired by the world-class talents of Taylor Swift, Avril Lavigne, Melanie Martinez, Miley Cyrus and Sabrina Carpenter, Elliot Wren returns with a sparkling new single that will have your mind alive with ideas on ‘Time Bomb‘.

Elliot Wren is an 18-years-old Boston, USA-based indie pop/alternative singer-songwriter who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.

After impressing with the stunning ‘Good Luck‘ from September 2020, we are treated to another gem here from the excellent Elliot Wren that will surely shake the insides of your soul awake and into action.

Their biggest goal is to prove to LGBTQ+ artists, artists with disabilities and other artists who face hardships in day to day life that anyone can pursue music as a profession and find happiness in whatever they do. Elliot hopes to perform one day at Boston Pride.” ~ Elliot Wren

Time Bomb‘ from Boston, USA-based indie pop/alternative singer-songwriter Elliot Wren, is one of the most important singles of 2022 for anyone who feels so nervous in public and being shamed for doing something that shouldn’t cause so much fuss. They sing with such a wonderfully rock-filled style that is loaded with observations about trying to act normal when you know that you are different and just want to be yourself. This is exactly the type of message that the world needs to explore. What is normal anyway? Why should we all try and fit into a stuffed box?

As humans, we are all different anyway, and being at our best creative selves should be the goal, so we can float free and be the best that we can possibly be for ourselves. Life is about finding our true path anyway, not walking the dusty roads that have so many footprints on already.

Listen up to this new single on Spotify and see more via the IG music page.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Mavi Veloso delivered a vindicating hit of urban electro euphoria with ‘Names’

Debut albums are scarcely as promising as the Brazil-born, Netherlands-based artist Mavi Veloso’s debut LP, Travesti Biológica, which hit the airwaves on January 21st, 2022. The LP celebrates the beauty of trans and non-binary bodies while making no bones about pushing the envelope in a more progressive direction. The mash of pop, trap and futurism is an indulgent throw-back to the electroclash era and simultaneously a definitive milestone in the evolution of electro-pop that breaks the heteronormative mould.

The standout single, Names, is a fierce electro-pop anthem that bites back and speaks out to anyone in the queer community that has felt the sting of derogatory and disgustingly dim remarks. You couldn’t ask for a more vindicating hit of urban electro euphoria. Mavi Veloso has exactly what it takes to become the Peaches of our generation. We are more than here for it.

Names is now available to stream on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

A Tranquil State Of Mind: scal35 takes us to a peaceful planet with ‘Launch Day’

After the marvelously breathtaking and pure sound that had us feeling somehow both mystified and calm at the same time on ‘Orchid‘, scal35 wonder fruitfully into a new and fascinating dimension and kindly take us by the hand so we can go too on ‘Launch Day‘.

scal35 is an EDM artist who makes tasty music to satisfy all the desires of being fully independent and never being put into any box that might suffocate complete freedom.

We(they/them) make music and are here to share! I am a non-binary artist that prefers to perform in my own cosplay; dragon themed of course, as internet culture and all the amazing music I’ve listened to over the years has encouraged me to share my own creative self expression.” ~ scal35

Launch Day‘ from the exciting indie EDM artist scal35, shows us that it is indeed possible to be whoever you want to be. With a determined outlook, a rather stupendously sounding ambiance and filled-up rays of happy sunshine, plus a wave of beauty that transforms before your very eyes, this is a real underground gem that needs to be heard.

Our sad hearts need all the love we can get right now.

Hear this new single on Soundcloud and see more moves via the IG music page.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen