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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

Interview: Katija guides us through the creative process on Won’t Waste My Time

With a high-spirited mentality and not wasting another moment on something meaningless, the courageous Katija kindly had a chat with us recently and led us into her life as a proudly queer artist, living between two cities and that real connection.

Hello there Katija. What are you most passionate about at the moment and where in the world do we find you today?

Katija: I am most passionate about creating things that bring positivity and understanding to the world! Music has always been a major part of my life and has helped me through so many dark and amazing times. I want to be able to share my experiences with others and provide connections through music. I’m currently based between Auckland, New Zealand & Melbourne, Australia.

What was the creative process like during the making of your latest single Won’t Waste My Time.

Katija: It was a very interesting one! Like so many other artists, during the pandemic, I was isolated and away from working collaboratively with my band in one room! I had always sung blues and soul before the pandemic, however, I was inspired to try something new with what I had at my disposal – my voice and my computer! I had recently gone through a rough breakup so I need a creative way to process my emotions, and the song was born! I then worked with Melbourne-based producer, MarKia, to develop the song and record it when I was back in Australia. The process took about 18 months, but it was worth it!

Please tell us more about how being a queer artist inspires you in this rather odd time for humanity?

Katija: I believe that everyone, no matter who you are or where you come from has a place in this world. In my adult life, I have always been an advocate for inclusion and self-expression. I have run Queer events and worked in Queer organisations, providing safe spaces for people to be themselves. I am inspired by other amazing performers who truly embrace who they are. There are so many in the Queer community and it’s AMAZING. My vision is to provide music and environments that inspire people to be 100% them!

When you close your eyes for a few seconds and imagine your ideal music stage, what does it look like visually to you and who is there?

Katija: Sequins, colour and fabulous dancers! Ideally, a stage show that is high-energy and a damn good time!

Which local music venues would you recommend we visit in your area?

Katija: As I live between two cities, I have a few to mention! In Auckland, my favourites are The Mothership, Fitzroy Lounge Bar and Whammy Bar. In Melbourne, I’m a Northsider so for me it’s the Bendigo Hotel, Old Bar, Northcote Social Club and The Tote.

What was the last song you listened to?

Katija: I was recently introduced to an old soul/gospel song by my friend Fraser. It’s called “Nobody Knows” by Pastor T. L. Barrett and The Youth For Christ Choir. It’s absolutely beautiful.

Last, if you could be in charge of the music industry, what would you change and why?

Katija: I think the music industry has diversified so much in the past years with the help of social media and platforms such as Patreon and Bandcamp allowing artists to build their own communities. I would love to see this trend continue to grow so more incredible artists can share their music and vision with the world! Having more representation of different communities and points of view fosters connection, and the world needs more people to know that there are others just like them.

Listen up on Spotify. See more on her IG.

Interview by Llewelyn Screen

How Many Offers: East London MC Reptile B rips the script on Chop Freestyle

Listening deeply inside the womb of the underground that has formed a tight bond around his music, Reptile B undresses the melody so skillfully you will think you’ve heard a lyrical chef perform a masterclass on Chop Freestyle.

Reptile B is a queer East London, UK-based grime hip hop artist who is an industry trailblazer and continues to spark up the imagination of everyone who presses play.

Showing us his Jamaican upbringing and inspiration for that timeless old school grime that is still the best, Reptile B shreds the mic on Chop Freestyle and accentuates the aura of the moment that has opened because of extraordinary bravery to beat the odds.

Is the first of his community to go viral on TikTok with UK DRILL track THG.” ~ Reptile B

Chop Freestyle from East London, UK-based MC Reptile B is a stimulating release that reveals so much depth and layer filled excellence from this courageous warrior. Sensing the prey and throttling the moment before someone else takes the throne-this is one of the most revealing listens, your eardrums will have the pleasure of being immersed inside today.

Hear this new single on Spotify and check out the IG for more views.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Back When: Monica Whitlock misses that sweet romance on JACK+ROSE

Helping us all to release and decompress from this traumatic world, Monica Whitlock never wanted to be rescued as she intensely feels that tragic ending that has her heart rather sad on the spellbindingly brilliant JACK+ROSE.

Monica Whitlock is a 25-year-old Boston, USA-based queer, black, autistic singer-songwriter who makes music that is deep in meaning and true in substance.

Her music focuses on finding and using her voice to express her experiences with healing from mental health challenges, racism and the impact of rape culture.” ~ Monica Whitlock

Wishing that her body could swim farther out into those chilly waters, to be together again, Monica Whitlock sends us one of the most memorable songs so far this year. There is a vocal excellence on offer which might stretch your spine back into place, into that about-to-catch-you moment all the way to the ending.

JACK+ROSE from Boston, USA-based indie alternative singer-songwriter Monica Whitlock is a Titanic-fueled single made of the highest quality. That I-will-follow-you to that twin bed that always felt so special aura is such a treasure to hear warmly remembered into that moment when it all froze up. Too quickly. Everything changed. Forever.

Sometimes the ending isn’t what you wanted.

Listen up on Spotify and see more via the IG page.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

London’s Tana speaks success into her inspired existence with ‘Ritual’

With a stupendously alluring style that has you shivering with excitement as you just know that she is the type of artist the world has been looking for, Tana shows us that self-belief and hard work are actually missing keys that so many have in their possession already on ‘Ritual‘.

Tana is a London, UK-based RnB/Hip hop artist who is an inspiringly liberating voice for change who uses her platform to bring only diversity and calming goodness to the world.

Her tracks have been championed by Sean Kingston on Instagram, played on BBC introducing, and featured in numerous publications.” ~ Tana

With a crystal clear vocal capability that has your heart racing and your body grooving to this delightfully talented human who knows where the bag of riches is, Tana is on absolute fire on this steamy winners-only track that leaps like a splendid Springbok and catches your attention rather spectacularly.

I’m queer and I want to use my platform to be real and be a voice for others.” ~ Tana

Ritual‘ from London, UK-based RnB/Hip hop artist Tana, is a manifesting greatness anthem for all those who needed a natural kick and a kind push in the right direction. Her motivated vocals feel like you have just found the treasure that was hidden away underground before, as she delivers a sizzling single that is filled with riches beyond previous levels of fathomable imagination. Tana wants the endless money and glittering diamonds to share with her crew, as we find an artist who will never give up until those first-class seats become the norm.

Check out the new single on her Spotify and see more of her power moves on IG.

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

I Got That Juice: Norweigian Pop artist Frimann is hot stuff on ‘Last King Alive’

As he skillfully jumps up on the horse and grabs his lover to join him on the saddle, Frimann takes this flourishing ride to a place where they can be alone and feel romantic together on ‘Last King Alive‘.

Frimann is a proudly queer solo Disco-Pop artist who is from cozy Norway and sings with the wind at his sails that features a pleasingly pure vocal ambiance.

We find a passionate student at Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute For Performing Arts here, as you feel an electrifying edge that has you dancing with his each word he projects. There is a mighlity motivated texture to each note, as he crafts a sound that has been created for lovers to dance closely to.

Since his debut as a recording artist back in early 2018, Frimann has released five singles with three music videos.” ~ Frimann

Last King Alive‘ from the flamboyant Norway-based indie Disco-Pop artist Frimann, is that sensual track all about finding that person who you feel so connected with, as you both decide that enough is enough, and you need to be free together so that you may grow as one. Being in love is so magical as you feel the passionate swirling in the smoke-free air from a truly exciting artist, who sings with that extra bit of flair that is so rare to see these days. This is the type of single to put on when you need some inspiration – to lock hands with someone you really care for – as you both run away for a while to see what happens.

Hear this fresh new track on Spotify and see more vibes on his IG music page.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Craving Blood: Chicago’s Jae Deco has so much fun portraying a queer vampire on ‘Grim’

Inspired by Romania and with a glanced look to those exciting times on Halloween, Jae Deco drops the new feast-filled single all about wanting that blood-poured taste on ‘Grim‘.

Jae Deco is a Chicago-based indie Pop/Experimental Dance solo artist with a flamboyant charm who has you completely transfixed into this wonderfully creative artist.

I wanted to create something fun for halloween, so my favorite collaborator Somekid and I got together and made this spooky, vampiric pop song.” ~ Jae Deco

You feel his freshly toned lyrics brush naughtily all over your electrified body, full of that sumptuous energy that only the few seem to possess. With an explosion of excitement brewing from his mouth like a freshly brewed cup of coffee, this is a ear-warming effort that is sure to get your attention.

Grim‘ from the Chicago-based indie Pop/Experimental Dance artist Jae Deco, is a villainous heart-pounding single that is packed full of delightful excitement from a creative who just wanted to make something to be proud of during this trick or treat time. With lots of catchy lyrics and a toothy beat that gets your heart into overdrive, this is a fabulous track for us to nibble onto during this famous holiday.

Hear this fine new single on Spotify and learn more about this truly original musician via the IG.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Stumble Inside: Canadian singer Xana and her lover don’t make it past the ‘Kitchen Light’

Xana is at her enchantingly brilliant best with her brightly performed new single about never giving up on who you truly desire called ‘Kitchen Light‘.

Xana is a massively talented Queer Canadian indie alternative-pop artist who fuses in some ravishing indie rock and exciting electronic vibrations. She has a wonderfully elegant style that is stacked full of class, and has your whole body in absolute raptures.

I write songs about women and things that drive me mad.” – Xana

You feel her love towards her friend and things gets rather racy as the obvious tension between them is so palpable, as her eyes are locked and only want to be close to one person. This a catchy song so sumptuously delivered, it has your excited heart beating so fast – as you remember when you were with someone splendidly incredible – who you wanted to kiss so passionately all night long.

Xana’s music encompasses themes of LGBTQ romance, female empowerment, sex positivity, self reflection and discovery.” – Xana

Kitchen Light‘ from the proudly LGBTQ Canadian pop artist Xana, beams blisteringly into our hearts with a lovers bow and has you feeling so hopeful again. This sweet story tells us that you could of given up as they were perhaps going to stay with someone else, but you told them how you felt and the dynamics changed.

This is a terrifically sung single that heats up the cold night, and has you feeling like you should tell your crush how you truly feel too. You just never know how it might turn out.

Stream this brand new single on Spotify and check out her IG music page for more beautiful vibrations.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

His Number: Proud London based LGBTQ+ artist Lewie Fox is tired of the excuses on ‘THRU UR PHONE’

As he looked inside deeply to see what was really going on, Lewie Foxx knows that his partner is playing away from where he should with the passionate new single called ‘THRU UR PHONE‘.

Lewie Foxx is a London-based queer indie pop/dance artist. He makes that passionate music that is loud and proud, as he sings about issues that are tough to face in this harsh world.

Lewie’s musical influences are eclectic to say the least, but one artist in particular inspired him like no other: the incomparable George Michael. After hearing ‘Spinning The Wheel’ back in ‘96, Lewie finally found a musical idol he could follow and relate to more and more as he grew older.” – Lewie Foxx

With a knowing tone, you feel his heart-beating vibration emanating from your curious speakers. He has such a pure voice and the exposing-the-lies lyrics open up the naked curtains to show who is for real, and who really isn’t.

THRU UR PHONE‘ from London-based indie pop/dance artist Lewie Foxx, is a screenshot of his life as he sings with so much zest and vigor. He looks for the exit as grew disillusioned with the games and mistrust that grew over time, as he just wants to be happy and be with someone who is truly caring. This is a spark-filled single that will have you pondering whether your lover is truly there for you, or being sneaky, and getting their attention elsewhere.

Stream this new sensual single on Spotify and see more via his IG page.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen