Queer Artist Spotlight: Kelela

Made in America Festival 2017 - Sunday
Kelela

Some important points you should know about Kelela at the start is how to pronounce her name and that her music videos always deliver. Kelela is not pronounced how it may appear, sound it out like  Kuh-luh-lah. Addressing my second point, her video for “Frontline” is the best music video of the year. The song is a jam and secondly it look Sims inspired. It took me back to the Playstation 2 days, and I was fully present for it.

A queer identity undoubtedly can impact someone’s life overall and in the day to day, but it is not all that defines a person. That identity can just be one small piece of a puzzle. Especially for a woman of color this identity is just an added layer of oppression from society. Kelela embraces her identity in her music so her audience and women like her feel they can relate to her.

Kelela is an artist to admire. She followed her love for music into a career fairly late into the game, given most artist now want to get a head start and get into the music industry at young age and capitalize on youth to get promotion. Kelela’s journey into the music industry was a slow burn that payed off once she debuted. She’s gotten widespread praise from critics and her peers. Including high profile collaborations with Solange and the Gorillaz.  Continue reading “Queer Artist Spotlight: Kelela”

Queer Artist Spotlight: Kim Petras

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Quick little note: I don’t want to necessarily refer to Petras queer, because even though I use it as an umbrella term encompassing the challenge to heteronormative gender and sexuality standards. Someone people in the trans community may not use the term to apply to them as it can be seen as more related to sexuality.

One of pop’s most promising new voices has been releasing bop after bop since last summer. Kim Petras has been recognized as an artist to look out by most music publications getting all sort of variations of the “artist on the rise” title. And it’s all with good reason all her tracks have been infectious and as catchy as can be.

Kim Petras started her rise in pop music with her song “I Don’t Want It At All”, which is pop perfection. The accompanying video even featured a cameo by Paris Hilton. Petras’ shrine to Paris Hilton in the video made my The Simple Life loving heart swell. Petras gave the gays all they wanted.

Since then she’s released a handful of tracks, as well as appear on Charli XCX’s mixtape Pop 2 on the standout track “Unlock It” with XCX and Jay Park. Petras is readying her debut album, which doesn’t have a set release date at the time of writing this. In the meantime she’s slated to release a brand new track every month until the album’s completion. 

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Pride Playlist Picks

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Hi sisters happy pride month : – ) 

Here’s the tea – this year will mark my first time attending pride and I ! am ! ready !

As a very bisexual gal with a very queer friend group, this month is important to me.  

I’m beyond excited to attend my first pride and be surrounded by my people. With that being said, here’s my top pride playlist picks

1.) Bloom – Troye Sivan

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Queer Artist Spotlight: Years & Years

 

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Olly Alexander of Years & Years 

After a successful debut it is not uncommon for an artist or band to take some time off before the next album or project. With a successful debut comes expectations to meet or exceed the first album. For some this can overwhelming or feel as if they have to adhere to a certain sound. This sophomore slump can be a pressing issue for an artist, which is why taking a hiatus between albums can ultimately be beneficial in feeling confident in making music the artists wants to or feels confident in. And this is what Years & Years are doing as they ready the release of their second album Palo Santo, three years after their debut album release.

I have a tendency to over play a song I really like for a good month, and annoy anyone in a close proximity by looping the song. This is exactly what I happened when I discovered the band Years & Years.  I saw the video for their single “King” and was instantly hooked. You may not be familiar with the band, but you’ve likely heard this song in passing. It was everywhere in the summer of 2015.

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Queer Artist Spotlight: Pabllo Vittar

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Pabllo Vittar

One might be surprised to find out that one of the most famous drag queens at the moment has no relation to the success from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Pabllo Vittar is a Brazilian drag queen who is gaining more popularity by the day. She’s had a lot of success in her native Brazil, appearing on TV shows and releasing a Portuguese version the Major Lazer song “Lean On” entitled “Open Bar”.

The success of the song and her exposure lead to more international attention. Western audiences may recognize Vittar from the Major Lazer song “Sua Cara” which featured Vittar and fellow Brazilian artist Anitta that came out last summer. The collaboration blew up as the music video gained millions views in one day and currently has more than 380 millions views. Vittar has made quick friends with Diplo, working with his group Major Lazer and has collaborated with him for the song “Então Vai” from Vittar’s debut album Via Passar Mal. 

The success of Vittar’s debut album is unprecedented for a drag queen and has resulted in her being signed by a major record label. We can expect a second full length album from Vittar later this year. The album’s singles that recieved video treatment have reached massive success in regards to streams and views. 

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Queer Artist Spotlight: The RuPaul’s Drag Race Music Machine

 

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The cast of RuPauls Drag Race season 10

RuPaul’s Drag Race is a gay institution — that is just fact. Drag Race viewing parties are at all sorts of bars in the city. The show becomes a trending topic on Twitter every week during new episodes. It is an overall success.

For those unfamiliar with the show, RuPaul’s Drag Race is reality competition centered around drag queens competing for the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar”. The show is self-aware and is parodying the format of shows like America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway. The show is helmed by the supermodel of the world herself, RuPaul. Just an FYI drag in itself questions the notions of gender and the cis gender male drag queens often use she/her/hers pronouns while in drag. And it is important to know drag is not exclusive to just cis gender men, even though that is all mostly what is represented on the show. That fact itself raises criticism of the show and its casting.  

Over the course of ten seasons and three “All Stars” seasons, a common occurrence that becomes more apparent the more the show progresses is contestants from the show releasing original music. This was originally a trend by RuPaul who has been releasing an album around every season premiere week for years. RuPaul has released 11 full length studio albums dating back to the early 90’s and even has two greatest hit albums and an album of Drag Race contestants covering songs from previous albums. 

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Queer Artist Spotlight: Hayley Kiyoko

 

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Hayley Kiyoko, photo courtesy of Billboard

Lesbian Jesus has risen! Hayley Kiyoko is your newest musical obsession who just released her debut album earlier this year. But sadly her music hasn’t gotten that mainstream love and attention it deserves, which is a shame because Kiyoko shows great promise at being a pop artist with longevity.

Kiyoko is maybe more recognizable to some audiences from her work in acting. From my understanding her most prominent TV roles came from her roles on the Disney Channel original movie Lemonade Mouth and on the CBS show CSI: Cyber (how many spin-offs can one show have?). I’m not too familiar with her acting and let’s be real no Disney Channel original movie can ever top the masterpieces that are Cadet Kelly and Smart House.

She’s released three EPs and her debut album Expectations since finding success on television. In doing so she has amassed a loyal fan base and internet buzz around her. Her breakout single “Girls Like Girls” has over 90 million views for the music video and over 30 million streams on Spotify. I remember being unable to escape the song in my suggested recommendations in the summer of 2015. After eventually giving in and watching the video, I liked what I heard. 

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Pride Month – Queer Artist Spotlight

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Olly Alexander of Years & Years

I’ve always thought that lists or profiles of anything queer or LGTBQ+ related in the month of June, which is Pride month, were super corny. Themed content can come off as pandering or as trying to profit from the exposure of a particular group. However, I’ve come around, in a sense, because representation and visibility are important. This rings especially true for marginalized communities

But for me what’s important is accurate representation. I want to profile artists  from all of the LGBTQ+ spectrum that use their respective voices. But I don’t want this to be me exploiting gender identity and sexual orientation. My goal is to profile artists who aren’t defined by identity but incorporate it in their music and represent it realistically and don’t stick to stereotypes or fetishize anything.

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The Loneliness of Being a Gay Man in 2017

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Learning to Fly with Broken Wings and Learning to Love with a Broken Heart


I’ve oft discussed this phenomenon on my radio program (‘Trev,’ Wednesdays from 8:30 – 10:30 PM CT on uicradio.org and the mobile app Radio FX, also soundcloud.com/trevshow), one in which LGBTQ+ youth in particular struggle to fit in with a group that truly meshes with their identity and damaged sense of self. You see, the one thing that truly unites queer people is a certain level of damage. This damage can arise from a variety of sources and circumstance.

Paradoxically, gay men in particular find very little difficulty attaching themselves to individuals physically, sexually or romantically. What results is a very isolated and unstable foundation of support. Placing all bets on a single, extremely flawed individual is a sure fire way to return not only to the loneliness with which one was accustomed to before, but in fact an even deeper, darker sense of isolation. One fraught with the always-difficult transition from companionship back to solitude. The transition in and of itself is not one containing smooth or stable components.

The underlying issue is that, by their nature, gay men are, frequently, incredibly damaged. Indeed the basis of a romantic, male, homosexual relationship is one between two parties who haven’t been shown much love in life and yet are expected to somehow know how to do it. The results speak for themselves. I do not think it is a stretch to say that the extremely high rates of suicide among queer youth can be directly traced to this sort of all-or-nothing level of support.

See, when a heterosexual goes through a breakup, there is an entire community of support waiting for them in the wings. Mom, dad, sister uncle, all universally relate and empathize with the heartbroken straight boy. Conversely, homosexuality, even now, is something that at the very least isn’t spoken of among even the inner-most core of a family structure, even if it isn’t vocally opposed. Adding to this is the media’s frequent portrayal of happy, fulfilled gay couples (primarily white and male in nature).

The overused cliche of puberty is one of a caterpillar turning into a beautiful, transformed butterfly, which older butterfly creepily comment and make advances towards, but that’s besides the point. (These are the butterflies who could end up violently splattered on the grille of a car without even a modicum of remorse on behalf of literally everyone. Good riddance, you pervy rainbow moth). Gay puberty features significantly more bumps along the way.

Imagine, instead, of a caterpillar in its cocoon being ripped from the branch, stomped on repeatedly, and somehow managing to emerge, broken, but alive nonetheless. This damaged larva begins its post-transformation existence with broken wings, attempting to the best of its ability to assimilate into the life and culture of its peers. Often failing to do so, a fellow damaged monarch approaches it and offers, at once, a sense of familiarity, unity and aid. Finally, someone who gets it.

Instead of insects, imagine that damage lies within the heart of a human being. A heart that has faced dogma and violent opposition of its own kind. Mothers, grandparents and “friends” alike. The heart of a young, gay man is one that has been stomped and bruised since its inception. While it continues to beat, through lens of judgment and basic survival, it fails to empathize with those even within its own community. Infidelity, internalized homophobia, and all sorts of destructive behaviors are fueled by an overwhelming sense of self-hatred and guilt. Things that are not intrinsically or naturally a product of its lifestyle, but rather the environment with which it so inefficaciously tries to perform. A gay man is a butterfly with broken wings trying its best to fly. A gay man is a human with a broken heart, trying its best to love.


Trev Richards is host of the weekly talk program Trev on UIC Radio; Live, Wednesdays 8:30 – 10:30 PM Central Time. Follow/listen on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, iTunes and SoundCloud

Review: The Surround Me Tour

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Sweden has produced an abundance of talented individuals ranging from Tove Lo to Lykke Li to Avicii, and so on.

Considering my family originates from Sweden, I always take great pride in artists who share the same origins. The sense of connectedness makes me root for them that much more.

On October 21, I had the pleasure to see the indie-pop artist from Sweden, Léon, perform live at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall.

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