By Jake Paterson, First Year English
In many ways, the presence of music in the queer community allows for a safety and expression that can be achieved in no other forms of art. Nowhere else can you become one with a community listening to a song in your bedroom or in a club, knowing that both ways you are united by love from those who care about you most deeply, whether we have met them yet or not.
Queer love songs aren't as platonically binary as singular love letters of yearning to a distant partner, but are efforts to find liberty and connection with a shared belief in what love can be. A loving relationship or the deepest resonance of self-love and expression come into the same space. Love is dynamic, and these songs show exactly why.
'Immaterial' - SOPHIE
To think of love in a world created purely to be your own, in being able to find yourself along a forever shifting plane between the two biological binaries, I think of SOPHIE. ‘Immaterial’, from the revolutionary OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES, breathes colour to this grey area. Through SOPHIE’s expression of art and her mind, gender and love become whatever you choose them to be. Love becomes an emotion unique to everyone that it passes through, and ultimately denies any sense of a universal definition. Sonically, ‘Immaterial’ is overt and present. It is at once unpredictable and rhythmic, arresting and alarming, and moreover impossible to turn off. Its hyperpop sentiments recall the influence of A. G. Cook’s PC Music, but in her own unmistakeable style. Having passed away last year, SOPHIE’s message that you can be ‘any form, any shape, anywhere’ resonates harder now through every listen: to commit your love to being yourself and to the people who give you the most life possible.
Image: Transgressive Records
'Make Me Feel' - Janelle Monae
Make Me Feel – Janelle Monae
Bisexual anthem ‘Make Me Feel’ is raw, unapologetic, and celebratory. Sensuality is an ever present force through its textures – reminiscent of Prince, who contributed to the track before his passing. Monae’s message is clear: ‘Baby, don’t make me spell it out for you’. The energy it exudes is impossible to resist, just as in the music video where she catches the eye of every person in the room. Her love is fluid and adaptable to any temptation that arises – the song offers a place where there is simply no limitation to desire, expression, exploration, and experimentation. ‘Make Me Feel’ is both empowering and intimate, life affirming in that the scope of love is never-ending, and will always refuse to be held down by the boundaries set around it.
Image: Atlantic Records
'On the Floor' - Perfume Genius
Touching on the obsession and unrequited love that comes with first falling in love, ‘On The Floor’ is an 80s synth pop exploration of the very living and breathing entity of love and its potential to alter both yourself and the partners you hope to find it in. Speaking to Pitchfork, Perfume Genius highlighted that crushes are ‘just this buzzing thing’ that keeps you alive to the possibility of solitary desire, but also the possibility for it to still be lit on fire and generate sparks: ‘it’s still love, it’s still care’. It calls him back to being young and closeted: it ‘feels like love, this feels like what I want and what feels natural, but then there’s this mix of shame and fear’. There are boundaries to expression, and doubt under the definition of love set by others and not yourself. Yet the song’s progression shows that self-definition is still possible, to finally break through to genuine connection: ‘The dreaming / Bringing his face to mine’ becomes ‘The rise and fall / of his chest on me’.
Image: Camille Vivier
'Stay High' - Brittany Howard
Staying away from the overtness of Monae and SOPHIE, Brittany Howard places love on an organic scale – it’s not superficial or ever-changing, but rather a solid object. Love involves building family ties and exploring your sensuality. Being the frontwoman of Alabama Shakes, Howard’s ‘Stay High’ is an indie track effortlessly infused with soul and blues – the refrain is impossible to forget, and its layered simplicity is both delicate and irresistible. Just as it finishes you can’t wait to get back to the first line: ‘I already feel like doing it again, honey’. She makes it clear that life and love are all about sacrifice and reward: ‘We work hard and grind and hustle all day […] At night, where we get to play’. The track is grounded in reality and encourages us to take true pleasure in love. Love gives us momentum to continue through life without faltering, pushing onward to ‘stay high’.
Image: ATO Records
'Comme Si' - Christine and the Queens
Christine and the Queens told Pitchfork that ‘Comme si’ is ‘a carnal call for sensuality and a call to dissolve as a way to exist and mend. It’s also a love song to the pop song format that changed my life, because with music I got to be who I wanted to be’. It is then about exploring yourself completely through others and through music, whether performing and losing yourself in voice or choreography, or just disappearing into the art and work of those who set the precedent before you. Love is cast as an affinity to all the things that give you life, becoming the person of your own desires as well as losing yourself in the arms of another. It’s unmistakeably her style, and the interweaving of both English and French lyrics again cross this boundary of sensuality, in finding love wherever it chooses to manifest itself for you.
Image: Because Records
Featured image: Alexader Grey, Unsplash
What's your favourite queer love song?