Lately, it seems that we’ve had a barrage of "are they/aren’t they" female musicians, who either exude or feign interest in other women and dismiss putting labels on their true sexuality. It’s hard to know if it’s a sign of the times, in which people aren’t interested in adapting to the notions of what "lesbian" or "bisexual" means, or if it’s pressure from management or labels to seem elusive and attainable by anyone — girls or boys.
This makes artists like Mirah, who has been openly queer throughout her 13-year career, a reminder that there are some artists who aren’t interested in anything other than being true to themselves. In an interview with The Star Observer, she said:
“I totally understand why some queer artists don’t put it in bold at the top of their bio — when I’m described as a ‘lesbian singer-songwriter,’ it sounds so dorky.
“But I realised early on — from when I was having a meeting about my first album coming out — that if I didn’t make [my sexuality] part of who I am in a public way from the very beginning, people would keep misunderstanding me and my lyrics.”
How important is it for musicians to be understood? That’s arguable — many artists feel that their lyrics don’t need to be explained in any way, that each listener has their own interpretations. But others have specific messages they are interested in getting across (think Le Tigre, Alix Dobkin, Ani Difranco). It’s not to say that one is more important or right than the other, but it’s good to be reminded that some musicians are more interested in communicating with audiences rather than just "entertaining" them.
Again, one is not more important than the other, but music, like all art, transcends entertainment. It holds so much more meaning and depth to listeners, so for Mirah to sing songs about relationships and to want us to know they are about other women means that she is not just trying to gain fans based on intrigue and mystery.
It’s also interesting to note that many (if not all) queer artists have to decide if they want to be out about their sexuality, in business terms. They have to decide how to position themselves to fans, and some choose, like their lyrics, to be open for interpretation, rather than put forth who they feel they are and what they stand for, without question.
What do fans want from artists? Are they interested in songs they can connect with from living through similar experiences, or is it a fantasy? How big of a part does authenticity and the musicians’ personal lives play in who listens to them or likes them?
Some artists have gone on the record to say they aren’t interested in gaining fans who like them just because they are gay. But why not? If someone hears about an artist and gives them a listen because they can identify with something in their persona and then in their music, why would you want to discredit their interest in your artistry?
And, on the flip side, if an artist is homophobic or misogynist or stands for something one doesn’t agree with (politically, socially, etc.), listeners should know and be able to choose not to buy their albums.
I’d imagine that many of you feel the same way I do: If an artist I like is lesbian, queer, or bisexual, it’s just an added bonus. I don’t listen to them because they’re gay, but it might give me more incentive to try a new artist. It doesn’t mean I’ll like it. And I truly can’t believe anyone would listen to music they don’t enjoy because an artist has same-sex relationships and writes lyrics about them.
Do you listen to any musicians just because they are gay? Do you prefer listening to queer artists because of their lyrical content and meaning?