ART THINK & LEARN

The (r)evolution of “Queer” in Contemporary Music

Following the release of Frank Ocean’s monumental new album, Blonde , the topic of sexuality cascaded through the internet. As a publicly non-heterosexual, black man in hip-hop, the reactions to his album reflected the state of the public view on the LGBTQ community within society. Although the album (accompanied by a zine, pop-up store, and a visual prelude) was met with wide appreciation, praise, and  gratitude, there still seemed to be the sour taste of homophobia in the air of reviews.Within the rap industry most of the time it highly values authentic but when certain people express their truths, it isn’t met well within the community. We all know this contradictory idea lives within rap culture, but it actually transcends into all genres and even in other forms of art. Depending on origin, most genres have had instances where hate towards an artist’s personal life seemed to overthrow the actual art. There would be more of those types of instances in genres that were products of corporate manufacturing, such as pop, and not created to value true authenticity, one would think  but it seems to be the opposite. Would Frank Ocean’s album have been met with resistance by cisgender men if it was a pop album instead of rap/R&B? Would Young Thug in a Gucci dress be as opposed if he wasn’t a rapper?

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Young Thug for Calvin Klein.
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Frank Ocean for Calvin Klein.

Questions to ponder while thinking about the fact that neither of those men actually came out exclusively as gay. This is an issue of labeling, rather than actual identity, and again refers to the artist merely as a objects meant to conform to the consumer’s standards. One of the last times the pop industry was shook by a man outside of the “straight” lines was David Bowie, when he came out as bisexual in 1972 and wasn’t even classified as a pop artist at that time.

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Late, legendary recording artist, David Bowie.

The moral is, objectification is timeless within the sub-genre industry. But, this further emphasizes the other moral which is the importance of actually meeting the standards of being your truest self, no matter the presumed judgement. Never confine your artistry to the status quo because that is what gives the status quo power over creativity. Whether some believe it, we need artists like Frank Ocean for offering insight for those who refuse to let their orientation compromise their finesse and authorizing a snapshot of what our peers think about queer creatives in 2016. The truth is that the generational struggle for the LGBTQ community, in not only the art world, but also the real world has progressed partially. Being a black, creative female in this community, I know the strain of being classified quite well. I’m a minority within a minority within a minority, and seeing tweets like “I’m not homophobic but I can’t listen to this album because it’s a guy singing about a guy. It’s just weird”, scares the artist in me and reduces artistic abilities. I’m not the only person who reads those kinds of tweets and thinks that they could be the one that person on the other side of the screen is talking about. Sure, that opinion was average decades ago, the problem is is that it still exists to some extent. But thankfully, when one is a true artist, the passion of creating and expressing self undercuts the minor ridicule and we can be graced with the opulent works of art such as Blonde (This is a PSA in case you haven’t heard Frank’s album yet).

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