In exploring how music can inform identity for young men, it’s inexcusable to overlook the parallel effect that music has on male sexuality.
Just as any other message conveyed through music, sexuality has the power to reinforce, to fill in blanks, to influence opinions and to curve the attitudes of listeners.
Oftentimes, the idea of heteronormativity is projected across the music spectrum and reinforces its acceptance as the norm. Homosexuality, itself, is under fire from the music community, including listeners and the issue has yet to be resolved.
With growing support and acceptance in the music industry, homosexuality has reached a point where it can be discussed in music, albeit somewhat minimally and often separate of heterosexual-focused outlets. But, progress is being made.
LOGO TV and Pride Nation offer LGBTQ-oriented cable programming as does NBC’s “Ellen.” DeGeneres is an openly gay syndicated talk show host that many in the LGBTQ community have identified with since DeGeneres came out as a lesbian in 1997, according to wmagazine.com.
Media exposure to homosexuality helped to push some states to legalize gay marriage. As of April 2014, same-sex marriage is legal in 17 states and Washington D.C., according to freedomtomarry.org.
Songs from artists spanning multiple genres have impacted how music and sexuality intersect.
As a heterosexual hip-hop artist, Macklemore tackled the issue of homosexuality in the song “Same Love” with Ryan Lewis and Miranda Lambert. His support is significant because hip-hop often does not address this issue. In “Same Love,” Macklemore sings:
“Gay” is synonymous with the lesser
It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religion
Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment
The same fight that led people to walk-outs and sit-ins
It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference
Live on! And be yourself!
He pinpoints how hate is still so prevalent in our communities. Though it may not be outright violence, verbal expression of hate toward homosexuals is violence in its own right. He asks his listeners to answer the call of duty by saying, “look at what’s wrong here. Let people be themselves.”
In R&B, Frank Ocean croons about losing and remembering his first love in “Forrest Gump.” Ocean assumes the role of Jenny Curran, who was on the losing end of love, in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump.” Interestingly enough, Ocean is bisexual and this adds a layer of nuance to the song. He sings,
My Fingertips and my lips
They burn from the cigarettes
Forrest Gump you run my mind, boy
Running on my mind boy
When he sang about this, he illustrated the importance of loving with all that you have. When true love is lost, regardless of sexual orientation, haunts those affected.
The former “American Idol” contestant and pop star Adam Lambert belts about his desire to find unrequited love in “If I Had You.”
There’s a thin line tween a wild time and a flat
line baby tonight
It’s a struggle, gotta rumble tryin’ to find it
But if I had you, that would be the only thing I’d
Now openly identifying himself as gay, Lambert declares his readiness to do without things — fame, money and beauty — that people tend to fawn over. Lambert’s “If I Had You” is a song that anyone can relate to regardless of sexual orientation. It’s this universality and rawness of emotion that makes Lambert’s song so strong.
While many artists have succeeded in discussing sexual orientation and ideas regarding love in their music, hip-hop has clashed with discussions of homosexuality. The genre is largely defined by the masculinity of its male artists. This is as an interesting complex for the music industry, its many professionals and artists.
More specifically, gangsta rap is a genre proven to be one of the least representative of gay artists. In 2007 the now defunct Baby Phat Records label signed Caushun, who was supposed to be the first openly gay, gangsta rap artist. The push to bring mainstream attention to Caushun was featured in Robin R. Means Coleman and Jasmine Cobb’s journal article “No Way of Seeing: Mainstreaming and Selling the Gaze of Homo-Thug Hip-Hop.”
As it came to be known later, the “hip-hop persona” Caushun was not real but actually a joke gone too far, ghostwriter Ivan Mattias said in a confession to allhiphop.com. Those types of jokes make it difficult for gay artists to create space for themselves in mainstream music. Today, a clash of values and radicalness cloud the music business, erecting barriers for gay artists.
As this debate continues into the foreseeable future, my hope is that the music industry continues to become more inclusive to LGBTQ issues, particularly those of young men.
Megann Horstead is the North Central College Chronicle’s social media editor.
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