Sexuality In Music
Whoever you are, wherever you are . . I’m starting to think we’re a lot alike. Human beings spinning on blackness. All wanting to be seen, touched, heard, paid attention to.” When I think of Odd Future, I think of #swag, chants of “free earl” (I think it worked?) and some more swag, never enough swag, or hashtags. I don’t think of statements of romantic and endearingly genuine homosexual summer love. I doubt many would. Yet that’s precisely what Odd Future star Frank Ocean did in a superbly written and deeply personal message posted on his personal tumblr page. “4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Every day almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide.” I applaud his statement as many other media types have, throwing around the word “brave” and making intellectual sounds about culture and change within the hip hop community. But I think they are missing the point, and I’m left with two questions.
Firstly, why is this a big deal? The topics of culture and change are obviously the answer, but doesn’t it seem sad to you that in this day and age, the stating of sexual preference by a musician is cause for so much discussion? I do.
And second, what does gay Wellington man Calum Bennachie think about this recent development? He is the man whose letter to Big Day Out organisers eventually led to the dropping of Odd Future for the 2012 bill for “homophobic lyrics and culture”. Among other things, Bennachie claimed that an Odd Future set would lead to a greater increase of STIs contracted by the LGBT community. No really, it’s in the letter. This is despite the fact that at the time Odd Future already contained one “out” lesbian, Syd the Kid — and now Frank Ocean as well. Like any “wolf pack”, the crew is as tight as it is rad. They must surely have all known, accepted and still loved Frank. I mean, he’s still in the crew. Hip hop is art. Art is conceptual. Odd Future understand this. Their lyrics aren’t based in reality. Their lyrics aren’t commands to their loyal army. As Tyler, the Creator says in his 2011’s Goblin, “Ok, you guys caught me… I’m not a fuckin’ rapist, or a serial killer… I lied.” Odd Future’s aim is to shock. Their lyrics are their weapon of choice, and the sexuality in their music is a means to an end.
It’s not a music thing. It’s a society thing, and it’s not just the perpetrators but the enablers as well. And, ashamedly, I have been one of those. For those sad people who have not heard of Dunedin duo MANtHyNG, I pity you. They make electro pop bangers, delivered on a saucy dish of increasingly naked man. For me, they are equivalent to that friend you have who you only see every now or then, but when you do party with them, you clock the Game of Life on Level Epic. They are two openly gay and wonderful men, two guys who have that enviable trait of knowing exactly who they are and being comfortable in their own skin. This is at every gig apart from one, where I stood in a crowd while a group of guys stood behind me yelling “faggot” until MANtHyNG decided to cut their set short and pack up. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t do anything, but I should have. I’m sorry Stan and Steve.
So why do some parts of society view overt homosexuality in music as offensive but teenage hypersexuality as acceptable? Carly Rae Jespen is handing out her number to strangers, J Biebs is becoming that edgy boy all the girls want to domesticate after promising they were his babies, and One Direction are being all around fantastic, spawning surprisingly good Dunedin-based greasy offshoots. And if you haven’t seen the South Park episode on the Jonas Brothers and their purity rings, you have a hole in your life that you desperately need to fill. The point is, sex sells — as long as it’s straight sex being sold to young girls with their parent’s money. But maybe in the future we’ll look back at the turning point when a young man named Frank told the world how felt, became a “free man”, and proved that music doesn’t have a preference.