Tuesday 5 September 2017

she looks so perfect: ten artists that shaped my sexuality

currently trapped in a cycle of wanting to be at home when i'm at work, then feeling guilty for wasting my days off, i'm attempting to push through my lack of motivation by writing this post. said post, inspired by this vice article and the recent pride festivities (which i watched from a distance and spent the whole weekend working through) is a celebration of the most memorable videos from my youth which most likely had a hand in me being Not Straight.

teenagers currently questioning their sexuality have a plethora of openly gay artists to look up to, from pop mainstays tegan and sara, halsey and fifth harmony's lauren jauregui to newcomers like shura and hayley kiyoko. for the boys there's troye sivan, olly alexander of years & years and frank ocean, while tyler, the creator recently alluded to having relationships with guys "since 2004" in his new track ain't got time. however, when i was 14 and questioning myself there were hardly any openly gay pop stars, and if there were i certainly wasn't aware of them. instead, i and many others, tried to seek acceptance from artists like katy perry, as her single i kissed a girl dominated the charts. back then we lacked the vocabulary to explain and understand why such a song was problematic, so it's reassuring to know that nowadays there are genuine artists out there who are finally breaking boundaries and using same-sex pronouns in their songs

as always this list is in no particular order, as simply trying to narrow down a top ten of all the female pop stars i had a crush on proved extremely difficult. 

1. t.A.T.u - all the things she said

of course i had to start with arguably the most controversial music video of the early 2000s and one i still can't believe was shown on mainstream music channels back in the day. though as this article points out, issues around feminism and gay rights were yet to come to the forefront of popular culture, meaning restrictions on what was shown were probably more lenient. this video came out in 2002, which would have made me seven years old at the time, and i have a vague recollection of watching it, wide eyed in a state of awe and complete surprise, before school one morning. of course being so young, my mind would have quickly moved onto other more pressing topics such as learning the meaning of vowels or whatever else seven year olds are taught at school, but when i had my Big Gay Realisation at the age of 14, this video stood out as the first time i'd ever seen two women interact in a ~romantic~ way. however nothing is ever as it seems and in 2014 one half of the duo stated how she wouldn't accept her son if he came out as gay, and the illusion was shattered. yulia volkova and lena katina were both straight and the video was simply a ploy to sell more records to sexually frustrated teenage boys. despite all this, the song is still A Banger and hasn't aged a day, and it still gives me the same feelings i had when i first saw it as a kid. 

2. shakira - whenever, wherever

a staple track of G-A-Y's playlist, this (still) iconic song was released in 2001 (!!) as part of shakira's first english language album, laundry service, and it was all over the music channels throughout my childhood. i remember being mesmerised by her gyrating hips, cascading blonde locks and that scene where she rolls around in the mud, even trying to replicate her moves myself, though nowadays that can only be achieved after several vodka and cokes. the song hasn't aged a day and neither has shakira, who looks better than ever, meaning my crush is very much alive and well. her video with rihanna for the song can't remember to forget you is queer-baiting at its finest but proves that she's still Got It, whatever It is. 

3. holly valance - kiss kiss 

the video for her 2002 single kiss kiss needs little explanation; a barely-clad holly poses suggestively in a tunnel made up of tiny spotlights, her modesty covered only by some strip lighting. the song, a remake of the 2001 version by turkish singer tarkan, went to number one in the UK and australia and it's not hard to see why, as it's infectiously catchy some fifteen years later. 

4. kylie minogue - can't get you out of my head 

though the australian soap star turned pop legend will always be remembered for her gold hot pants in the spinning around video, it was her barely-there white ensemble she wore in the video for 2001's can't get you out of my head that i can't get out of my head (i had to). with its simple arrangement and catchy hooks, the song went double-platinum in the UK and still sounds superb today, though the dancers with their red visors always slightly terrified me as a six year old. the accompanying album fever - which i owned a physical copy of - would go on to produce more excellent singles such as in your eyes and love at first sight (i always envied her personalised bangle and earring combination, though i'm not quite sure why she had a key around her neck; early 2000s fashion was wild), further strengthening my crush on kylie. 

5. rachel stevens - i said never again (but here we are)

it saddens me that my twelve year old brother doesn't even know who s club 7 are and will never experience the pure, unadulterated moment of euphoria that occurs when don't stop movin' is played in a nightclub. their back catalogue really needs no explanation - if you can listen to school disco staple reach without at least tapping a foot, we can't be friends - but perhaps my feelings towards rachel stevens could do with some unpacking. with my middle name also being rachel, i felt a sense of kinship with the singer, but looking back at her video for i said never again (but here we are) and remembering my obsession with the group's TV show miami 7, which aired on CBBC in the 1990s and early 2000s, it was clearly something more. since the release of her last album come and get it in 2005, she's been keeping a low profile, but her appearance on the latest series of celebrity masterchef had fans - including me - in awe of her youthful looks, and i pray one day she'll go back into the studio. 

6. spice girls - say you'll be there 

yet another clever marketing ploy that captured the hearts of millions in the 90s, the spice girls brought "girl power" to the masses and the different personality of each girl ensured everyone could relate to at least one of them, creating a closer bond between fan and artist (personally i think i'm a mix of posh and baby, with a hint of ginger). though wannabe was voted the catchiest song of all time back in 2014, it was say you'll be there that became my favourite song - that harmonica solo !! - and video. to this day i continue to lust after mel b's leopard print bustier and geri's bright red platform boots, but it was also baby's barely there black mini dress and posh's skin tight PVC catsuit that i found myself fixated on. decades later and my attraction to each member of the group hasn't wavered, and the video still serves as my number one source of style inspiration. 

7. britney spears - ...baby one more time/(you drive me)crazy 

picking just one britney song that made me feel Some Type Of Way is pretty much impossible and i may have to devote an entire post to my favourite britney anthems, but the two videos that stand out most from my childhood are as follows. firstly, her debut single ...baby one more time, which contains no shortage of serious Looks. as well as the iconic schoolgirl outfit - i was always envious of her pink fluffy hair bobbles - britney, the original queen of atheleisure sports a pink crop top and white tracksuit bottoms while showing off her impressive flexibility, before changing into a similar yellow and red tracksuit, performing an iconic dance routine in the school gym at the song's emotional peak. next up is (you drive me) crazy, which features a cameo appearance from melissa joan hart of sabrina and the teenage witch fame, and a spectacular dance off. again she sports some pink fluffy hair bobbles and a pastel pink waitress uniform which she quickly swaps for a metallic green crop top - for years i have been searching for something similar to add to my own wardrobe, without success - and some low rise black trousers, which hopefully won't come back into fashion. i was never sure if i wanted to be britney or be with britney, and to this day i still feel the same. 

8. christina aguilera - dirrty

i'm noticing a pattern here - most of these videos were released in 2002 and the majority featured scantily clad women. in aguilera's case, this was the result of a desire to change her image and break away from the more innocent image she portrayed in genie in a bottlethe video for dirrty certainly marked a shift away from her bubblegum roots, and it never seemed to be off the air. another video worthy of mentioning is lady marmalade, which featured christina as well as pink, lil' kim and mya (i don't know either). aside from being an iconic song, every look is impeccable, but christina's still stands out as my favourite. 

9. sugababes - round round 

this was a last minute addition to the post as it came up on youtube as a recommended video and i was instantly transported back to when i first saw it as a kid. the all black ensembles still speak to my sense of style today, but it's mutya's impressive pigtails and piercings that stuck in my mind; she was always my favourite member for reasons my seven year old self didn't understand until much later. the song, like many of their other hits, hasn't aged a day and i would still Lose My Shit if this came on during a night out. 

10. the pussycat dolls - buttons 

another song that i only remembered after it was recommended on youtube, my love for the pussycat dolls knew no bounds. i had a physical copy of their debut album PCD - released in 2005 - and vividly remember poring over the booklet, trying to learn the lyrics. looking back, said lyrics were probably not the most appropriate for ten year old me, and my favourite song back then was actually sway, a cover of dean martin's 1954 rendition. the album still Goes Off though, and i can guarantee it will be on repeat after i finish this post, but it was the video for buttons which captivated me as a child. i was always envious of their seemingly effortless choreography but also of snoop dogg and his closeness with nicole scherzinger. however my favourite member of the group was actually the one with the red hair - carmit bachar - and i always focused on her when watching their videos. a quick search of wikipedia reveals she is now part of an electronic duo called ladystation, and while they aren't on spotify, their EP from 2015 can be found on bandcamp and i'm definitely a fan, so hopefully future releases will follow.

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