By Claire Dunham, Staff Writer
SUMMERTIME AND SELF-DISCOVERY
For many people, summer is the most anticipated time of the year. It’s a season full of sunshine, warm weather, vacations and festivals. While I do love all of these aspects of summer, my favorite part of the season is curating the perfect summer playlist. Although it sounds silly, these summer playlists were a transformative part of my adolescence.
It has been almost six years since I created my first summer playlist in 2016. During this time, I underwent a journey of self-discovery. As a teenager, influential experiences and new relationships helped me explore my identity.
When I sat down to start this year’s playlist, I suddenly realized why these playlists are so meaningful to me— they represent my growth. Music has always been an integral part of my life. Therefore, my music consumption is a reflection of the way I view myself.
Today, I am no longer the confused and scared girl who exclusively listened to angsty indie rock music (and a lot of Paramore). I am a 19-year-old who is infinitely more sure of herself and her identity. My varied music taste mirrors my gained confidence (but, trust me, I still love Paramore). The time has rolled around again for me to make my 2022 playlist. Looking through the songs, I am now able to read into them and view them as symbols of my personal development
THE POWER OF QUEER REPRESENTATION IN MUSIC
This summer, I also realized that there is a common thread between all of my playlists: each one contains Queer indie-pop music. Growing up in a small Kentucky town, my exposure to LGBTQ+ culture was very limited. So, in middle school, when I discovered LGBTQ+ artists like Dodie and Halsey and the online presence of their fans, it changed my life. Both of these artists spoke honestly about the beauty of Queer love and the struggles of grappling with sexuality and identity as a young person. It was the first time I genuinely felt seen.
I love Queer indie pop music, especially music with sapphic themes. It is the genre that taught me how to accept myself and love others.
This Pride Month I want to highlight some LGBTQ+ musicians from my playlist and discuss why the genre is an essential part of my summer soundtrack.
MY 2022 SUMMER PLAYLIST
When I first discovered WILLOW’s self-titled album in 2019, I instantly fell in love with her genre-defying sound. The musician’s entire discography is special, but her song “PrettyGirlz” is particularly unique. It is a playful commentary on femininity and the musician’s understanding of sapphic love. The song’s sound is whimsical and delicate. Likewise, the lyrics of “PrettyGirlz” are also dream-like and meditative. Throughout the song, WILLOW envisions her dream girl, while also contemplating society’s unrealistic beauty standards for women.
In an interview with Red Table Talk, the singer stated, “I love men and women equally” and many of her songs, including “PrettyGirlz” and “Female Energy, Part 2,” are about her Queer sexuality and gender identity. WILLOW’s thoughtful lyrics and dynamic voice are the perfect addition to any summer playlist. Similarly, her self-assured nature makes her a standout performer within the Queer indie community and one of my personal role models.
Last September, I saw King Princess perform at Governor’s Ball Music Festival. I spent the following months obsessing over her discography. Queer love is a prominent theme in their music, and their hit song, “1950,” was actually inspired by the 1952 lesbian romance novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. Just like WILLOW, King Princess skillfully reimagines femininity (and gender identity itself) with lyrics like “I’m just a lady” and bold performance makeup.
King Princess’ “Talia” is another Queer indie-pop anthem on my summer playlist. Its lyrics are about heartbreak. Despite feeling out of control within this relationship, King Princess is confident in her unwavering love for a girl. As someone who struggled to understand themselves for so long, there is something incredibly comforting about hearing a musician be completely confident in their Queer sexuality. Additionally, the hypnotic indie-pop melody of the song is perfect for an evening summer drive.
If I had to choose one song to encapsulate the sound of modern Queer indie-pop, it would be “Silk Chiffon” by Muna and Phoebe Bridgers. The song’s melody is upbeat and catchy. Also, its music video is inspired by the classic LGBTQ+ film But I’m a Cheerleader. In the video, Phoebe Bridgers and Muna band members all wear bright pink outfits as they sing and dance together outside in the glimmering sun. The bright imagery perfectly complements the song’s lyrics about joy and Queer love.
Similar to WILLOW and King Princess, Muna band members sing candidly about their Queerness. “Silk Chiffon” was the group’s first release with Saddest Factory Records. It will be featured on their upcoming album which is set to be released on June 24. If the album’s other tracks are anything like “Silk Chiffon,” I can guarantee that they will also be added to my 2022 summer playlist.
A REFLECTION ON MUSIC AND PRIDE
As a young person, exploring your identity is a stressful task. Additionally, the pressure to be a perfect student, daughter, and sister was almost unbearable for me. Discovering Queer music brought me one step closer to self-acceptance. I will always be grateful for the musicians who served as role models for me and other young Queer people.
Pride Month is a time to reflect on LGBTQ+ history and celebrate the entire community. To me, Queer indie-pop music is the perfect way to celebrate my own Queer identity. This Pride Month, as I listen to my summer playlist, I will also celebrate the closeted girl I once was and everything she went through.
Find more of WERS' Pride month essay and article series here.