In a time where music is being created, streamed, and listened to more than ever before comes so many great out and proud LGBTQ+ musicians who are purposeful in involving their queerness in both their public images and their music - see Syd, King Princess, girl in red, SOPHIE, Kevin Abstract, dodie, Superfruit, Snail Mail, and the list continues. But even in a booming era of representation, there’s something about a little subtext that, even if contrived at times, still ticks all of my music consuming boxes.
In honour of Pride, I’ve compiled a small playlist of songs I have decided are queer, specifically for women who love women (WLW.) What do I mean by this? To me, these are songs that, while maybe not made by queer artists or were not written about queer love, still have enough subtext to be interpreted as queer. Songs like this have a special place in my heart. They allow room for interpretation and give off the quiet, lovelorn vibe of watching someone you love from afar with repressed feelings, longing for someone who cannot love you back, having to be secretive about a relationship, or being too scared to express those emotions not just in fear of personal rejection, but societal ostracization. I can’t always put my finger on exactly what it is that makes me feel this way about a song, but while I’m no spokesperson, I’m sure it’s a feeling many queer folks have known at some point. Hey, when media doesn’t represent you frequently or accurately most of the time, you get nifty and look to subtext for answers.
I should note that I don’t intend to speculate on any artist’s sexuality or claim they’re something they are not. Rather, the songs I’ve chosen convey, to me, the feeling I’ve expressed above, regardless of the sexuality of the artists themselves. The artists mentioned have likely publicly said what their songs are about, but of course, art is mostly free to interpret. Whether they’ve disclosed their sexualities to the public or keep it private is separate to the songs on this list.
I want to be like your last girl
She's got looks that drive you wild and
Love the way she wears her makeup
She would be so nice to wake up to
She's so sweet
And she's so pretty
Even more than me
I like to describe Sophie Allison’s sound, better known as Soccer Mommy, as Avril Lavigne’s softer younger sister - think more “I’m With You”, less “Girlfriend”. Her 2018 album Clean spoke directly to all my middle school emotions, with themes of unrequited crushes, not feeling good enough or having to live up to one’s expectations, and admiring the cool girls from afar, which is what the first song on this playlist is about. In it, Allison laments over feeling insecure in a new relationship and frequently compares herself to whom she perceives as her partner’s superior “Last Girl”, meaning ex. But every time I listen to this song, I can’t help but imagine Allison’s crooning vocals painting a picture of a girl secretly pining after the Last Girl herself.
(See also her song “Cool” for the same vibes. But really, check out all of her music.)
Easily won, weary of losing
Gullible girl, weak and alluring
Will we break our rules, get drunk in the dark
Laughing aloud at the spinning stars?
One third of the indie rock band boygenius, Dacus’s music is well acquainted with love and heartbreak in all forms, not just romantic. She’s described “Body to Flame” from her 2018 album Historian as a short-lived but intense friendship, and with lyrics like those, all I hear is a girl falling in love with her either straight or uninterested female best friend. Her deep, floaty vocals escalate in volume and tone after the explosion of guitars midway through the song, and the imagery of a body set aflame is all too accurate of a representation when one is experiencing unrequited love - like everything, including you, is burning. It’s a morbid and somehow beautiful image that fueled this choice, especially because it involves a friendship with unresolved, secretive feelings.
I am too stressed out to
Do the thing that they won't do
But why should I fight back?
I’m just not like that
And I’m sorry if
I have been a real bad friend
Your face too close to mine
To hear you talk
Take one look at the title of this song and tell me it isn’t gay. A song cannot be named “Sappho”, after the ancient Greek poet known for her poems about lesbianism and whose name birthed the word “sapphic” and heterosexuality comes to mind. Coming from her 2016 album Next Thing, Greta Kline, better known as Frankie Cosmos, sings of seeking out a friend and apologizing, perhaps after acting cold or indifferent toward them. Cold and indifferent is a natural and protective response to liking someone - act too cool to care and they’ll never notice, especially when queer and not knowing if the subject of desire is, too. Cosmos’s meek and intimate vocals sound confessional, just like Sappho’s poetry, and of course, I’m inclined to believe the friend is a woman or not male.
Your tears, they're cleansing all my spheres
You touch my hair, I'm playing on your bass
But we don't care, we're messing up your space
You got nowhere to live, but you'll go back to space
Huh, take me with you
As Cartoon Network lovers might be able to guess from the title, Willow Smith’s “Marceline” is a love song to the Adventure Time vampire queen from Willow’s 2016 debut ARDIPITHECUS. Marcy is a punk rock trickster sapphic icon, speculated by fans to have had a past romantic relationship with and persisting feelings for Princess Bubblegum throughout the show, and the two became a couple in the series finale. Like me, it appears Willow is a huge fan of the character. Her vocals soar over a simple guitar pattern, and she is fantasizing about running somewhere far away with a girl she loves in order to escape the bullshit and simple-mindedness of humanity, which perfectly matches the surreal atmosphere of Adventure Time.
Reach out the car window
Trying to hold the wind
You tell me you love her;
I give you a grin
Oh all I ever wanted was a
Life in your shape
So I follow the white lines
Follow the white lines
Keep my eyes on the road
As I ache
I had to save my favourite artist on this list for last. When the idea of this playlist popped into my head, there was no question that Mitski Miyawaki’s heart-piercing, tear-jerking, existential crisis-inducing music would be included. Scroll through the comments of her songs on YouTube and you’ll find the occasional “this is gay culture!” and “mitski invented gay rights!” I scoured through her discography in search of the perfect song and was tempted to pick all of them and dedicate the whole damn thing to her. There were so many strong WLW sounding contenders - “I Bet on Losing Dogs”, “Francis Forever”, “Pearl Diver”, “A Loving Feeling”, and her cover of “Let’s Get Married” by Bleachers to name a few. The winner ended up being “Strawberry Blonde” from her 2013 album Retired from Sad, New Career in Business. Out of her five records, it’s her latter three that have received the most commercial attention, but her debut and sophomore records are some serious buried treasure. “Strawberry Blonde” is short and zippy like a car drive with friends on a summer day. In it, she yearns for someone who loves another, and its fast pace mimics the jumbled, flip-flopping emotions one feels when they have an unrequited crush, how everything can feel so bright and beautiful and so sad. I don’t have as convincing of a reason as to why this song screams WLW to me like I did with the others, but as I mentioned, it’s a feeling that I cannot pinpoint. The sturdiest argument I’ve got is that I’ve just always imagined the person calling Mitski’s name in the song and the shape left in a bed of grass to be that of a woman. Also, it’s my playlist. I make the rules.
Happy Pride, and may whatever songs you listen to this month, whether it be on your way to a Pride parade or lounging around the house, be gay.
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