Saturday, February 9, 2008

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday...and Well, Friday I'm in Love: Weekly Mix #3

Girls just want to have fun and boys will be boys. But then again, there are girls who are boys who like boys to be girls. If there's one thing I've learned well over the years, it's that gender isn't rigid. And there's been plenty of explicit gender performance in music over the years from Mick Jagger wearing a dress at their last free concert in 1969 to Patti Smith's famous album cover for Horses to Annie Lennox performing as Elvis at the 1984 Grammies to Justine Frischmann and Brett Anderson's nearly identical appearances in the early 90's to Genesis P-Orridge and Lady Jayne's more drastic attempt at being each other to Kevin Barnes wearing a skirt, high boots, and make-up in his recent tours. For me, many classic moments in the history of music come back to gender subversion - from Morrissey tearing his shirt open on Top of the Pops during "William, It Was Really Nothing" to reveal the message "Will You Marry Me?" to Nicky Wire lounging on the cover of the NME with his shirt open to reveal "Culture Slut" written in lipstick.

I'm a huge fan of androgyny because androgyny, both external and internal, makes mores sense to me than prescribed gender roles. For example, I recently had to examine Super Bowl advertisements for my Social Semiotics class and I only became incensed with how restrictive and offensive their assumptions about gender are. Apparently, all men are boorish, beer-drinking, football-watching idiots and all women are primarily concerned with looking pretty and shaking their heads over the men. As Morrissey once said in a different context, these say nothing to me about my life.

I've been comfortable with androgyny from a young age, watching Labyrinth repeatedly as an eight-year-old and thinking that David Bowie looked wonderful while other kids found him frightening. As I grew older, I admired those who pushed the limits, male or female, and I'm still fascinated with issues surrounding androgyny, including why it isn't acceptable for men to wear dresses and skirts when women can wear pants, and why androgynous men are more likely to be praised and lusted over while androgynous women generally aren't.

For more about gender and popular music, see Simon Reynolds and Joy Press's book The Sex Revolts (even though there are several places I disagree) and the BBC documentary series Girls and Boys: Sex and British Pop Music. This mix is called Gender Trouble, named after Judith Butler's groundbreaking book about gender and performance. Rock music has always been about subversion, and this collection of songs challenges gender and sexuality in one way or another.

And I will not apologize for being a heterosexual girl attracted to pretty men in skirts and eyeliner.

Girls and Boys - Blur

I Like a Boy in School Uniform - The Pipettes

I'm a Boy - The Who

Vicar in a Tutu - The Smiths

Lola - The Kinks

Another Girl, Another Planet - The Only Ones

Boys Don't Cry - The Cure

Rebel Rebel - David Bowie

Being a Girl - Mansun

The Drowners - Suede

Nancy Boy - Placebo

Androgyny - Garbage

She's My Man - Sigue Sigue Sputnik

Hot One - Shudder To Think

Sister - Adam Cohen

Walk on the Wild Side - Lou Reed

Androgynous - The Replacements

The Origin of Love - Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Venus as a Boy - Bjork

Born a Girl - Manic Street Preachers

Weekly Mix #3 (Megaupload)

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