Don’t you know your queen


Music recommendations are dead. That’s the main reason I stopped posting a couple of years ago. It seemed the only people reading my blog were PR interns. Now we seem to operate in a society where content comes after all the business modelling. “I want to change the world… okay so let’s start a website about that… Okay let’s hire some writers to add content and not pay them, and then after a while find a way to get our site to automatically generate ‘content’ by sourcing it from others’ blogs, Instagram pages, websites.” I too wondered if I was just a middle man and this blog was an egotistical venture; I don’t create music, I’m writing about someone else’s content. I do write my own personal things ‘offline’; short stories, anecdotes, diary entries, but I’m not confident in publishing these and they lack cohesion. And I certainly don’t have the energy or tenacity to bend the whole world.

Ultimately, streaming services have made things easier for those hunting down new music. If you have an account with Spotify, it tracks your ‘follows’ and ‘likes’ and then recommends music via aggregate technical jargon blah… So, as I understand it (and I don’t fully care enough to, if I’m honest), if Steve from Illinois (who is basically my twin) likes Beyonce, Frank Ocean, Taylor Swift, Kat Frankie, Kelela and King Krule, I will be recommended other things he likes (maybe, Let’s Eat Grandma). And he will be recommended things I like, and so too the things Beverly from Paris likes (not really a French name, but she lives there for the purpose of randomness). Like for like. What everyone calls an “echo chamber.” “You do you.” It seems like we’re still only starting to understand that the internet is an entity that popped into mainstream existence in the mid-nineties. There’s no stopping the internet, just as there’s no stopping oxygen or the sea. And the internet is very self-soothing. You don’t need to leave the house, not even your bed. There was a dangerously depressing period in my life, when I was still living in Canberra, where I was drinking wine in bed and watching tv shows on my laptop. I lived alone in a two bedroom townhouse, with a backyard, complete privacy, a relaxing living area, but I still chose to remain in one room of the house, in bed. Sure, a lot of that was the cold outside, but it was also cause I could order Thai food on my laptop and only leave my queen bed to answer the door, and even then, I’d just about will the delivery boy to leave it on my doorstep so he wouldn’t see me in my chocolate and wine stained pyjamas. I’m very social, but the temptation of bed and food was all-consuming.

It gets boring real fast. The same food, in the same room, watching the same type of tv and listening to the same music. Sometimes I will listen to a song Spotify has recommended and it is so spot on that I won’t even fully comprehend what I’m listening to and I wouldn’t recognise that it’s new to me. Sometimes I will go and find some death metal, classical or country music to break up the monotony. I have those itches.

Music is supposed to be a form of art and there should be an element of feeling moved by it. We even harvest it for therapy

I also want to be challenged by music, and discover things beyond my walls. I happened across Kelela’s Take Me Apart last year (my friend Katie recommended her years ago and so I kept an ear out for last year’s release). With the album, Kelela did something unique but tonally familiar. Take Me Apart starts heavily electronic and Kelela’s vocals are buried in Kwes’s sophisticated production. Gradually, Kelela’s vocals come through more clearly, until towards the end of the album she’s singing against a more acoustic backdrop, with long periods of nothing but vocals (layered, looped and harmoniously rich). Then I read her article at Resident Advisor. And I read an article in PAPER. Both articles show that, where men say something once and that’s enough, women have to say the same thing several times to be heard, and for black women it’s even more. She has had to work hard with her career to get from being ignored to being heard, and then she demonstrates this on her album through its production, and the gradual and literal emergence of her voice. Although the album deals with heartbreak, the closing track is designed to encourage other black female artists to pursue their talent. It’s been ages since I’ve seen that kind of theme being superimposed in a way that takes what is essentially an album full of singles to add cohesion, focus and purpose. I was exposed to this album because my friend recommended Kelela to me. Not Spotify.

I’m not here to moralise. I love Spotify, I love being recommended music from all angles and I’m not one to rabbit on about integrity with listening; that’s silly. But I have noticed I need to be more conscious about stoking the music discovery from out beneath my duvet.

And so, being true to this site, I’m going to recommend something musically leaning but also social (and also queer, as it happens). Next weekend is (apparently) the Queen’s long birthday weekend. To exploit the extra day off work, I’ll be going to Heaps Gays‘ Qweens Ball to see HANDSOME and Electric Fields play, among others. While this event is sold out (though I’m sure you can find tix from last minute bail-outs) Heaps Gay host parties about once a month for LGBTI. Heaps Gay is one of the first event organisers in Sydney (at least in my experience) that hosts parties that aren’t just exclusively for gay men, unlike most of Sydney’s inner East gay shindigs (Beresford Sundays is full of up-yourself upper middle-class, gay gym-junkie meat puppets). Heaps Gay events are not engineered towards hooking up (though I know my friends have ‘taste tested’ at Heaps Gay) but more of a social space for gays, lesbians, trans and the queer community. Which sounds obvious, and some would say dated. But actually, for me personally, during my formative gay years, lesbians, gays, trans and bi didn’t mingle. I actually have a few friends who still argue that trans should not be part of the LGB(TI) rights movement, because being gay is “not a gender issue.” Which is silly. Of course being gay, lesbian or bi hinges off your gender. It’s not an attraction to a particular sex that makes you this way, it’s the fact that you share the same gender with that sex. I digress (a lot). So to me these social events, that include LGBTI and don’t over-qualify, have a lot of value, by virtue of their inclusiveness.

Heaps Gay have also been really involved with the music industry in Australia. Playing at the Qweens’ Ball, HANDSOME is a bit like Jamie XX (she formerly performed more in the style of a singer-songwriter but seems more focussed now on production and electronic manipulation) and Electric Fields play uplifting dance music with soul. Oh, how I’ve missed danceable music that isn’t just a soulless beat to spur on coke highs, but actually takes you on an emotional trip!

I haven’t heard of the other performers, and not all of them are on Spotify. Which is more of a motivator to go. Maybe they’re terrible and I’ll hate the music. But so what? At least I’ll be out of bed.

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