I’ve been thinking about duets lately; specifically those that involve gay women and a straight dude. Like the xx, for one. Despite Romy and her bandmates’ saying that the lyrics aren’t meant to be sung to one another, but rather at the same time to different people, it’s likely most listeners are taking them in context of one collaborative song in which they are singing to each other, romantically. Perhaps it’s one reason why Romy doesn’t speak about her sexuality all too often. (The only time she has thus far is in a joint interview with her girlfriend for Tourist Magazine.)
Ladyhawke has recorded a Christmas duet with Tim Burgess, who says it “has a sort of [Phil] Spector-ish, Ronettes kind of feel to it.” I have no doubt it’ll be great - and who doesn’t love a good holiday tune? - but I wonder if it’ll be some sort of “All I Want for Christmas Is You”-esque romantic yuletide jam. But Pip isn’t one to discuss her sexuality very freely, either, so even if that’s the case, she’ll pass for fictionally romancing Tim quite easily.
But even solo, this could give a listener pause. Songwriters don’t always write about their own relationships, lives and situations, and they sometimes change pronouns to sing from different perspectives and personalities; but t’s like a different form of gaydar when you hear a song you know is meant for another woman. Like I knew Missy Higgins’ “Secret” had to be about having a closeted girlfriend. (She later confirmed.) Is it possible these songs just have more of a connection with listeners (queer listeners)?
Ever since the Newsweek piece made the sweeping statement that gay actors can’t play straight convincingly, I’ve been one of those that dismissed the argument as ridiculous. In fact, so many gay and lesbian actors are able to pass and play straight every day! (But if the writer means out actors, there are plenty of those that can play straight: Cynthia Nixon, Jane Lynch, Portia de Rossi, Jodie Foster.)
And then I wrote about lesbian authors writing novels devoid of lesbian characters, and how they aren’t abandoning us or trying to become more commercially successful if they choose not to include us in a book. So it’s strange that I expect my lesbian musicians to write songs for and about other women. I expect music to be more personal, subconsciously. And, again, it’s not as if I listen to artists only because they are gay, but when I do listen to a gay artist, I can’t lie - I do enjoy knowing they are singing a story or a feeling that is likely about a woman, one I likely feel or have felt and, therefore, consider to be much closer to my experience. And music is an experience on its own, one that can easily fill you with nostalgia, or excitement or dread, or any number of things. Wanting it to be relatable, I think, isn’t strange.
So I think I’ll have to prepare myself for the Ladyhawke/Tim Burgess X-mas duet, and make a mental note that lesbian musicians are more than one notes, just like actors and writers and any other lesbian being on the earth. But I still love hearing “she” come from a fabulous female voice. There’s still not enough of it, if you ask me.