Blurring Lines of Gender Confines: Music’s Changing Ideals of Sexual Orientation

“Yo perreo sola.”

Translation: (I twerk alone)

With this simple lyric, Puerto Rican artist Bad Bunny shot into a realm of feminism that seemed out of the ordinary and that was before the song’s music video was released, one where we see him transform into a woman. 

The transcendence of gender has slowly been popping up within pop culture, flashes of indifference toward the classic lines that divided people throughout society before. Likewise, the music industry has hit a new height of gender identity; even before Bunny, we saw a Prince in eyeliner and heels, a David Bowie drifting through different forms of gender, even a Kurt Cobain performing in dresses. However, it seems as though modern musicians have found more freedom in their own form and style.

The advancement of the internet has done many things including providing an outlet to let artists control their own artistic expression. The rise of music streaming platforms has also aided in this expansion of ideology. We see gender-fluid artists craft and create music in a way that shows their identity strayed far from the influence and controlling nature of record executives. These artists, instead of focusing on radio success, rely more on their ideal musical influences to dictate their identity to an audience of willing listeners.

With the rising societal changes, we see new up and coming members of the community who blur more lines than one, namely drag queens. Within the Brazilian music scene, there has been an uptake in gender expression that strays from the usual and one forerunner lists Pabllo Vittar. Garnering just under eleven million on Instagram, this singer-songwriter has impacted the music industry with his electro-pop sound. Another such queen illustrates Trixie Mattel, a folk/country personality that pushes deep into the mid-twentieth century feeling. 

Musicologist Leo Treitler describes music as “an essentially gendered discourse” and meaningful only within a context of “…gender, race and ethnicity.” Cultural marginalization and appropriation or “being a Culture Vulture” create a constant struggle within the music industry as it battles with problematic ideas, however, a recent push from underserved and disenfranchised minorities within the industry has led to major breakthroughs. The culturally African American genre, Hip Hop/Rap, saw a huge expansion and pop culture breakthrough since the turn of the millennium; in accordance, gender-bending consistently resurges within the public consciousness (through artists like Bad Bunny). These artists may see a break into the mainstream also.   

Moving at a glacial pace, gender fluidity establishes an identity outside of the realm of femininity and manliness. In a time not that long ago, record labels would have dictated the public image of an artist successfully cutting them off from their own expression. However, in the age of social media, we can see a new group of musicians that relay their message and personality through their own willingness and artistry.

By Ethan Everman, Staff Writer

Featued photo by Obafemi Moyosade on Unsplash

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