The early months of the calendar year are for both looking back and looking forward. More than ever before, we probably feel like that Roman deity, Janus — both looking back at a historic past and towards a hopeful future. So with that in mind, I thought this edition’s collection of media would cover both some historic levels of bisexuality as well as modern expressions of queerness. Seems like a nice, balanced theme to cover a nicely balanced volume number. (Ten! Hard to believe we are already up to ten mini volumes of the Scales.)
Before I dive in, I should probably go over a few necessary subjects. I should give a warning that a few of this column’s entries include content warnings for discussion drug use, addiction, and forms of abuse (mainly emotional abuse). Also, if this is your first time around these parts, you can familiarize yourself with the Unicorn metric HERE.
With that in mind, let’s see what I’ve been able to cull together for this collection:
1. Halsey, “Bad At Love”
This is one of those ditties I didn’t realize I knew until someone’s suggestion sent me to look it up. And I’m so glad I did! Kicking off this year’s mini volumes is #bicon Halsey, whose “Strangers” was hands down my favorite queer musical discovery last year (I… can sometimes be a little behind the times). She returns to the Scale with another classic from her catalog, “Bad At Love,” which makes accessible poetry of a grocery list of bi experiences. Not only does the (now expecting!) songstress cover the love story of a boyfriend in one verse and a girlfriend, but the lyrics cover expectations of compulsive heteronormativity, addiction, and self-esteem issues as the song’s main character internalizes the actions of her lovers’ toxic behaviors as reflections of her own self-worth.
While I hope the main character gets some therapy, “Bad At Love” in and of itself encapsulates a host of vignettes that will likely look familiar to any queer person who has had an unlucky streak in the dating world. And though one of the perks of being bi is we never have to change pronouns when we sing at karaoke, with Halsey’s music, it’s nice to know we are singing songs from someone who gets it.
2) Iggy Pop, “Lust For Life”
Throwing us back to the withdrawal-ridden West Berlin of the ‘70s is one of Pop’s best-known songs (and collaborations with #OneofUs David Bowie), “Lust for Life,” one of the catchiest songs ever written about drug withdrawal. Filled with references to William S. Burroughs novels and Midwestern slang, the insistent beat details some of the darker sides of addiction (including detailing the death of his drug dealer). With that in mind, it makes sense it became the song for the famous opening sequence for Trainspotting.
It may not be about queerness, per se, but it is written by an expressly queer musician in partnership with a bisexual rock god and it still frikkin’ slaps, and that’s good enough for me.
PS — For bonus bi points, do yourself a favor and go watch Velvet Goldmine to see just how much Iggy and David, ahem, inspired each other.
3) Metanoia, 2020
What started out as a school project becomes a poignant college drama in the hands of capable creator/director Gabrielle Reublin. The narrative never shies away from championing the bisexual gaze, even when its questioning lead character, budding dancer Emma (Reublin), doesn’t know what to make of her own inclinations.
Helming a diverse cast in this beautifully shot film that brings to mind the styles of Jonathan Demme and Steven Soderbergh, Metanoia is experiencing production delays to filming its final chapter due to the pandemic. Still, its first few episodes are a welcome addition to the (frustratingly) small category of queer webseries. I, for one, can’t wait to see what Emma gets up to next.
4) Studio Killers, “Jenny”
Sometimes a song I find on TikTok turns out to be the best bi bop I’ve heard in a minute.
Look, was I predestined to love this song due to its name? No. I was bound to love it because its European techno meets a BJORN-esque singer, all mixed up with some steel drums AND accordions, AND YET SOMEHOW IT WORKS. The fact that the lyrics (and subsequent video) cover the queer plea of the singer for the heart of her bestie is just gravy. But we all know that there are moments when the gravy pulls together the whole dish.
5) Rita Ora, “Girls”
Oh, no. Oh, no, no no. While I was excited to learn that Rita has had bi experiences and wanted to reflect that in a big ol’ bi anthem, this wasn’t it. That’s not to say it wasn’t catchy or that the music video wasn’t sumptuous and stuffed with feminine delights. It’s that the lyrics were laden with more harmful bi stereotypes than I may have allotted space to discuss. Leave the wine, 50/50 assumptions, and making out for the male gaze back in the 2000s Katy Perry lyrics, where they belong.
I’m disappointed to see this entry bandied about as good representation, but then again, it’s important to show here that not all queer anthems were made alike.
6) Living Color, “Bi”
Closing out today’s column is another throwback, this time going to the hammer pants and fades of the ‘90s. Already by the first chorus Living Color has done more than all the other songs here and used the word “bi” like it’s not a dirty word (spoiler word: it isn’t). Bonus points for a male singer purporting the delights of being fluid. While there are a few wandering eye stereotypes baked into the song, the overall feeling is pride and ownership of the identity, making this song way ahead of its time. Dig it.
Okay, my darlings, that’s what I’ve got for this month! Here’s hoping I added a few songs to your Spotify, new or old, that get the blood pumping in all the right ways. Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other. (And if you get that reference, it’s probably time to add an under-eye cream to your skincare routine.)