It’s almost April! Spring is here! If you miss the rain, though, we’ve got you — this past month, queer ladies Meshell Ndegeocello, Terra Naomi, and 070 Shake released some contemplative, quiet tunes for late, lonely, lesbian nights. Or, if you’re ready to get out and enjoy the sun, shake your butt, or head to the club and flirt with a cute person, Big Freedia and Lesbian Jesus Hayley Kiyoko have you covered with some jams!
I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails from y’all about upcoming releases by queer and trans artists of whom I’ve never heard (Terra Naomi is one!). My e-mail is email@example.com — keep them coming, they might make the next roundup!
Meshell Ndegeocello, Ventriloquism
Meshell Ndegeocello’s new album is a collection of late 80s to mid-90s R&B covers, and makes clear that Ndegeocello is a master cover artist.
Covers can go a few different ways. Some artists stay completely true to the original (this is usually boring), some take it in a completely new direction (usually interesting but sometimes silly), and some, like Ndegeocello, change just enough to breathe new life into a song: emphasizing slightly different aspects of the original (like how Ndegeocello often transposes melodies from one instrument to another), thus giving listeners the chance to hear a beloved track with new ears as though it was the first listen all over again.
She also avoids my least favorite cover song trend by keeping all of the pronouns consistent with the originals, as on “Nite and Day:” If you and I were one, girl/ The love we’d share would be so fun/ Just take my hand and you’ll see, girl/ That we’d take off into another world.”
Janet Jackson, TLC, Sade, Tina Turner, Prince, and one of my favorite underrated classic songs — Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam’s “Take You Home” (why isn’t this song on any of the karaoke machines I’ve ever found?) — are covered here, as well as plenty of other jams. Her choice to cover classic R&B hits instead of deep cuts is brave and showcases her mastery of the form, turning breathtaking anthems into whispered ballads and pop jams into plaintive acoustic pleas. If you’re a fan of any of the artists or songs she’s covering here, give this a listen.
Buy the album here.
070 Shake, Glitter
070 Shake is a member of Lil’ Yachty’s Sailing Team, and sonically, they’re very similar: lots of auto tune, trap-infused low-key beats, and couplets galore. It’s very much 2018 hip-hop (is this hip-hop? Is there a new genre label for what the kids are doing these days?).
Another discernible influence is Kid Cudi, especially in the lyrics. For a long time one of the only mainstream rappers being explicit about mental illness, Shake joins him thematically on this short album, whose tracks deal in a real, direct way with depression, self-image and drug addiction — this definitely isn’t a party record; it’s much more appropriate for a smoke and think session.
What’s it like to be a young queer woman of color struggling with the temptation of drug abuse in 2018? On “I Laugh When I’m With Friends But Sad When I’m Alone:” “If every step we take is wrong, how could we ever see the mess?/ And it’s not just you and me, the whole youth is depressed/ Living with the devil, constant battle every day/ Wake up, gotta talk to people but I don’t know what to say.”
It’s not all bad news, though — suffused throughout is a relentless drive to succeed despite the struggles, to keep pushing forward, to make something out of the ashes of past mistakes. Later on the same song: “Don’t be alarmed, it’ll get brighter, it’ll get better/ It’s ’cause we are fighters and tougher than leather/ The strong you is inside, but you just haven’t met her/ Only we control our storm because we are the weather/…We got us, we are the light/ We are the world, we are love/ We gotta fight for ourselves ’cause no one’s gonna.”
Buy “Glitter” here.
Terra Naomi, Nothing to Hide (Single)
Released March 9, 2018
“Nothing to Hide” is a quiet, heartbreaking song. Terra Naomi’s achingly beautiful voice, with which she originally intended to sing opera, is foregrounded, at first, with soft percussion and a sly xylophone keeping time. Soon, however, the background acoustic, then electric, guitars begin to swell along with her voice as it reaches its emotional peak.
It’s a breakup song, but a thoughtful, introspective one – it’s sung from the perspective of somewhat regretful breaker-upper, rather than the broken-up-with: “I made a choice and now I know/ sometimes we choose right and sometimes we don’t/ remember when you told me this was for real/ remember when I tried to get you back/ I closed my eyes and I made a deal/ I’d never lose myself again like that.”
“Nothing to Hide” is the second single from her upcoming album, set to be released in September. “Machine Age,” the other single, is a powerful protest anthem, reflecting on life in Trump’s America. Her as-yet-untitled album is arriving later this year, but she has tons of tunes up on streaming apps if you find yourself at home on a rainy spring day and need to do some lesbian introspection.
Download the song, and pre-order her upcoming album, here.
Big Freedia, Rent (Single)
Released March 2018
Big Freedia is the Queen of Bounce. If you still haven’t heard of bounce music somehow, you’re missing out – Big Freedia breaks it down here and this article is a decent starting point if you want to get into it. The distinctly New Orleans hip-hop adjacent art form is the genre that brought “twerking” to the world (before it was co-opted by Miley Cyrus and her ilk), but it’s much more than that. The frenetic, sample-heavy, high-energy style features repetition, call-and-response, and heavy basslines.
On “Rent,” Freedia eviscerates ain’t-shit dudes and others who mooch off of people while contributing nothing — not even love. She complains that constantly asking for the affection, or at the very least money, she’s owed makes her feel like his landlord: “It’s the first of the month I said enough is enough (Say what)/I committed to you (yeah)/ You should have paid me in love (come on)/ Instead boy you tried it (umm)/ I see through your lying (uh uh forreal though)/ This time my family done/ Keep your apologies, hun’/ We could have had a good run (uh huh)/ But you done fucked up, son.”
To be honest, listening to bounce recordings pales in comparison to experiencing it live. Big Freedia concerts are religious experiences; seeing her years ago in Oakland, when I was still a baby tranny, changed everything for me. I’m debilitatingly introverted and anxious, and Freedia had me on stage shaking my ass. Her new album, Third Ward Bounce, drops in June, in the meantime do yourself a favor and try to see if you can see her on tour. You’ll get your life, I promise.
Bonus: The return of Lesbian Jesus!
Hayley Kiyoko – Expectations
Released March 30, 2018
Lesbian Jesus has returned! Mey wrote an outstanding review here, but I’d be remiss not to mention it. It’s really good, y’all.