grygiel: big queer rock show

Will you be attending the BIG QUEER ROCK SHOW on March 2nd? This is the part of the post where you turn to me and say, “Yes, I’m all about supporting local Boston musicians, whilst simultaneously benefiting a unique organization that works with LGBT youth. Also, I’ve really been looking for an opportunity to get rocked so hard that my face melts off!”

Good to hear! Alas, you might be a little curious about who will be rocking your face off. There’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone gets a little curious sometimes. I mean, if I were planning on having my face rocked off (and I am), I’d want to know who’d be onstage holding that guitar.

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the first of four artists on the night’s lineup! GRYGIEL is the single-moniker stage name for Jen Grygiel, an out musician and LGBTQ/social activist who writes songs about “love, painful experiences, and things that piss her off”.

Beyond donating proceeds of her debut EP to the It Gets Better project, she’s also the co-founder of No Gay Left Behind, which aims to prevent LGBTQ suicide by advocating for the formation of virtual Gay-Straight alliances (VGSA) at schools across the United States.

Long story short? It makes perfect sense that Grygiel has teamed up with BAGLY (Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth) for this exciting event. After all, the youth-led, adult-supported organization rocks pretty hard too! For over thirty years, they’ve been committed to creating, sustaining and advocating for programs, policies and services for the LGBTQ community.

Read more about their mission here, or find out more about Grygiel’s work on her website.

elle varner: so fly / conversational lush

Elle Varner - So Fly
Elle Varner - WTF
Elle Varner - Go

Compare and contrast:

TLC‘s “Unpretty”. Madonna‘s “Human Nature”. Ani DiFranco‘s “Not A Pretty Girl”. Salt-n-Pepa‘s “None of Your Business”Pink‘s “Don’t Let Me Get Me”India Arie‘s “Video”Tori Amos‘ “Cornflake Girl”. No Doubt‘s “Just A Girl”Destiny’s Child‘s “Independent Women”. Meredith Brooks‘ “Bitch”Queen Latifah‘s “U.N.I.T.Y.”Christina Aguilera & Lil Kim‘s “Can’t Hold Us Down”.

Katy Perry‘s “Firework”. Lady Gaga‘s “Born This Way”. Ke$ha‘s “We R Who We R”. Selena Gomez‘s “Who Says”. Pink‘s “Raise Your Glass”. Jessie J‘s “Who’s Laughing Now”. Taylor Swift‘s “Mean”.

Each of these nineteen selections are empowerment anthems performed by female artists. This is a fact, no matter how you feel about these particular songs, their relationship to the very concept of “empowerment” or the singer’s intention in releasing them. Someone, at some point, has felt empowered by these songs. Undeniable. Fact.

For the most part, the second list was inspired by the It Gets Better movement and similar “anti-bullying” campaigns. These tracks act as a celebration of the self, shouting in your face, “You are beautiful, no matter what they say!” They confront the people who try to tear you down, whether it’s a specific individual or some abstract idea of the “bully”.

The songs on the first list, however, attack a much larger issue—the injustices of society which lead to one’s insecurities, the reasons why there’s so much hateration in this danceree. They put the “power” in empowerment. They rebel against double standards. They don’t just sit around and tell you you’re great. They tell you why everything else sucks, which thereby enables you to throw your middle finger up at the world and truly embrace who you are.

And then, of course, there’s Elle Varner. The up-and-coming R&B star has mentioned in several interviews that she was severely bullied through most of her life. Yet instead of writing some empty “You go girl!” anthem, she wrote a little jam known as “So Fly”.

The song initially finds our narrator longing to exist in a world where she has “no cellulite, big breasts and pockets real wide”. Eventually, upon further reflection, she comes to the conclusion that she doesn’t need that other crap. She already embodies the very definition of “fly”.

Okay, so the theme may be a bit cheesy. The lyrics may not be as strong as those offerings from the first list… But this is still a throwback to that era of empowerment. Varner lashes out at the media/society for demanding she live up to some impossible standard of beauty. We’re not hearing enough of that in today’s pop music.

Which begs the question, why? These are issues young people (regardless of their gender) still face today, and they’re rarely addressed head-on like they used to be. Why? Does this idea, for whatever reason, feel outdated or more sickeningly sincere than an episode of Glee? Is our collective mentality so focused on escapism that we don’t want to directly deal with these problems?

Just something to ponder! Of course, while you’re thinking (or rolling your eyes), perhaps you should go download Varner’s free mixtape Conversational Lush. It might not bring you any answers, but at least it’ll provide a fresh soundtrack for your thought process.

“WTF” and “Go” are also highly recommended (despite the fact that I didn’t just waste multiple paragraphs failing to explain their greatness).

heart-sick groans

Heart-Sick Groans - If The Canary Stops Singing

When I tweeted Heart-Sick Groans that I couldn’t wait to hear their new single, I didn’t think they’d take me literally. The song, like magic, found its way into my inbox within the next ten minutes. It was almost as if they were legitimately worried they’d be held liable, were I to have died from a startling and outright debilitating case of impatience.

This is why I love Heart-Sick Groans. Despite their bragging rights as “one of indie-pop’s best kept secrets”, they still take time to cater to their fans. This is why you should become a fan, so they can cater to you! I promise it’ll be worth it. If you don’t believe me, take a listen above to the Swedish indie-pop trio’s latest offering “If The Canary Stops Singing”. Here’s what they had to say about the tune:

“This song’s been in the song machine for a long time, the lads started working on it in the fall of 2009, then the boys scrapped it for a bit, then the men had Marcus Brännström come in to add some guitars to the chorus, then the gang realized this too’s A SMASH HIT WONDER with epic overtones and heart-tearing undertones. Now it is also in your ears!”

Epic overtones! Heart-tearing undertones! Let me translate for you, in case you don’t understand the language of AWESOME. “If The Canary Stop Singing” is the best song of 2012, and Heart-Sick Groans is your new favorite band. I’m glad I could clear that up for you.

Click through (or look below) to watch the brilliant video for “A Bossanova With This Cassanova”. Like what you hear? You can also download one of my fave tracks “With Samantha At The Carwash” here.
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