In this necessary era of transparency, inclusivity, and representation, music communities are seeing changes sweep through unlike any other time before. There is an exciting new clamor of visibility amid the long list of mainstream artists coming out as LGBTQ; however, authentic is not the word that comes to mind.
Musicians like Sam Smith, Halsey, Frank Ocean, Janelle Monae, Troye Sivan, and many more are reaping the benefits of decades of struggle from their predecessors. Fear of rejection based on sexuality has significantly decreased, and a remarkable embracing of blurred gender identity seems to know no lines or boundaries. The idea of a career being killed from the outspokenness of an openly gay musician is almost laughable. Yet, this slow and steady transition from underground queer to acceptable parameters of a digestible alternative has presented a new challenge: if it doesn’t matter, then why does it matter?
“I don’t know if this is a moment in history,” said Olly Alexander to Time Out New York, “or if we are bending towards a much more tolerant and accepting place of identity.”
Alexander is frontman of the terrifically British and boastfully queer band Years & Years, who will be performing at The Ogden Theatre later this month. Denver is but one of the 19 cities they will be hitting during their Palo Santo tour before they head overseas for a slew of international dates.
While Alexander is the only gay man in the trio, they are all proud of the message they stand for. He loves being labeled a queer artist and has said he feels very honored to be among the pantheon of queer performers.
Queer musicians and artists appear to have graduated beyond the peripheral while growing outside a narrow appeal to only LGBTQ audiences. They are an integral and necessary staple in providing audiences with variety, not only in sound and lyrical content, but representation as a whole. Yet, acceptance can often lead to a downplaying in these significant identifiers.
“The mainstream artists that are queer tend to be sanitized, straightwashed versions—if you like,” Alexander said.
The underground music scene has traditionally been where queer artists live, a safe place for the misfits of society. Individuals who challenge the status quo and create intricate networks of business and social connections, a community known for embracing eccentricities and differences.
Denver is a bustling haven for music and musicians of the queer and non-normative masculine-centric variety. One glance at any concert or event calendar for the city is proof of this. Major touring bands and performers who identify as LGBTQ ensure the Mile High City is a must-stop town.
Additionally, there are the dozens of local shows daily that boast alternative bills of all-female lineups to queer and anything other than pop-indie acts. Diversity is something that Denver is known for. However, is the scene guilty of playing into the same commodification of alternative rather than fostering and embracing it?
The veil of underground has been lifted, the variety of misfits in all facets has been exposed, and many fear now a new form of censoring has presented. The neuterizing of music and its artists, a form of silencing when LGBTQ musicians become simply singers and songwriters in the societal trap of diversity downplaying to become mainstream. Music, in its purest and most necessary form of self-expression, brings together community by highlighting its differences.