June 20, 2024

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‘I could eat that girl for lunch’: the sexually explicit queer female pop topping the charts | Music


‘I could eat that girl for lunch / yeah she dances on my tongue, tastes like she might be the one.” So runs the chorus to one of the biggest pop songs of the year, Billie Eilish’s Lunch – the latest star to join a host of others singing about lesbian love, with lyrics full of tongues, touches, thighs and taste.

St Vincent also has an appetite on her new song Flea – “I’m just like a hungry little flea / Jumping on somebody’s warm body … I look at you and all I see is meat” – while lesbian trap star Young Miko plays with emoji-friendly food imagery on Princess Peach: “With a peach like that / who can be mad at you?” At Coachella this year, bisexual R&B singer Victoria Monét positioned her microphone like a strap-on (having previously sung praises to them) during a mouthwateringly sensual set, while Ludmilla’s viral performance featured a tender kiss with her wife at the close of raunchy love song Maldivas (“I can play all night and you can ask me for a replay”). Reneé Rapp’s set was introduced by the cast of lesbian drama The L Word, and Chappell Roan had thousands singing the chorus to Casual – “knee deep in the passenger seat, and you’re eating me out” – while clad in a T-shirt reading “Eat Me”.

“I love that we’re having a lesbian pop renaissance”, says Australian pop star Peach PRC, real name Shaylee Curnow. “Lesbian pop was always more singer-songwriter” – the likes of Indigo Girls, kd lang, Joan Armatrading and Tegan & Sara. “I enjoy that music, but I also want to shake my arse in the club to a song about girls.” She duly does so with camp club anthem Like a Girl Does, boarding a vibrator-shaped spaceship in the music video, cooing “my tongue, it understands your language” and dismissing a certain kind of misogynistic man all too common to the lesbian experience: “He thinks he’s gonna change your mind with his dick / They could never fuck like a girl does.”

“I’ve heard it a lot. Men would sexualise [lesbianism] or have this fantasy,” Curnow says. “It’s like: this is not for you.”

This flood of tracks comes after a gradual buildup of songs by queer women in the past decade – notably in 2018 with the release of Janelle Monáe’s unabashedly yonic Pynk (with grapefruits and vulva-shaped outfits in the music video), Hayley Kiyoko’s Expectations and King Princess’s Pussy Is God.

King Princess, AKA Mikaela Straus, released that song in 2018, “a different landscape” to today – “not a lot of chicks were talking about pussy”. She recalls being “shy” ahead of the single’s release, fearing that people would deem it inappropriate: “But I felt like it was a beautiful song, talking about somebody you love, and how bomb their pussy is.” Her song Sex Shop, meanwhile, explores the complexities of choosing strap-ons and how that feeds into gender expression (“will you still love me / if I confuse you?”), while her forthcoming album concentrates on “sapphic pain, in a playful way” infused with desire and lust: “Love, especially between two women, is catastrophic in an amazing way and also in an insane, explosive way.”

She’s “so happy” that more female artists are talking about loving women and puts the current influx down to the influence of the open-minded TikTok community – “you’re not getting hate messages when you talk about being gay” – and furthermore, “because people are realising how iconic it is to eat pussy”.

Mouthwateringly sensual sets … Bisexual singer Victoria Monét. Photograph: Dalvin Adams

Other acts exploring lesbian eroticism include Australian star Fletcher, who sold out two nights at Hammersmith Apollo last month playing songs like Cherry (“I’m dying to see if it’s real, if it’s sweet, if you taste just like a cherry”) and Girls Girls Girls; plus Kehlani (Can I, Tangerine), Girl in Red (Bad Idea!, Hornylovesickmess), Muna (No Idea, Silk Chiffon) and many more.

“I’m excited about the future – I hope people are going to get even more explicit!” says Amber Bain, AKA British singer-songwriter the Japanese House, who finds these lustful songs a welcome change from when she was growing up in the 00s. “One of the biggest parts of self-acceptance when you’re in your formative years is seeing yourself reflected in someone you admire,” she says, adding that adolescent queers of her generation often felt “lost, ashamed” due to the lack of representation. “Muna are supporting Taylor Swift, Chappell Roan is getting massive, Billie Eilish is talking about being queer – it can only do good things.”

Bain’s indie-pop song Touching Yourself is about longing, sexting and masturbation (“She sent me something and I can’t think about anything else / Now I’m picturing you and you’re touching yourself”). She says such explicit songs do not only apply to queer relationships – “There’s nothing gay about being erotic; love and sex is universal” – but she’s unbothered if she alienates audiences outside the LGBTQ+ fanbase: “I hope I’ve put myself in a queer box!”

Currently touring the US, she seeks out gay bars in every new city to feel welcomed and safe, and strives to foster that atmosphere in her shows. “It’s a community. I don’t need the whole world to listen to my music; the fact that my fanbase is gay or gay accepting is a win-win situation for me.”

Such authentically queer tracks offer a promising change from party songs that superficially toyed with sapphic themes – notably Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl and Rita Ora’s Girls, both of which frame queer love as a hot spin-the-bottle fluke (Perry calls it an “experimental game”, while Ora, who clarified after a backlash that she is bisexual, makes a point of getting drunk on “red wine, I just want to kiss girls”).

British pop singer Girli remembers I Kissed a Girl alongside moments such as Britney, Madonna, and Christina’s famed three-way kiss at the 2003 MTV VMAs. “Those things set me back a few years to feel comfortable to date women without thinking: all these men around me are sexualising me,” she says.

Girli, real name Milly Toomey, has been singing love songs about women since her first EP in 2016. She’s contemplated toning down the queer content of her songs to appeal to a broader fanbase but quickly dismissed those thoughts. “There’s always this running theme of being told: ‘I’m OK with you being gay, but don’t rub it in my face.’ Well, I feel like heterosexual relationships have been rubbed in my face from birth,” she says.

Her song Matriarchy celebrates “body hair in places boys don’t like / touch me in the places they can’t find” and its chorus peaks with the line: “When we touch we fuck to fuck the patriarchy”. Her fans loved it, but it provoked plenty of negative comments online. “A lot of the comments were like ‘I just threw up in my mouth’ or ‘that’s disgusting’,” she says. She’s had to build up a thick skin to continue – but now, “homophobic comments are just water off a duck’s back”.

So outside the TikTok communities King Princess describes, homophobia is plainly still rife: Eilish reportedly lost 100,000 Instagram followers last year after revealing she was attracted to women. But like the rest of the current crop in lesbian and queer pop, she refuses to be cowed. “Who fucking cares?” Eilish told Rolling Stone after revealing that she’s been “in love with girls” her “whole life”. Lunch meanwhile had a very simple inspiration, expressed with the frankness that is also typical to today’s sapphic pop star: “I realised I wanted my face in a vagina”.



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