To the surprise of no one, it soars to the highest heights and lands with a stunning level of immediacy in our moment in time.
As Porter belts the timeless Buffalo Springfield tune, penned by hall-of-fame songwriter Stephen Stills, it reverberates across the generations, drawing us together both as a poignant depiction of our social unrest and tension, and as a rallying cry to draw us together for change.
Named one of Queety’s Pride50 in 2019 - "trailblazing individuals who actively ensure society remains moving towards equality, acceptance, and dignity for all queer people" - in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2020, Porter’s radiant light and energy are an inspiration to millions.
The Broadway legend and fashion icon became the first gay Black man to be nominated and win a Primetime Emmy in 2019 for his role in the television series, Pose.
He is literally the definition of fabulous.
And has stated that his expression through fashion is to be a, "walking piece of political art.”
In a 2020 interview with Vanity Fair, Porter shared his views on race, stating, “"The reason why our country is in the mess we're in is simply because of whiteness. White supremacy. White people choke-holding power and sucking the life out of humanity."
Porter’s aim with the song in 2020 was to inspire hope and change, and he and Stills certainly did their part in 2020 with their rally cry in efforts to encourage folks to get out and vote for change that November.
But the rally cry continues to reverberate and echo today.
Pride is a rally cry.
Not simply just to say, “love is love,” but to
Ban together for change.
For the protection of LGBTQ+ rights, that are
Under attack like never before.
The battle lines, once again, have been drawn.
And “...it’s time we stop, children,”
Hear the sound, and
Pay attention to “what’s goin’ down.”
Because lives depend on it.
Check out the Porter & Stills video from the 2020 DNC below, tune into our Pride Month playlist on Ascent to catch Porter and hundreds of other fabulous queer artists, icons, and allies all month long, and make sure to explore the rest of Billy’s brilliant catalog this month on your preferred streaming service!
In “Paprika,” the whimsically fresh, alternative-pop jam by Michelle Zauner - the brilliant, queer, half-Korean half-Jewish singer-songwriter - and her band Japanese Breakfast, Zauner explores the wild delight she’s experienced as her songs have found their way into the hearts and minds and conversations of her fans and admirers - and the twisty path it’s taken to arrive at her moment in the spotlight.
“How's it feel to be at the center of magic
To linger in tones and words?
I opened the floodgates
And found no water, no current, no river, no rush
How's it feel to stand at the height of your powers
To captivate every heart?
Projecting your visions to strangers who feel it
Who listen, who linger on every word
Oh, it's a rush
Oh, it's a rush”
In her memoir, “Crying in H Mart,” Zauner recalls how Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs lit the spark for her, noting she was the “first icon of the music world I worshiped who looked just like me.” Despite her initial concern being that, perhaps, since Karen was already doing it, there might not be space for herself in the rock scene as an Asian-American woman, in recent years Michelle has joined many of her peers, such as Mitski, Hayley Kiyoko, and mxmtoon (all three also queer) as part of a bright wave of Asian women to rise up and take their rightful place in indie/alternative pop-rock.
Michelle has explained that the name is intended as an ironic mashup akin to her own bi-racial identity and experience, with “Japanese” as a representation of what many Americans might stereotypically think of as anything Asian or exotic, and “breakfast” representing a mundane, ordinary American experience.
Like many of her peers, with every track to her name, Zauner seeks to increase visibility and normalize persons like herself being in the spotlight, hoping to inspire other Asian-American artists to embrace their own talent and passions, and pursue their own dreams.
Pride is about celebration.
Singing your song.
And the “rush” when others
Stand by you and
Sing YOUR song with you.
Pride is about solidarity. About community, and about us finding ourselves in one-another's stories.
You are beautifully unique and gorgeous.
Your story is important - and the world needs to know it!
May you shimmer and shine brightly, and
May you know the “rush” of
Finding YOUR song, and hearing others gleefully sing it back to you.
Make sure to tune in to Ascent’s Pride Month playlist, which includes “Paprika,” as well as “Be Sweet” and “Posing In Bondage,” also from the fabulous, “Jubilee,” to check out the rest of the album on your preferred streaming platform, AND to pick up a copy at your local, independent record store. Also, check out this incredible stripped down version of “Paprika” in the video below, performed as an AAPI Heritage Month tribute on the Asian American Foundation channel!
Janelle speaks out for the whole team: We’re Americans, and we won’t quit until there is freedom, justice, and equality for all.
“Just love me baby
Love me for who I am
Singing: "clap your hands"
Don't try to take my country
I will defend my land
I'm not crazy, baby, naw
All men are created equal.
Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness.
Ideals the United States was founded on - but has not yet achieved. So long as this is the case, we need truth spoken to power.
When Janelle dropped “Ameicans,” in 2018 as the closing track to her Grammy nominated, critically acclaimed album, “Dirty Computer” - voted the top album of the year by numerous publications, including NPR, the New York Times and the Associated Press - it was a socio-political rally cry and rousing benediction to her masterwork.
It was a national anthem for those harmed by injustice and inequality:
“Let me help you in here
Until women can get equal pay for equal work
This is not my America
Until same gender loving people can be who they are
This is not my America
Until black people can come home
From a police stop without being shot in the head
This is not my America
Until poor whites can get a shot at being successful
This is not my America
I can't hear nobody talkin' to me…”
Juneteenth is about celebration.
Pride is about celebration.
But neither is about arrival.
Neither Juneteenth or Pride celebrate what has been made complete, but rather, utilize celebration as a catalyst for the ongoing fight, celebration as an act of acknowledgement and rebellion against systemic injustices that we still march against here and now.
Because sometimes marching looks like dancing.
Sometimes the fight looks like joy in the face of oppression.
So as we celebrate Juneteenth and Pride, as we celebrate Freedom, let us do so as a statement, as an act of love, of good trouble, knowing we’re surrounded by the cloud of witnesses who have marched before us “singing: ‘clap your hands,’” and let us each proclaim:
“I’m not crazy, baby.
Let freedom ring.
And let justice roll down like a mighty, rushing river.
Check out Janelle’s rousing performance of “Americans” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert below, and make sure you pick up a copy of “Dirty Computer,” or Janelle’s BRAND new album, “The Age of Pleasure,” at your local, independent record store!
Welcome to Pride, beloved!!
You’ve been summoned by the preacher himself.
With arguably the most legendary spoken intro in pop history,
Prince rallies us against all that might de-elevate,
And calls our focus onward and upward, into a life where the pain, hatred, and strife are no more, and we shine brightly forever more!
Let it be so.
Let it be here and now!
“Let’s Go Crazy,” the rousing anthem that opens both the legendary Purple Rain album and the film of the same name, was not only a smash hit, rising to number one on the Pop, R&B and Dance charts, but the song - and historic album it belonged to - catapulted Prince into the pop-stardom stratosphere. Prince and Purple Rain, spending a staggering 24 weeks at number one on the charts, became a shimmering, transcendent pop-musical spectacle that rivals any sensation before or sense - a cultural landmark for the ages, and one of the most important moments in pop-music history.
We live in a world that is terribly fractured. Wounded. Injustice, racism, bigotry, misogyny and hateful phobias of all-kinds abound.
But in “Let’s Go Crazy,” Prince stands before us, the congregation, the beloved, to proclaim
To call us to fix our eyes on a higher world.
A life, a world that exists above and beyond this life.
But one that, nonetheless, offers us the strength, courage, and resolve required to stand in the face of that which de-elevates, and to
“Are we gonna let de-elevator bring us down?
Oh no, let’s go!!!”
Pride says, “Oh no, let’s go!”
Pride says, “Let’s go crazy.
Let’s get nuts!
The haters win no more. Love triumphs over all.
Love triumphs over violence.
Fear. Hatred. Prejudice. Bigotry reign no longer!
Celebrating Pride is resistance against de-elevator.
So let’s go crazy!
Dedication to her beloved wife, Catherine,
Is, in Brandi’s own words, a tribute to the foundation upon which they have built their beautiful life together:
“Faith and family.”
“It’s a rock. And it’s solid.”
A hero, a north star and inspiration and icon among the LGBTQ community - and all the other misfit toys who have found their way into her orbit - Brandi Carlile is a guiding light, paving the way for profound hope and change in the world through the power of her extraordinary music, her exemplary life, and seemingly endless activism.
She is, quite simply, one of this generation’s greatest champions of all that is good and beautiful and right in the world.
In an interview with Variety about “You And Me On The Rock,” the nine-time Grammy award winner and New York Times’ Best Seller, stated:
“It’s not that LGBTQIA people should have to be overexerting ourselves to come across as more wholesome than anybody else, but when the culture wants to overtly sexualize and demonize queer people by calling us groomers and making out that we just live these lives of total sex-focused promiscuity, which couldn’t be further from the truth, a song like “You and Me on the Rock” is important, if you recognize it as an anthem of queer domesticity. It’s about building your house on a foundation that you can be happy in. It’s about the right to not be alone for all of your life. And to those that would kind of dismantle that dream and that inalienable human right, I think that song is a protest song, just in its sweetness.”
Also accompanied by the sweet and impeccable vocal harmonies of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig - of the indie folk-pop duo, Lucius - on the single and the original In These Silent Days album version, “You And Me On The Rock” not only stands alongside the other brilliant songs at the top of Brandi’s illustrious catalog, but also as one of the most unique and beautiful queer anthems to come out in recent years.
Pride is not only about celebrating the beauty and joy of queer love and queer life.
It’s about normalizing it.
Tearing down the stigmas and misconceptions.
As Brandi says herself, “You And Me On The Rock” is one of the most gleeful “protest” songs ever written, as it stands as a testimony against those who wish to demonize members of the LGBTQ community as groomers or depraved, promiscuous, sex-obsessed heathens or pedophiles.
It’s an anti-hate song.
And in the most cheerful and romantic fashion, Brandi once again has found a way to step up in the face of the haters to say, actually…
This is what it looks like.
We simply love who we love.
Just like anyone else.
And we truly want is to have the right to celebrate our love with the same freedom and abandon and joy as everyone else.
We’re not here to harm or take away anything from anyone else.
This is just who I love.
Our foundation is “faith and family.”
“It’s a rock. And it’s solid.”
And there’s nothing more noble or beautiful - or worth celebrating - than that.
Make sure you check out the fabulous “You And Me On The Rock” music video below, check out the alternate version of the track released on Brandi’s In The Canyon Haze where Catherine herself sings along with Brandi! Also make sure to pick up copies of In These Silent Days, In The Canyon Haze, as well as all of Brandi’s other albums from your local, independent record store, AND, to stream her entire, incomparable catalog on your preferred music streaming platform.
Then, when Trump moved to ban all trans-identifying persons from service in all branches of the military in July of 2017, Wrabel pushed to have the song, and its accompanying music video, released - as a further act of solidarity with the trans community in their time of suffering.
The video opens with these words:
“In nature, a flock will attack any bird that is more colorful than the others because being different is seen as a threat.”
In an interview with Billboard, Wrabel stated, “This song is the most important thing to me that I have ever done and probably will ever do. It’s the closest thing to my heart. I came out as gay around 23 into a church in Los Angeles that told me I could and should change; that I was unnatural and wrong. I hope this reaches anyone in need of it and makes them feel like they’re not alone.”
The video, starring August Aiden, and the song itself, follow the journey of a young, trans-identifying youth and the shame and rejection experienced among their friends, family, and the broader community.
Nobody gets it.
In a gut-wrenching and visceral fashion, Wrabel takes the listener into the depths of coming out - into the suffocating fears and prejudices that are all too commonly piled upon trans and other queer persons when they open up to share about the deepest, most intimate parts of themselves.
The confusion and frustration can be unbearable.
The song is "dedicated to all the colorful birds," a leading image throughout the video. As the story resolves, the protagonist, after (literally) fighting their way through the rejection and fears, find that they themselves are, in fact, a radiant, colorful bird.
Pride says you are a colorful bird - and you are gorgeous.
You are beautiful, lovely, embraced and celebrated as you, in all your glory.
There’s nothing wrong with you.
You are a beautiful ray of light and love.
Pride is also a moment for all of us to step up, to dedicate ourselves to making the world a better, safer and more inclusive space.
Every home and family, every neighborhood, community, town and city.
It’s a time for us to rally together around #transrights, and #LGBTQ lives, as they are under intense attack in our time.
The issue is the village.
So let us dedicate ourselves to building better ones.
Let us dedicate ourselves to erasing fear, hate, and prejudice.
And to cultivating villages that are a haven, a refuge for the weary, wounded, and searching among us.
Let us surround those in our lives and in our communities who are exploring and seeking to know and embrace the most intimate and beautiful parts of themselves with a loving and warm embrace, and allow them to discover the
Gorgeous, colorful bird that they are.
Make sure to watch the deeply moving video for “The Village” below, to get involved and help advocate and make changes in your own community for trans-identifying persons and their rights, and to check out the rest of Wrabel’s remarkable discography - and brand single, “Turn Up The Love” - on your preferred music streaming platform.
With utter contempt and disregard for any and everything she was supposed to be, Big Mama broke every rule and pushed every boundary, tearing down gender norms and all expectations of what women, and particularly Black women, were expected to be as she took command of her music, her image, and the stage, as a force to be reckoned with.
It was never about singing pretty. It was about sass. Passion. Willie Mae received her nickname, “Big Mama,” for her commanding presence, both on the microphone and on stage. Tall in stature, and adorned in masculine clothing and style, Big Mama kicked down doors and broke down barriers for women in music. Her brand of songs were unlike anything else in R&B at the time, sexualized and confrontational about gender expectations, and opened the door widely for performers of all walks and all stripes in rock n’ roll. She was a major influence on the legendary Janis Joplin, who patterned herself after Big Mama’s tough and uncompromising image, and raspy, boisterous vocal stylings, and even covered Big Mama’s original tune, “Ball n’ Chain.”
Influenced by, and alongside, other legendary queer, Black female blues & rock n’ roll pioneers, such as Bessie Smith, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Ma Rainey, and Lucille Bogan, Big Mama’s contributions and influence on rock n’ roll can’t be overstated.
The Freddy Bell rewrite that became the smash hit for him obscured the lyrics, adding lines like, “you ain’t never caught a rabbit,” altering the meaning entirely away from a song written with the purpose of centering and empowering women.
Sometimes Pride is about setting the record straight.
It’s about saying, were it not for Big Mama, a strong, beautiful, proud, raucous, Black, queer woman, or her contemporaries, there would have been no rock n’ roll. The sound, the swagger, the passion, the raw intensity, the liberation… it belongs to Big Mama and her peers and influences.
Rock n’ roll was started by Queer, Black women.
And Big Mama and her fellow queens say,
You be you.
You be loud.
You be proud.
You be free.
And don’t let anybody else tell you any different.
You have the power.
So pick up your swagger and tell ‘em like it is.
Happy Pride, all.
If the so-called right-side-up world just doesn’t have space for gay love, then he’s living in a world that’s upside down…
And he’s loving it.
Off of the queer quartet’s third, dreamy, indie-pop rock album, Stunning and Atrocious, “Upside Down,” is just one of a glorious collection of songs that celebrate queer life and sexuality. Explaining the title behind the album, Rogers explains that, for a time leading up to the album, he found himself describing everything that life brought his way as either, ‘stunning’ or ‘atrocious.’ These two themes weave their way throughout the writing on the album, as Rogers is more celebratory and open about his gay sexuality on record than ever before.
The album allowed for the band to explore creatively both the stunning and atrocious parts of life and experiences, and beautifully blends together the bands more ethereal and lush side with their more straightforward (or queerforward!) rock n’ roll. It’s equal parts celebration and protest.
Pride says love is love, whether it’s right-side-up, upside down or sideways. We celebrate you, your love, your joy and your freedom.
And we march onward and upward together to build a world that’s more stunning, and less atrocious.
For a dreamy, queer pride celebration, check out the “Upside Down” music video below, and make sure to give Stunning and Atrocious a spin on your favorite streaming service, pick up a copy from your local, independent record store, and check out the rest of Fleece’s delicious catalog as well!
The smash success, now widely considered the greatest World Cup Anthem of all-time, not only elevated the gay icon to worldwide pop-superstardom, but changed the music world forever: Igniting the subsequent Latin explosion in popular music worldwide.
In 1998, you simply could not go ANYWHERE and not hear the infectious, pulsating, salsa-infused dance sensation. Quite literally, Martin had the entire world dancing and singing together in Spanish, a testimony to the power of music to draw the entire world together as one.
Martin, one of the most famous and successful pop-stars in the world, as well as one of the best-selling Latin artists of all time, is a tremendous inspiration to the queer community worldwide, and particularly to the queer Latinx community. Not only has Martin paved the way for Latin music as a worldwide phenomenon, he has opened the door for countless other queer Latinx artists to share their identities openly and proudly.
Pride is about life.
Pride is about love.
Pride is about celebration!
So, in glorious, dance-able, spirit-soaring fashion, we ask ourselves…
Do we really want it?
Do we want the cup of life?
Do we want our Pride?
Do we want the cup of life?
Ale! Ale! Ale!
The moment is now! Tonight’s the night to celebrate. Love is love. And let us offer this cup of life far and wide. Everyone’s invited to the party.
On the day of her coming out, Joy Oladokun - one of music’s most prolific, acclaimed, and exciting young singer-songwriters - penned the beautifully gut-wrenching words to “Jordan,” which describe her liberation from the spiritual abuses that held power over her, and into the redemption of her lover - who rescued her from drowning, and breathed new life, faith, and hope into her weary soul.
In “Jordan,” Oladokun is able to so delicately and so brilliantly expose the bitter root of toxic religion, and the harm it inflicts upon Queer persons. The irony drips so vividly from the baptism as drowning metaphor. The weight is so intense from the shackles issued in the name of the “good” Lord.
But “Jordan” is not a song about death.
It’s a song about life.
And in a stunningly beautiful redemption and reclamation of faith and hope, Joy petitions God’s blessing upon the love and life that her and her lover have found, and are building together.
“Now we're building our own promised land
On this new ground we stand
God bless the work of our hands
And make good on our plans
'Cause now I've found love
There's no turning back
Salvation is love.
Salvation is embrace.
Like Joy, you may have been looking for hope, looking for love, looking for salvation, and experienced a hijacking of your soul that left you drowning.
But there is hope.
Pride is about hope. Pride is love. Pride is embrace in the face of exclusion. Pride is a protest against fear, control, and oppression - in all their forms.
You are welcome here.
You are loved here.
The waters are safe.
Make sure to check out the rest of Joy’s brilliant catalog on your favorite streaming platform, grab a copy of “Jordan” on her breathtaking 2021 debut album, “in defense of my own happiness,” OR her BRAND NEW album “Proof of Life,” from your local, independent records store, AND make sure you watch this gorgeous #MTVFreshOut performance of “Jordan” below!
Jonathan Bristow - Ascent Creator & Director.
Hey friends, welcome to the Ascent Radio Blog! A space in which we discuss all things music, as well as the happenings on the station. We're convinced of one thing around here: