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Rewriting narrative and reclaiming sex: ZAND, Bambie Thug and more

By Roxann Yus | 24/08/22


Themes that infiltrate rock and metal music usually include the following: violence, drugs, sometimes love and sex, and usually all from a man’s perspective. The stereotype that metal music is ‘angry men screaming about angry things’ has been fairly accurate for many years. Whilst the big-hitters of classic rock popularised love: I’m thinking Bryan Adams, The Police, Oasis, and probably a whole Spotify playlist full of white men describing the perfect white girl. This article is based upon a generalisation of rock and metal music I’ve been exposed to that concerns these themes, but I’m sure there are many underrepresented and valued artists who have defied this category altogether in the past. However, I’m interested in how rock and metal music has evolved today, mostly towards an alternative, genre-bending direction, to transform the popularity of different themes, and most importantly, change the perspective to meet modern society’s expectations of expression and identity.


All of my favourite music meets this expectation. I want a different perspective; one that meets my own POV on violence, drugs, love and sex. As mentioned in my previous article The Pride of Life, I praise punk heavyweights Bob Vylan for their attitude and encouragement towards healthy eating and lifestyle; a complete contrast to what we traditionally expect from punk music. But this article focuses on the more silenced and taboo theme of sex in rock and metal music. Honestly, I can’t recall many ‘classics’ that discuss it, but recently I did come across an embarrassing, former, well-loved-at-the-time album Dark Horse. For pride reasons, I’d rather not say who it’s by. But for professional, journalistic reasons I probably have to. Dark Horse is Nickelback’s 2008 album with a certain track I want to talk about: S.E.X. I’m not sure what the response was in 2008, but even mine in 2016 was ignorant and oblivious to the lyrics. This song invalidates consent and merely recognises “yes” as a response to sex. Its male perspective is particularly concerning now with the popularity of Andrew Tate. So naturally, I must point out its flaws and draw attention to the harm and potential risk that music with these POVs and motifs can have, and why I am so grateful for the artists changing the perspective, creating self-expressive songs and uplifting women and marginalised genders regarding this theme.


Since 2020 I’ve noticed an inspired influx in songs that discuss sex and identity, and totally reclaim it all as their own. Sex and identity are no longer thrashed onto other people in songs: “she must treat me this way” has turned into “I am this. I deserve this. This is how I want it”. For me, the artists leading this reclamation brand themselves with sex positivity, expression and relentlessly authentic identity. Sex isn’t just an anomaly in their discography, seceded by more dominant and popular themes like violence or drugs. Their discography is sex-positive: a constant thread throughout their work defining them as modern artists who are undeniably necessary right now.


Such artists include ZAND, Bambie Thug, GIRLI, Scene Queen, DYLYN, and Nova Twins. They all behold a great sense of vulnerability in the strength of reclaiming sex, love, and identity. Within this phenomenal selection of artists, there is a spectrum of experiences, yet they all share a great power and confidence to brand themselves as authentically and true as they can, discussing things that have been difficult and taboo for many people for far too long.



For me, this wave all started with ZAND. I had Slut Money on repeat in 2020 and 2021. This was one of my first experiences branching outside of more traditional rock/metal and towards this magical, expressive, and inclusive world of alternativity. I very soon realised that if this is what alternative music sounds like, encourages and is represented by, I am all in. With lyrics as delicious as “Hosting a temple shaped like this?” and as reclaiming and powerful as “Why you complaining when it’s not your body?”, ZAND intertwines opulence and self-worth in their lyrics. This thread runs through all of ZAND’s work, and even recently we’re treated with the vulnerability behind it all with Battery Acid. ZAND exposes themself as a powerful and thoughtful force for good in the music industry, and I hope you all check out their stunning discography.


Next is Bambie Thug, another example of non-binary excellence who truly claims sex and identity as their own. Their newest release Kawasaki (I Love It) as well as iconic PMP represent two sides of the same campy coin. We have the fruitiness of sex-positivity, as well as the occult of self and value. Bambie Thug is a staple of reclamation, weaving that through their identity and presence as an artist and experimenting with how limitless this spectrum is.


Then there are artists such as GIRLI and Scene Queen who share a badass pink aesthetic that I’m totally obsessed with. Maybe that explains white noise.’s branding a bit? GIRLI has a charming relatability to her songs, soundtracking experiences with love and relationships as a queer person, and also her treatment as a woman professionally. Although not explicitly sex-positive, her confidence to bite back at men’s treatment of her and other marginalised groups in music deserves her a place on this list. In her most popular song More Than a Friend she’s open about her sexuality: “she was on my mind when I was in his bed”; “When she takes her clothes off, I know that she’s my type”. Now Scene Queen takes this a bit further and ‘bimbofies’ it a bit, as I’m sure she would like to say. Songs Pink Panther and Pink Rover are personal favourites of mine, both oozing female dominance, confidence in being queer, and fun, musical erotica. Both artists here are different volumes of sex-positivity, but nonetheless follow and lead the path necessary to reclaim sex and identity, whilst also normalising and defetishizing these topics in general.


Another iconic sex-positive track for me is Make It Naked by DYLYN. It reverts the narrative, reclaims experience and highlights consent in sexual relations. With lyrics like “This is how I want it”, this track is the perfect example of a consensual, respectful active voice, instead of expressing what you expect from a partner, like present in older, outdated songs about sex, such as S.E.X itself.



Now, centrally engraved within a beautifully carved album is Puzzles. Many surprises came with Nova Twins’ album Supernova, but Puzzles highlighted the necessity for a sex-positive track from this creative, confident, and unique powerhouse. In no way does it go against the grain of what we expect from Nova Twins as they have always branded themselves as independent and proud black women, but its explicitness was unexpected. When it was first released, they asked on social media whether we were ready for a “sexy rock song” which is exactly what it is. Just because it’s sexy doesn’t make the artist fetishized for creating such art and holding such beliefs and confidence in themselves. There is the age-old question of whether you can separate the art from it's artist. My answer is truly no: their art is an outpour of who they are, their identity, and what they claim. If the art is fetishized – likely the artist is too. This is why it is fundamental that fetishization of sex-positive music is erased, and we instead view it just as Nova Twins introduced Puzzles to be: sexy, fun, completely intrinsic to who they are as modern artists, and completely representative of how our attitudes towards sex and identity should be.


This is the direction we need artists to go in. For some artists, sex positivity is their brand, but for others, it’s a beautiful accessory to their confident, revolutionary outfit. But either way, they are intrinsically tied to their art. Every word in their songs is driven by emotion, perspective, and an experience that is truly theirs. They invite us into all of this, and I’m so thankful they do. Rewriting the narrative of taboos and stereotypes through music is a great influential tool for societal change. Reclaiming sex is just one very important part of that.

 

Edited by: Roxann Yus


Cover image designed by: Ben Massey

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