Last month my friends and I saw the musician Tristan Prettyman perform at the Bowery Music Hall. I will confess this was my first time seeing her, and in reality I had only just heard of her a few months before when my girlfriend told me she bought us concert tickets for a fun date night. Anya Marina (also new to me) opened up with just a guitar, some beautiful singing, and a sense of humor that mirrored my own. I was quickly smitten, and before I could even voice my newfound love, my friend proclaimed, "I have a full blown girl crush on that singer." Twenty minutes later, Tristan Prettyman bounced onto the stage with her band and rocked our socks off. It appeared we were not the only ones with crushes, because the (primarily female) audience went wild for Tristan as well.
I leaned over to my girlfriend and yelled, "Seriously, Tristan Prettyman is one hot lesbian! Those legs are unreal! Who was she engaged to before?" And lo and behold, she had been engaged to a man (popular singer Jason Mraz) and is totally not a lesbian. I surveyed the audience members (short hair-check, flannel shirts-check, slouchy beanies-check, tongue down another girl's throat-check) and turned to my GF with a puzzled expression. "What do you mean she's not a lesbian? Why the eff are all these lesbos yelling out their phone numbers then?"
She didn't have a concrete answer, and it inspired a discussion about female singers and bands that have a large lesbian following. I'm not talking about kd Lang, Indigo Girls, Uh Huh Her, Melissa Etheridge, or other lesbian musicians who are rocking the scene. Of course lesbian music fans will want to band together and support talented and popular lesbians. But what is it about some musicians that draw in the lesbian fans?
The answer is obvious when it comes to singers like Ani DiFranco. I was fortunate enough to see Ani for the second time last December (she was amazing, btw) and it was no surprise that it was a total taco party. But Ani is vocally bi, and has had female lovers and girlfriends, and she sings about girls in love, so of course she has a large lesbian following. But Tori Amos? She isn't gay, and she sings about love and love lost with men. And yet she has a huge lesbian fan database.
The alternative band Garbage has all male band members, save for one, singer Shirley Manson. At their Terminal Five show in March the crowd was a wild mix of genders, ages, and cultures, but wouldn't you know, my girlfriend and I were sandwiched between two lesbian couples. I imagine, like me, a lot of the bouncing lesbians were there to sing their hearts out alongside fiery Shirley Manson (also bi) who knows how to touch our souls with her dark and gritty music. "Cherry Lips" is a pop anthem about a beautiful transgendered individual, and not only does the song rock the house, it is a sweet tribute and inspiring to LGBT fans and non-LGBT fans alike. But tiny and adorable folk singer Jewel? A beautiful scribe of love and heat between boys and girls? Lesbians love that silky voiced pixie (and so do Funny or Die fans).
You know who else lesbians love? Fiona Apple. And after the letter she penned (in 2000) in response to a high schooler's request to write to his school's gay-straight-alliance went viral in 2012, I am sure her LGBT fan base grew even more. Alanis Morrissette? Her anthems make me belt my pain out the car window, and I am sure many women have blared her song "You Oughtta Know" on repeat after a break up. Women, and lesbians, love Alanis. (And apparently some gay men in Florida HATE Alanis.)
Robyn embraces her gay fan base, and even rocks a "lesbian haircut", so it's no wonder the Judiths set their playlists to Robyn when running along the Westside Highway. Ah yes, lesbian haircuts could be used as a filter, for hasn't La Roux singer Elly Jackson often defended her sexuality? Surely I am not the only girl out there drooling over Pink's cute hair and smokin' abs while she rocks a full house.
Madonna owns the gay fan base, boys and girls alike, but that's a no-brainer. Kelly Clarkson. My lesbian friends worship Kelly Clarkson. (The lesbian rumors have been mostly quashed after her recent engagement to a boy, though she is an outspoken LGBT ally.)
And perhaps there lies the answer. With songs like "Stronger" and her new single "People Like Us", she is offering women everywhere some amazing and empowering ballads. Perhaps lesbians are drawn to musicians who sing about more than clothes, Hollywood, and the next boy toy. Maybe we like singing along to songs that not only rock, but actually have lyrics that mean something to us. Tori, Fiona, Alanis, Jewel, Ani... all poets that know how to layer their lyrics with truth. They are women who know how to rock, who deserve our fanbase, and who inspire me to belt their anthems in my shower.