As I write this I’m on copious painkillers and antibiotics for an infection which feels like the plague so please excuse me if this post is a little all over the place. All I’ve been able to do all day is take medication and watch old music videos- for some reason the nostalgia is acting like some sort of morphine for me and earlier I did have to think twice about headbanging to Nirvana (headbanging in my current condition would likely be fatal so I resisted the urge). The music videos led me back to an old favourite of mine: La Roux.
La Roux always has and always will be a queer icon of mine. Her music brought me a significant amount of solace as I tried to navigate the world of secondary school while knowing that I was a queer person. I remember when I first saw the music video for Bulletproof and I felt some wave of inspiration like nothing I had felt before. It was futuristic, utopian, blurring the boundaries between what it meant to be feminine or masculine. Looking back at my experience it feels comparable to the accounts of many people’s reactions to David Bowie in the early seventies (and the comparison is all too easy to make with La Roux’s aesthetic, pop-art-retro, Bowie-reminiscant style).
There’s a short story which I feel obligated to tell in relation to my ongoing love of La Roux so here goes. When I was around 13/14 a close friend of mine asked me to date him. I remember feeling something unparalleled to anything I had felt previously, I felt sick and ashamed and like a deer in headlights. I felt manic and like I wanted to run. I felt threatened. Sometimes when I think about my sexuality I remember this moment and I wonder what made me reply ‘maybe’. I cried as I walked home, listening to La Roux, wondering how to escape the situation. I remember vividly, listening to Tigerlily and hearing this lyric/line in the narrative:
‘Lurking in the dark is someone who breathes you night and day
There’s a friend who wants so much more
But if they can’t have you, they’ll never let you walk away’
I was lucky that time, I managed to walk away but the lingering guilt and confusion lasted for years.
The second part to this story comes five years later. I had got into and out of an abusive relationship in the previous year and I decided that it would be a good idea to try to start dating again. I was trying desperately to fit in. I had just started university and I wanted an ordinary life so I joined a dating app and met up with someone two days later (I was very mentally unwell and the level of dangerous situations I put myself in still astounds me). To cut a very long story short, I went on a date with one of the most bland men I’ve ever met in my life but he was very interested in me. I felt sick, threatened, like I needed to run. Except this time, I had the weight of an abusive relationship on my shoulders and my body shut itself down. I left the date quickly and ran to the bathrooms in my university, breathless and terrified. The anxiety attack lasted three hours as I sat a dark stall with the door bolted as I sobbed hysterically. I didn’t know what was wrong. I didn’t want to feel that way. When I got on the next train home, I listened to La Roux’s latest album. I felt thankful for her and her music. It felt reminiscent but I didn’t make the immediate connection with the situation five years earlier.
La Roux is my queer solace, her music makes me feel safe and comforted in a way which I had almost forgotten until recently when I loaded her albums onto my phone again. Her albums inspired confidence and comfort in me during some of the most difficult yet poignant moments in my life.
I’d love to hear about an artist or band which has done something similar for you. Who makes you feel validated, self-assured or confident? Has music ever marked a significant point in your life? Let me know in comments.-AB
super blurry picture is courtesy of 14-year-old photographer me~ I was at one of La Roux’s first gigs! Had to have it as part of this post for nostalgic value.