Guest Contribution by Casey/Clementine Griffin
Hello friends and beloveds, I hope these short days are kind to you, and that we are all enjoying the end of the year festivities- peppermint candies, time spent with loved ones as close as is safe, and of course, our individual Spotify Wrappeds. Now, if you run in the same circles that I do, you will have also seen another playlist created and dispersed by Spotify: their Queercore playlist.
Now, even just the title of it gave me pause from the beginning, with the history and context of queercore and queer culture being what it is, combined with Spotify’s corporate and exploitative nature. It came out that the original creator of the Spotify Wrapped concept was an intern at the time of creation and while was paid for her work, had not received any recognition up until her breaking the news earlier this year.
Her work is incredible and if you would like to see more of it you can find her on twitter @whateverjewel or her website whateverjewell.world. You can also learn more about her situation and the context surrounding it in this article for Refinery29 by Whizy Kim.
With this in mind, I hope that my initial reluctance for this playlist becomes a little more understandable. However, I looked into it more- into the songs on the playlist themselves and the creation of it.
First, though, I would like to give some context on the meaning of queercore and queer culture in general. Queer culture, to be general, is revolutionary, anticapitalist, and firmly against the standards that queer people have been put up against. There’s a common saying “Not Gay as in Happy, but Queer as in Fuck You”, which I think really shows the point of queerness as a concept. Throughout the history of the US, and other western cultures there has been a push towards assimilation of LGBT+ and Queer people into Cis-Het culture. We see this with our representation in the media- only skinny white “palatable” gays are allowed to be known and praised- think Ellen DeGeneres, or Simon of Love, Simon. That’s also only taking into account the pressures put on cis gay people, the pressure is increased exponentially on trans people, especially trans women, and especially tran women of color. This pressure to assimilate and become something familiar and comfortable to the general population with the reward of acceptance is a lie. Queer culture comes out of the acknowledgment and refusal of that lie. It’s the refusal to have our culture which has come out of oppression, be extinguished; it’s the veneration of those of us who hold onto and live our history- our butches and femmes, our trans elders and all of those we’ve lost. Queercore, as a genre is absolutely in that fold of creation. The music tends towards the punk side of things, the vibes towards the gritty and beauty of our ugliness.
This playlist in and of itself is not a bad one. It has some exemplary songs of the genre on it, with some of the artists who helped define it and has time for the newer sides of queercore. But, the thing is, this playlist has context to it. It was created by a corporation with a legacy of exploitation, not just of its employees, but of the artists it profits off of. The revenue per stream of a song comes to around $0.00318, or about 3 tenths of a penny, to go to whoever owns the rights to that song, and to be then distributed among all of the people who made the song happen. Basically, almost no money at all unless your music is getting a lot of attention. Which, this playlist does help with. A person could shuffle through it, and hear a song and find a new artist that way. Does the playlist fully represent the genre and act as an introduction to it? No. And, for some that’s fine, it’s a playlist, if someone is interested in the genre, maybe their starting place shouldn’t be Spotify, and that doesn’t seem like a bad take to me.
That said. I don’t believe that it does what it should. Spotify is a huge company, and they absolutely have the resources to properly research the genre and properly represent it. If they are going to take the time to create a playlist that is meant to represent “The voices of LGBTQ+ punk rock” (which as we’ve discussed isn’t the entirety of what queercore is), I would hope that they could do a bit more research about it.
Furthermore, it is incredibly gross of a company of this size and nature to attempt to represent the genre! It is about supporting artists and each other, and not paying them a little over a quarter of a cent per stream.
It is my belief that this playlist should not have come from Spotify, and that’s not to say they couldn’t make it. There are other similar genre playlists that have guest curators named, and linked to in their descriptions, as opposed to having the company in all of it’s faceless glory be responsible for this. I think that would have been a good option for them, with the understanding that queercore is opposed to corporate work, I think that would have made it better. As well, it would have shown a level research greater than a quick google which is the vibe that I get from their playlist.
Now, I don’t say this to discourage you from listening to the Queercore playlist, just to ask that you listen to other ones as well, and try to understand more of the genre and the culture than the initial surface level glimpse that is provided by this playlist. If you’re interested, I’d recommend the documentary “Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution” and another playlist on Spotify “The Sounds of Queercore” from the profile “The Sounds of Spotify”.
Basically, the takeaway is thus. When you’re getting into a new genre, do your research, check out where the things that you have come from, and understand the culture behind the music. Let the music be a route to better understanding subcultures and struggles in our history, and let it carry you to fight alongside those before you.
Casey/Clementine Griffin (he/they) is a junior at Ballard High School and occasional poet. You can find Clementine on Twitter @cassette_taps or on Instagram @dr.fungusmungus. They have a lot of things to say, but aren’t very sure about most of them. All views his own.