This is proving to be the year for up-and-coming queer artists are ready to take things to the next level, challenging the mainstream’s views of image and sexuality along the way.
Grayson, a nonbinary singer-songwriter, model and stylist, recently released “Cherry Pits,” a dreamy, sparse and hypnotic electro-pop song from their upcoming EP, “Head to Head.”
Grayson said the song is about growth and the need to take ownership of self.
“This desire brought up many questions: What are my needs? People often say, ‘You can’t have everything.’ You definitely can’t have it by stepping on someone else in order to get there. It warps the success of whatever that thing may be. Misery loves company, as the cliché goes.”
Grayson added they have never been able to handle confrontation well, “but ‘Cherry Pits’ is a firm voice giving me permission to no longer stay in a damaging cycle. Toxic behaviors often repeat, but when you can finally turn the corner of letting go, the energy around you feels super-charged.”
Meanwhile, Grayson said their involvement in both music and fashion tends to blend, even unintentionally. “For me, everything intertwines with music. I seek some separation, but music is my everything.”
It’s not surprising that Grayson draws inspiration from artists and icons that blur the line between genres and genders.
“For the last couple months, I’ve really been into a lot of queer artists,” they said, noting Prince and David Bowie. “Those are some of the icons that I’ve been studying.”
Saro Photo: Courtesy of No Deal PR
Saro, a queer androgynous musician of color, model and an avid gamer, is also making a name for himself in music and fashion.
His latest single, the haunting and yet danceable “Nothing Remains,” is out ahead of his upcoming EP due in June.
“It’s about feeling hopeless about love, fearing you’ll never have it,” Saro said of his single. “But then someone blindsides you and sneaks in and makes you realize that you are capable of loving someone.”
Saro’s sound is categorized as “alt-R&B” and pop, but if you spin through the radio dials and playlists of most R&B stations and streaming services, a lot of R&B performed by straight artists on the airwaves is as electronic, ambient and clubby as anything you will find among Saro’s releases.
Still, Saro doesn’t mind the “alt” tag as long as it helps him find his fan base.
“I honestly think it’s more about the demographic,” he said about his alternative status. “The sounds change so often and every song could be R&B or electronic or something different.”
Saro said he doesn’t agree with pigeonholing artists into one genre in the contemporary music scene. He says, “I think keeping it as general as possible is best when it comes to genres.”
But he said he does enjoy the ease of finding like-minded musicians within an ever-advancing listening landscape. “Everything is evolving. The up-the-middle R&B and modern music are in the direction of other elements.”
Saro has used his alternative status to score appearances in premier festivals like Coachella.
“I fit more in with festival music,” he said. “The biggest festivals are more eclectic. Coachella now is so mainstream, but they also have the indie acts.”
While Saro misses the underground roots Coachella was once known for, he does like that it opens up the world of indie music for others.
“Ariana Grande might not ever have heard someone like [me]. Any opportunity for them to kind of hear indie acts is important.” And, he adds, of course, “The cool factor of the festivals makes them worth doing.”
Both Grayson and Saro said the artists that influenced them, as well as out successful pop and R&B artists like Sam Smith and Frank Ocean, have made it easier for queer musicians to find success and acceptance in their respective genres.
“Grace Jones and Annie Lennox and so many other powerful, colorful women really paved the way for presenting androgyny and images of strength,” Grayson said. “There’s a lot of separation now, but the more visibility there is for nonbinary folks, the better it will be for them.”
Added Saro, “People are starting to look past certain things,” and relating to those who are coming out.
He admitted he was nervous being open about his sexuality fearing, “it would put me in some sort of bubble or stuck is some niche. But being honest and truthful about who you are is the way to be the truest to whom you are and make the best art and connect with the most people.”