A handful of music's best gender-benders

Lady Gaga's recent spread in the Japanese edition of Vogue was an exercise in tongue-in-cheek banality, posing in a suit and dyed eyebrows as Jo Calderone, explaining how he/she took him/herself out on a date and maybe got it on: "She's fuckin beautiful, and funny, and interesting. I was a little nervous for Nick to start shooting. She said, 'Don't be baby, you were born this way.' I took her out after. The rest is private ;)"

"Gender-bending" isn't always so boring, however. Artists have used it as a means to stretch or question the definitions of masculinity and femininity for decades, often within the not-so-subtext of being a gay, lesbian, or transgender artist working within the strict mien of pop culture. And some have just used it for laughs (Jo Calderone doesn't seem to fit either). Taking from both column A and column B, here's some of our favorites.

k.d. lang

A handful of music's best gender-benders

Technically not a gender-bend, k.d. lang's Vanity Fair cover came four years before she released Drag, her double entendre-founded record of songs all about smoking cigs and/or wearing sharp suits. For pretty much the whole of my memory, lang has been one of the most easily respected artists in a world of dreck and posture.

Boy George

What's not to like about Boy George? Holy do-it-your-way. In the interview above see the 22-year-old charm the shit out of Joan Rivers of all people. "I'm up for anyone who'll have me. Like flypaper."

50 Cent



A handful of music's best gender-benders

From an essay by musicologist and professor Erik Steinskog:

Antony's voice comes across as "different". It has to do with his use of vibrato, the way he employs pitch, and the very sound of the voice, something notoriously difficult to pin down in words. Not that one would misperceive - if that is the word - it as the voice of a woman. But even stating the point in this way shows show much sexual difference is taken for granted when discussing the voice. Descriptions of his voice have often used words such as "angelic" and "ethereal," and he has been called "a creature" as if to challenge any notion of a gendered human being. The term "creature" might obviously constitute a problem here. It is as if the humanity of Antony is questioned, and the term quite obviously might have a transphobic ring to it. It also resembles how, historically, the voice of the castrato was described, as angelic or monstrous, and thus in a particular sense non-human.

Whether you can stomach the ivory tower, the Mercury Prize-winning singer inarguably has one of the most interesting voices to emerge over the last ten years.


Not a group to look to for an enlightened view of gender or sexuality. But a great reference if looking for the best rouge to cover your pasty white egomaniacal face.

Paula Poundstone's Pantaloons

A handful of music's best gender-benders

I know. You're wondering "what does Paula Poundstone have to do with music?" The answer is nothing. But this kind of fashion fastidiousness is something we feel should be celebrated. Good ass job, Paula!

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