Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lists Are Hot: 10 European lesbian and bisexual singers

This month in Lists Are Hot I want to highlight 10 lesbian and bisexual singers from 10 different European countries.

Some you might already be very familiar with and others might be new for you. In any case, I hope this list can contribute to your iTunes library or at least make you appreciate some of the great out performers that are out there.

Here are 10 queer singers worthy of checking out, in alphabetical order because they are simply too great to be ranked by awesomeness.

1. Billie Myers (UK)

If you are a regular reader of eurOut then you are already familiar with Billie Myers, the British singer who made a great come back last year with her album Tea & Sympathy. We also showed you her vlogs, in which she explained what some of the songs on that album were all about.

My favourite tracks are I hope you are happy now and Wonderful, but as much as I enjoy those songs they cannot compare to Kiss the rain, which will probably always remain my favourite Billie Myers song.

Besides being a great singer, Myers has also given her voice to LGBT rights by taking part in the NoH8 campaign and literally, by singing during the Equality March earlier this year. Moreover, she's just a really down to earth and friendly woman who even has people running marathons because of her.

2. Clara Luzia (Austria)

Austria isn't a country we get to cover that much on eurOut, but they do have an awesome and openly gay singer in their midst we already discovered a while back. Clara Luzia is an awesome singer who's recorded a number of solo albums, as well as performed with a band of the same name (how confusing).

I love one of her songs Modern Light, which also has a really fun video.  Another song that gives a good idea of what her style is like is Queen of the Wolves.

3. Edith Fambuena (France)

I love singer/songwriters and I have a soft spot for those that are not as widely known or as popular as the "big stars". One of those women that fits this description can be found in France. Edith Fambuena first started making music in the 1980's, with bands Les Max Valentin and Les Valentins. One of their hits was the track Les Avenues.

You might never have heard of Fambuena before, but you are all familiar with some of her work, as she has collaborated with many artists over the years, including co-writing the Pleasure Song of Marianne Faithfull.

4. Elle Bandita (the Netherlands)

When I first heard of Elle Bandita I wasn't so sure I would care much for her music. That was until I saw the video of Barbies and Zombies, which I thought was not only very catchy but a very cool concept as well. If you enjoyed that track, you might want to listen to more of her stuff here.

The front woman of the band with the same name could recently be seen at the L-Beach festival, and before this she went on a short, but pretty successful US tour.

5. Elli Erl (Germany)

I like German singer Elli Erl for a number of reasons. First of all, I like her for touring together with Katie Marie and singing that fun Tom Petty cover Free falling. Secondly, I like her for her involvement with Menschenkinder. And thirdly, I like that she became well known for taking part in the German version of Idols, yet everyone seems to have forgotten about this.

Erl recently had a new five-track album out, that you can check out here. She could also be seen at L-Beach.

6. Gianna Nannini (Italy)

Gianna Nannini has been playing music professionally since the late seventies. Over the years she has collaborated with many artists, including for example Annie Lennox. She's also responsible for Italy's 1990 Soccer anthem. After many many albums, her latest release can be found in 2009 entitled GIANNADREAM Solo i sogni sono veri

To get an idea of the kind of music she makes, check out the videos Aria and Grazie.

7. Lisa Dillan (Norway)

We have mentioned singer and activist Lisa Dillan a lot on eurOut already and for good reason. Not only is she a great musician and artist, she also cares about what goes on in the world. I especially like how she sometimes tries to make important points in a playful way, as with her headstand project.

Dillan describes her music as experimental, whereas others have called it expressive Jazz. Listen to some of her songs here and make up your own mind.

8. Nina Ramsby (Sweden)

I discovered singer Nina Ramsby last year when I really loved the heteronormality PSA Stockholm Pride had brought out and I found out it was one of Ramsby's songs I wanna run that was playing during it. Ramsby is a very diverse singer though, as can be seen from her collaboration with DJ Embee on Desire to be free.

If you like what you have heard so far, you might want to listen to some more of her songs on her MySpace page.

9. Sarah Bettens (Belgium)

What can I possibly say about Sarah Bettens that you don't know already? She's a great singer, Belgian, gay, part of the band K's Choice once again and just a very lovely person.

If you are a little slow catching on to the greatness of Bettens, try listening to songs like Come over here and Follow me, her Live cover I alone with Anouk, or the latest K's Choice video Come live the life.

10. Wallis Bird (Ireland)

She's young, cute and Irish and if you don't know her yet you are definitely missing out! Wallis Bird is an Irish singer/songwriter who's been compared to the likes of Ani Difranco and Fiona Apple, but I'm personally not a big fan of comparison and think you should just check out her music yourself. You can listen to some of her tracks on her website, I personally like Blossoms in the street the best.

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This post was first published on eurout.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Studying LesBians: Are we born lesbians or do we choose to be?

Studying LesBians is a monthly column about current and not so current research about lesbians and bisexual women. This month I want to talk about genetic and social influences on sexual orientation.

One of those things that always seems to come up whenever people (read: straight people) discuss sexual orientation is the question whether sexual orientation is something genetic, that you are born with or something that happens because of certain experiences or influences in your life.

These two points of view are usually (wrongly) interpreted as meaning you can either not help it (It was in your genes!) or you can (You chose to be this way!).

In psychology we call these two influences nature (when something is because of your genetic make up) and nurture (when something is due to upbringing and life experiences). Psychologists (and probably many others as well) would never say the former means it's a certain given that cannot be changed or you cannot be held responsible for. In the same way, they would never interpret something non-genetic as implying that you have a choice in the matter. 

In fact, researchers in psychology hardly ever speak of something being completely a matter of nurture or nature. Their favourite answer to most questions about nurture-nature is to say that it is probably a combination of both.

We are all born with a unique genetic blueprint that makes us susceptible to a whole range of positive and negative things, from diseases and disorders, to music and intellectual ability.

However, when something's in your genes it doesn't mean it will happen to you, just that you have the potential. Whether something actually manifests is often a matter of what happens to you in your life and the influences you are susceptible to. 

For example, you might have a risk of becoming depressed, but because of your positive life experiences and loving family it never manifests itself. Or because you are so interested in learning a new language because your foreign love interest, you overcome your lack of feeling for language.

I do not mean to imply that this works the same way for sexual orientation, just that with many things it is often not a black and white thing.

There are many studies showing there is indeed a genetic basis for sexual orientation. This ranges from stuff like homosexual men and women who have always known they were gay since they were very little, before it was even possible to be influenced by society. Research has also shown that brains of homosexual men often look more like female brains than that of straight men.

Then there's the research involving finger length, testosterone and sexual orientation. Even though the evidence is not that clear cut, there is some indication that finger length (in particular a longer ring finger than index finger) is more common among lesbians than straight women. A long ring finger is typically a sign of the amount of testosterone in one's body. Besides finger length, it's also true that more lesbians than straight women are left handed.

Homosexuality is also something that appears more often in some families than in others. You can probably all think of someone who also has a gay brother, sister, cousin etc. Of course, one could still argue that this is nurture, not nature, but when you get into the topic of nurture influences on sexual orientation, it quickly becomes rather Freudian and, well, stupid really.

With stupid I mean people who claim that when mothers and fathers are not feminine/masculine enough or too much, or when they are absent, this makes people queer because they lack nice heterosexual role models. There's many other examples, which you probably know better than me, so I won't go on. Of course, sexual orientation can be influenced by experience.

Even though it's a bad stereotype, it is true that some women do "become" lesbians because of negative experiences with men. Or more likely, they might have had the tendency for bisexuality all along and their experiences just made them lean more towards their queer side.

Another example is that you might never have realised your feelings towards women until you have a certain experience, like a crush on your best friend. If you hadn't had such a cute best friend, you might have continued to lead a "straight" life.

Some people are of the opinion that sexuality is fluent, and we either all start out as bisexual or our experiences can shape and alter who we are attracted to. There is not much research to back this up, even though it has been shown that women tend to be more fluent in their sexual orientation than men.

Regardless of sexual orientation and self-measures of arousal, it was found that women get physically aroused by sexy images, regardless of whether they are of men or women.

Of course, this type of research quickly gets you into the muddy waters of distinguishing between sexual orientation, sexual arousal and sexual experiences, which is way beyond the scope of this column.

My main point is that things are often not that black and white, and while there is scientific evidence for a genetic basis for sexual orientation, it is often, just as with everything else, dependent on your life experiences and life choices how something manifests itself.

Rather than trying to find out whether sexual orientation is a matter of nurture of nature, I want to pose the question: Does it really matter?

I believe that we are who we are and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a lesbian or bisexual. So why should it matter so much whether sexual orientation is in our genes, because of our life experiences or a combination of both?

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For more information about the scientific basis for the nurture-nature debate on sexual orientation, check out the great website BornGay.ProCon.org.

This post was first published on eurout.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Concert review: K's Choice's Echo Mountain tour

Last week I went to see K's Choice in concert in the Vredenburg, in Utrecht, the Netherlands. It had been 14 years since I'd first seen them live and they were just as great as then, if not better.

The first time I saw a performance by K's Choice was at the Pinkpop Festival back in 1996. I remember being quite impressed by them and I bought their album Paradise in Me shortly after. Over the years that followed I saw them a few more times at festivals, and I always really enjoyed their shows.

I guess you could say I am a fan, so I was really excited to hear Sarah Bettens and her brother Geert had revived K's Choice, were releasing a new album and were going on tour again.

The concert I went to was part of K's Choice's Echo Mountain tour through Europe (for a complete lists of dates and venues, click here), and one of only two dates in the Netherlands. Echo Mountain is the name of their latest album, which I love. Why? Because it's just really good.

If you enjoyed K's Choice's previous albums, especially Cocoon Crash, you are going to love Echo Mountain. My favourite song of the album is their first single Come live the life (and not just because of the cute video).

I went to see the concert together with my girlfriend. We weren't the only ones with that idea, as the area we were sitting was filled with a number of other cute lesbian couples. The majority of the concert goers though, seemed to be people in their late twenties to late thirties, who had probably also watched K's Choice live the first time around.

Besides the audience, including myself, being a little older than the first time I saw K's Choice live, they were also a little more quiet and controlled.

I saw some movement and a little dancing in front of the stage, but this was nothing compared to the crazy jumping up and down and crowd surfing of the late nineties. Then again, this could also have been due to the difference between a summer music festival and a concert hall.

K's Choice played the majority of the songs from Echo Mountain, but they also left plenty of room for their previous hits like Believe, Everything for free, and of course Not an addict. In addition, they played a few of Sarah Bettens' songs, including one of my favourites Come over here.

Unlike some artists who don't really seem to care much about the performance they are giving, K's Choice really seemed to be enjoying themselves. They were enthusiastic, energetic (I got tired just watching Sarah jumping up and down the stage!) and sounded just great. We were treated to not one, but two encores, including a brilliant acoustic version of God in my bed.

All in all it was a really good concert and a great night out. If you have the chance to go see them live near where you live, I definitely recommend it. If you can't, at least get their new Echo Mountain album from iTunes, I promise you won't regret it.

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Photo credit: All photos are from the K's Choice Facebook page.

This post was first published on eurout.