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Shirley Manson, the lead singer of Garbage usually calls her fans endearingly “darklings”. A darkling usually could be someone who has grown up listening to Garbage, and stood with the band for more than 15 years now or even someone who just began to like Garbage. While it may be easy to dismiss the term “darkling” as something that is way too pretentious, and something that tries hard to project darkness, or the “state of being noir” as Shirley Manson’s former record company might describe, a closer observation would reveal that there is much more to being a darkling than the meaning that people usually assume.
The transition from the raw and violent angst packed in Garbage’s debut album progresses into a more mellowed and stylized form of expression in Version 2.0. In Beautiful Garbage, the fan experiences confusion with the variety of choices that life has to offer, from the angst ridden “Silence if Golden” to the tragically sweet “So Like a Rose”. Garbage fans were in home ground during the Bleed Like Me phase, with its powerful guitars and equally powerful lyrics. It was the time to come to terms with the past scars, and challenge a world which “tries to comprehend that which it will never comprehend”.
As any Garbage fan who has stood with the band for all these 15 years would agree, that the lyrical and musical quality of Garbage has always transcended genders, races, and nationalities and given hope and comfort to those in pain and also to those filled life’s adjustment problems. Shirley has spoken against any kind of discriminations that could occur based on a person’s looks, lifestyle or sexuality. Perhaps this makes her an alternate gay icon, as opposed to other mainstream gay icons such as Madonna, Cher, Kylie Minogue and Elton John.
Most LGBT people across the world are more vulnerable to adjustment problems not because of their sexuality, but because of the prejudices heaped against them. Of course, in most countries it is no big deal to grow up gay, but somewhere within the mind of a gay youngster, still lurks the doubt of being “different” from the mainstream. This doubt only gets worse as he or she grows older. Many of the tracks released by Garbage can be easily related to by LGBT people, regardless of their age, just like straight people could.
However, garbage does seem a little more gay-friendly than many other bands out there today. Most songs by Garbage can be described as being gay-friendly, but some really stand out as being particularly so. These tracks may be explicitly targeted for a gay audience by the band themselves, or perhaps, LGBT individuals find it easy to relate so. Here are 10 songs that we at The Fiendish feel are very rainbow friendly, though they are listed in no particular order.
Though the title “Queer” clearly may suggest homosexuality, members of Garbage once said the song is about a female prostitute who gets hired by a boy’s father to teach the kid the ways of birds and bees. However, it would seem that no father would hire a hooker of the street to teach a growing boy how to have sex, unless the boy was, well gay.
A homophobic father (who could be having homosexual tendencies himself) could just not tolerate it when he found out his son was gay, and tries to get the son “converted” to heterosexuality. “Like father, like son” seems to suggest that the father could be gay too, but only too homophobic to admit his own sexuality. Of course, one may argue about Queer being about just an odd person, and it could be true too. Text receives meaning not from just the author, but also the reader. Thus, if the song struck a note with gay people, it just could be!
Only Happy When It Rains
The grand dame of all Garbage singles, Only Happy When It Rains has remained an anthem for most Garbage fans, young or old, gay or straight, man or woman. The contemptuous adoration of misery, and the need to feel pain and loving it, and feeling solace and acceptance within one’s depression are some of the themes of this song.
Though it is not specifically targeted at the LGBT community, liking something adverse (as understood by the mainstream society) and being comfortable in it no matter what, and in fact asking for more (“pour your misery down on me”) is the story of ever gay individual. The self hatred (non acceptance of one’s own sexuality) and hatred towards the world (anger resulting from rejection) and resulting depression, and accepting this melancholy as one’s own could be the story of many gay individuals.
One of the most beautiful and mysterious songs till date released by Garbage, has nothing really “gay” about it. It is about unrequited love, or about the loss of a loved one due to separation, death, or just about anything. However, waiting endlessly for that special person, knowing that special person actually does not exist is a fact that is understood by many gay people.
This could be due to the fact that many gay people feel lonelier than heterosexual individuals. This is again not because of their sexuality per se, but due to the stigma attached to a gay relationship. The song certainly has nothing “pink” about it, but it certainly appeals to a large section of gay people, just like it appeals to straight people.
A song that suggests unrequited love, it explores an individual’s obsession for the person of desire. The craving, the jealousy, pain and agony of not being able to reach the person and the state of being ignored are states of mind that a gay individual usually goes through.
Though most heterosexual people go though similar emotions, a gay individual might experience them more often as chances are, his or her object of affection may not actually be of the same sexual orientation, leading to alienation and isolation.
The song seems to suggest the inner cravings and yearnings masked by a facade by the individual. Most gay men and women, even today are “straight acting” to the point of raising families and marrying in order to please an oppressively patriarchal society. Such instances are common in countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The idea that homosexuality is “satanic”, and something that needs to be hidden like the wolf that dons a sheep’s clothing is all too familiar for LGBT people living in oppressive societies where there is a lot of mind control happening. However, what lurks behind the “sheep’s” clothing has to come out, sooner or later and all hell breaks out loose.
The song specifically targets LGBT people and Shirley Manson encourages the listener to “take what you need to turn you on” and speaks of boys in the parlour and girls in the men’s room. The single could connect with not just LGBT community but people of all orientations including heterosexuals who usually feel suppressed too. The song could be not just about orientations, but also discovering an exploring new fetishes.
Garbage released this song as a tribute to a transgendered person, who perhaps did not make it. The single is about a transgendered person who lights up peoples’ hearts with the warmth and freshness. Shirley explicitly encourages the individual to accept one’s identity and that it is ok to be who he or she is, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
So Like a Rose
The song is about a young man or boy who commits suicide and the intense feelings of loneliness driving someone to suicide. There is certainly a chance that the boy in question could have been gay. Suicide rates are higher among gay teenagers than among straight ones, and this has been supported by many studies.
The song could be about an intensely depressed teenager or young man who commits suicide, because he cannot accept his sexuality or maybe his family doesn’t. Even if he has no problems with his sexuality, he could just be depressed and contemplating taking his life.
Right Between the Eyes
Rumours have it that Right Between the Eyes was written for Courtney Love, but then they are rumours. It could very well have been a song written for someone whose defeat everyone wants to witness. Being gay is never easy, not even in the modern nations where there are fewer stigmas attached to alternative lifestyles. Most people would love to prove a gay person to be a deviant, a loser, a clown, or worse, sub-human who deserves to be exterminated.
When Shirley says that people are jealous of her pretty star because he/she has soul in their shattered heart, she is at her humane and empathic best. While realistically admitting that life is a bitch and then one dies, she encourages the person to stay alive, and live for the ideals and qualities that the person is meant for. The song could very well be a gay anthem, though it has never been looked at in this angle.
Bleed Like Me
The song is most certainly written about mental illness and how mind can play havoc on one’s life, and how the world just doesn’t seem to understand the scars of a pained soul. The mention of Chrissie who dresses up like a brand new toy, JT who has a drinking problem, and challenging a world to comprehend that which it will never comprehend is something that most gay people can relate to.
Mainstream society which still believes that being gay is somebody’s choice, and that they should be democratically allowed to live their choices at best, makes the blunder of not understanding the scars, and not understanding the dynamics of being part of the LGBT community.
Whether Shirley Manson and the rest of the dudes realize it or not, most of Garbage’s songs have something vaguely “rainbow friendly” in them, if not overtly so. These are the opinions of the writer, and they have nothing to do with official song meanings.