Scissor Sisters Bring Activist Message to Their Music

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ONE camp-disco-rock ensemble from New York City has seized the stage and captivated us for over a decade with the swift hips and flawless falsetto of down-home boy Jake Shears, the fabulous, loud, and tattooed Ms. Ana Matronic, and their virtuoso, if only slightly more demure comrades, Babydaddy and Del Marquis. Formed in 2001, the Scissor Sisters have been making music that will drive you onto the dance floor. Their mission, though incontrovertibly fun and infectious, also strives to capture and clarify the struggles of the GLBT community.

In “Take Your Mama,” one of their best-known singles, the acoustic guitar drives an addictive rhythm and delectable piano riff like a Lincoln Continental right out of the showroom. The song is about the unraveling of a false identity created to avoid being outed: “Now your girl’s gone missin’ and your house has got an empty bed/ Folks’ll wonder ’bout the wedding, they won’t listen to a word you said.”

“Tits on the Radio,” with its throbbing bass line under Ana Matronic’s monotone, criticizes the gentrification of New York. “Where are the queers on the piers?/ Heard they gave it their best.” Jake Shears later breaks through to scream the chorus: “There ain’t no tits on the radio!” The song does down-and-dirty battle with censorship by using prohibited words like queer, tits, and tranny. It goes on to lament the displacement of sex shops and sex workers: “Dark room Danny can’t see with the lights turned out … hears police alarm.” In “Filthy/Gorgeous,” the policy of criminalizing sex work places those already in dangerous occupations into a criminal justice system that’s tailor-made to abuse and dehumanize them.

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