Sex and sexuality have always been central themes in pop music, but it's only recently that songs about being anywhere on the sexuality spectrum have come to be accepted as part of the lexicon.
Before the 2000s, although alternative lifestyles were becoming more and more accepted in everyday life, the music business and audiences still had a long way to go in embracing LGBTQ+ motifs. For most, coming out in the public eye was not easy and could mean the difference between platinum records and crickets.
A hit song like Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" is pretty flagrant in its meaning, but you may not realize just how many other musicians were also breaking down doors - some more subversively than others - before Perry walked through with ease. While subliminal messaging is still somewhat the art of the song, there's relatively more freedom to express bisexuality through music that wasn't acceptable even a decade ago.
When you listen closely to these songs, you may be surprised at the not-always-so-subtle lyrics you never realized were about bisexuality. You'll be surprised at some of songs and artists listed, but even if you don't love them all, you'll respect each and every one for having the courage to share themselves with the world. After all, the more vulnerable an artist is with their work, the more authentic the art, and these songs speak to the soul.
Key Line: "And never did I think that I, Would be caught in the way you got me, But girls love girls and boys, And love is not a choice."
Frontman Brendon Urie said of the song, "I believe that you can’t control who you are. It’s something that I’ve experienced myself, that girls do love girls and boys... I have had similar experience with homosexuality, with bisexuality, and that’s something I feel comfortable talking about."
Key Line: "I kissed a girl just to try it, I hope my boyfriend don't mind it."
In 2017, Katy revealed she was, in fact, bisexual. “Truth be told, I did more than that (kissing)! But in 2008, when that song came out, I knew that it started a conversation that a lot of the world seemed curious enough to sing along to it.”
Key Line: "Don't be scared 'cause I'm your body type, Just something that we wanna try"
An anthem hearkening to top-down convertibles and muggy nights, the song acknowledges the trope that sexuality is looser and freer in the warmer months. Lovato said she hoped the song would "kind of bring attention to people's sexuality, taking away the stigma and the shame of wanting to try things."
Key Line: "No he can't read my poker face (She's got me like nobody)"
During a 2014 lounge session, Gaga revealed her intention behind "Poker Face." She said, "You know this song is actually about when I was making love to this guy that I was dating a long time ago. I was thinking about chicks every time we had sex, and I just didn't want him to figure it out because I felt so bad. But I don't anymore because I wrote a song about it."
Key Line: "“The boys and the girls are here, I mess around with him, And I’m OK with it."
Fans believe that this as yet unreleased track by Styles — he first performed it in Paris on his world tour — is his way of admitting to the world that he identifies as bisexual... or at least, as created an anthem for others who identify as bi.
Key Line: "Te amo, te amo, she says to me, I hear the pain in her voice, Then we danced underneath the candelabra, she takes the lead, That's when I saw it in her eyes, it's over, Then she said Te amo, then she put her hand around my waist."
Part of Rihanna's signature smolder is the sexuality she exudes toward both men and women in her music. "Te Amo" was hailed by many in the queer community after its 2010 release, particularly by lesbians who were thrilled with the sexy girl-on-girl action of the almost NSFW music video.
Key Line: "Skeletons come to life in my closet, I found out what it takes to be a man."
Billy Jo Armstrong says he wrote the song when he was coming to terms with his sexuality in high school. "I think I’ve always been bisexual,” Armstrong said. “I mean, it’s something that I’ve always been interested in.
Key Line: "Girls who are boys, who like boys to be girls, Who do boys like they're girls, who do girls like they're boys."
While on holiday in Spain, Blur frontman Damon Albarn witnessed hookups of all kinds among fellow vacationers. He said, "All these blokes and all these girls meeting at the watering hole and then just copulating. There's no morality involved, I'm not saying it should or shouldn't happen."
Key Line: "Love me, hate me, Say what you want about me, But all of the boys and all of the girls, Are begging to if you seek Amy."
Despite her hetero-pop presence, Britney Spears was part of the late-'90s emergence of bisexuality and "alternative" sexuality. After Spears and Madonna locked lips during the 2003 VMAs, ThinkProgress noted: "Her first husband... alleged that she was bisexual after their divorce, and Spears herself played with the idea in 'If U Seek Amy,' a song that let you see either a dirty pun, or her sexual interest in a woman, or both."
Key Line: "Most everyone is AC/DC, Bisexuals on a loving spree."
Yes, it's the same Miracles, the band Smokey Robinson once fronted (he was gone by the time they released this song). The song is a pretty courageous statement for 1975!
Key Line: "It's like I'm powerful with a little bit of tender, An emotional, sexual bender."
Janelle Monae's androgynous vibes followed by her 2013 hit "Q.U.E.E.N" and its allusion to being attracted to other women cemented her squarely in the bisexual iconography. But her 2018 single, "Make Me Feel," was, as Vulture put it, "features bisexual lighting" and follows Monae's very direct flirtation with both men and women as she questions the impossibility of having to choose.
Key Line: "The boys, the girls, They all like Carmen, She gives them butterflies, bats her cartoon eyes."
Lana Del Rey is the queen of a languid sensuality who doesn't seem to differentiate between genders, and "Carmen" is one of the most overt acknowledgements of bisexuality — through the titular character who is chased by all the girls and boys.
Key Line: "She turns and says, 'Are you alright?', I said, 'I must be fine 'cause my heart's still beating', Come and kiss me by the riverside, Bobby says it's fine, he don't consider it cheating."
Bobby doesn't "consider it cheating" because the person that holds the interest of the narrator is a woman.
Key Line: "I'm kissing all the boys and girls."
Aguilera once said of her sexuality, "I love experimenting with my sexuality. If that means girls then so be it. It would be wrong to hide this side of my personality."
Key Line: "John, I'm only dancing, She turns me on, But I'm only dancing"
One of the earliest songs that had a notoriously bisexual vibe, the protagonist in "John, I'm Only Dancing" is in a relationship with the jealous John, who is worried about the girl who has captured his attention. However, it's all good because he's "only dancing."
Key Line: "All the young girls love Alice, Tender young Alice, they say, If I give you my number, Will you promise to call me? Wait till my husband's away."
Alice is a 16-year-old sex worker who "gets seduced by the naughty ladies," according to Elton John, but later pays a hefty price with her life.
Key Line: "And I opened up and I told her 'bout Larry, And yesterday how he asked me to marry, And I'm not giving him an answer yet, I think I can do better!"
Hmm... we wonder who that could be! Sobule kisses a girl and finds out. Her tune has the the same title as Katy Perry's hit, but she recorded it in 1995.
Key Line: "I just close my eyes and I dream about, Pretty boys and pretty girls."
The title of the song and most of the lyrics are pretty self explanatory. "Pretty Boys And Pretty Girls," released in 1988, is also one of the first songs to reference the AIDS epidemic and safe sex.
Key Line: "I don't have to make the choice, I like girls and I like boys."
Peaches just tells it like it is, celebrating all forms of sexuality consistently throughout her music. "I’m bisexual. I like women, I like men, I like combinations, and it’s all good to me."
Key Line: "'Cause when I see you, Dancing with your friends, I can't help wondering, Where I stand."
The narrator is initially approached by Johnny for a date. He becomes her boyfriend, but his indifference toward her — and his desire to hang out with his guy friends — can only mean one thing.
Key Line: "Oh, Billy Brown had lived an ordinary life, Two kids, a dog and then the cautionary wife, While it was all going accordingly to plan, Then Billy Brown fell in love with another man."
Later, Billy does leave his wife and kids (the lyrics make that pretty clear) and meets a "girly" in Mexico who tells him he's "a victim of the times.”
Key Line: "Switch hitter, You know she plays the field/"
A "switch hitter" is slang for someone who's flexible with both guys and girls equally. While Jett has been notoriously unconventional and embracing of sexuality and the queer community in particular, she's not made an explicit statement about her own identity. Which may be the best way to establish new norms.