There’s nothing new about gender bending in pop music. From Grace Jones to David Bowie, androgyny has always been hip — and hot. But what happens when musicians stretch the innuendo to its logical extreme by embodying an opposite-gender alter ego? Find out after the jump, where we meet Lady Gaga as a drag king and find out why a certain Beatle sometimes tries to convince himself he’s a woman when recording.
Lady Gaga = Jo Calderone
Here’s something to make you sexually confused: You see a skinny, dandily coiffed, pretty cute guy in Vogue Hommes Japan… and then it turns out that the dude is almost definitely Lady Gaga in a suit. (Hey, at least it’s nice to know her body doesn’t automatically reject pants!)
Kevin Barnes = Georgie Fruit
If you’ve taken a college queer theory class, you’re probably well versed in the differences between sex and gender. Keep that in mind when considering that of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes transformed himself into 40-something African-American gender-shifter Georgie Fruit, who Barnes described as having multiple sex-change operations in his past, halfway through 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? These days, Georgie’s influence isn’t as literal, but anyone who’s listened to of Montreal in the past few years knows he’s still there, somewhere, queering both Barnes’ lyrics and his arrangements.
Laurie Anderson = Fenway Bergamot
Anderson’s new album Homeland may be the first you’ve heard of her male alter ego, historian and social commentator Fenway Bergamot has been around since 1978, channeled through what Anderson calls an “audio-drag” filter and named by her main man, Lou Reed. “I used to call it ‘the voice of authority,'” she said in a recent interview, “but now it doesn’t have much authority left. It frees me to use language in a more cut-up way.”
Prince = Camille
Debates still rage over the gender of Camille, Prince’s dark, notorious alter ego. While the eponymous character of an unreleased 1986 Prince album definitely had a traditionally female name, and the vocals on the record were sped up (making the voice higher), the purple one has also “referred to Camille as a ‘boy’ and ‘he.'” We’ll chalk it up to just another facet of Prince’s convoluted sexuality.
Paul McCartney = Gladys Jenkins
What do you do when you’re one of the most famous musicians of all time and the anxiety of your own influence has you too freaked out to record? If you’re Paul McCartney, you pretend you’re a lady named Gladys Jenkins, and that somehow takes the pressure off. “We decided to go undercover, to do whatever we wanted,” he said of the recording sessions for 2008’s Electric Arguments. “That way, when you go to the microphone, I don’t think of it as going as Paul MCCartney and it frees you up. I’d say, ‘Right, you’re going to become Gladys Jenkins.'”