If you’re like me and make playlists for specific occasions, then you might as well check out these romantic tunes by lesbian and bisexual artists!
1. “Tokyo Love Hotel” – Rina Sawayama
Rina Sawayama’s music has turn-of-the-century popstar vibes: she gives us permission to bounce around our bedroom and sing through our hairbrush – unabashedly – like we’re reliving our teenage years. While many of Rina’s songs involve a satisfying but surprising nu-metal twist on the traditional Pop Princess trope — she wants us to know she’s got a nice right hook — “Tokyo Love Hotel” is firmly planted in what I didn’t even realise I missed about the early 2000s.
Perhaps this song is perfect for a first date that follows an untraditional – like Rina Sawayama – love story. She sings about truly loving somebody who everyone else wants to use just for the night, “They don’t know you like I know you, no they don’t / Use you for one night and then away they go.” She wants her potential date to know, “I don’t wanna check into the Tokyo Love Hotel / I just want your love all to myself.” Perhaps it’s for those of you convincing someone to go monogamous.
Rina explains, on Apple Music, that this song can be read as a love letter to Japan: “Japanese people are so polite and respectful, and I feel that culture in me. There are places in Japan called love hotels, where people just go to have sex…I felt like these tourists were treating Japan as a country or Tokyo as a city in that way. They just come and have casual sex in it, and then they leave…they don’t give a shit about the people or don’t know anything about the people and how difficult it is to grow up there.”
2. ‘Come Over’ – The Internet
Similar to Rina Sawayama, Syd from The Internet sings to a nostalgic R&B beat and a film clip reminiscent of early 2000s teenage romantic comedies. Syd was a “simultaneously anonymous and highly scrutinised” member of Odd Future, according to The Guardian, before joining up to form The Internet. “In the beginning it was tough, especially being part of a group that everybody thought was homophobic. Then, years later, everybody’s gay! People wanted to talk to me about it the most. Like, you have an issue with Tyler [the Creator]’s lyrics, but you want to talk to me about it? Talk to him about it! I started to resent it,” she said.
Syd explains to Spotify’s Genius that “Come Over” is about the game of seduction, especially when there’s a woman you’re super into who is difficult to read. “There’s a girl in L.A.” she said, “That’s my homegirl. But she be acting like she don’t want me to come over sometimes and I be like, ‘Damn’.” In ‘Come Over’, Syd pulls out all the stops to show this woman she’s the real deal. She tries seducing her with sex, “I can turn you on / With my dirty mind”; she tries love, “Worth a try / Puppy love / Butterflies / Made you blush / You made me smile”; she begs her to take the leap before it’s too late, “Baby you decide / Why we grown / Wasting time.” Perfect for a date night with a woman you really want to woo.
3. “Ooh Wee” – Your Smith
Your Smith’s “Ooh Wee” is a nice follow up to “Come Over,” with a similarly chilled-out, sensual sound of seduction. Atwood Magazine interviewed Caroline Smith, who “moved to Los Angeles and created Your Smith, her alter ego.” The change in identity made Smith give “a lot less fucks.”
Dancing in loafers with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth might be the (new) vibe, but Smith is secretly a devoted romantic, evident in “Ooh Wee.” When she was asked “What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for love?” — a question inspired by “Ooh Wee” — she replied, “Maybe moving in with somebody after three months of dating.”
Like “Come Over” and “Tokyo Love Hotel,” “Ooh Wee” has the teenage-like innocence and idealism that returns to us during adulthood, when we fall in love or crush hard on someone new. Your Smith sings about the silly things we do in order to spend more time with the one we want, “I waste all my time on you / Your necklace swings in the view / Now I want to buy one too / I ask you to help me out / Even when I, I know how / To do what I asked of you.”
4. “Masterpiece” – Big Thief
“Masterpiece” is a little different to the first three songs: it’s got a more serious sound, perhaps for more serious relationships, which is reflected in the lyrics, “Years, days, makes no difference to me, babe / You look exactly the same to me / Ain’t no time, crossing your legs inside the diner / Raising your coffee to your lips, the steam.” This song is for partners who have been together for a long time but continue seeing each other as “masterpieces,” despite the time that’s passed.
When I hear of this song I think of Stendhal Syndrome, which is defined as “a psychosomatic disorder with the symptoms of rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion, fainting, and sometimes hallucinations that occurs when an experience of great personal significance [happens], particularly [when] viewing art.” The syndrome, named after French author Marie-Henri Beyle, could literally be referenced in the song: “So I keep you by my side, I will not give you to the tide / I’ll even walk you in my stride, Marie.” In my experience, you can feel Stendhal Syndrome — or something very similar — when you’re in love with someone. In a way, our body can register the one we love as a work of art that’s beyond emotional comprehension. It’s what many of us look for our entire lives. Some are lucky to find it.
While this song can be read in a non-romantic way, that’s just testament to Big Thief’s lyrical ability to incorporate deep double-meanings. It reads to me like the story of a fateful sort of love, one that began before the couple were born, “Old stars filling up my throat / You gave em to me when I was born, now they’re coming out.” While the couple have a love that brings them to their knees, often such passionate love leads to complicated problems. It’s spiritual and, as such, causes serious, sometimes uncomfortable, introspection on issues we intended to keep buried. It gets right into our soul and exposes where we need to evolve.
In “Masterpiece,” the intensity of love is used to combat the seemingly impossible problems: “You whisper to a restless ear, ‘can you get me out of here? / This place smells like piss and beer, can you get me out?’” While the speaker “only knows the recipe to roam” – and is perhaps more comfortable in dirty pubs than staying safe — she wraps her “left arm around your right / Ready to walk you through the night.” This is a date night song for the ones who’ve been together for a long time and are always able to ignite their love in order to hear their soulmate… even if it brings up old wounds.
5. “Honey” – Kehlani
Kehlani has recently come out as a lesbian, but has been singing about same-sex desire for a while. “Honey”s guitar loop speaks of summer love, one that’s specifically between women: “I like my girls just like I like my honey; sweet / A little selfish / I like my women like I like my money; green / A little jealous.” It’s got the fresh feeling of a new love that shakes us to our core: “I came to find, my fire was fate with you / My heartache would stay with you / Escape with you.”
Originally, when ‘Honey’ was released, Kehlani said the song “incorrectly labelled her sexuality [as lesbian],” because she identified as “pansexual” at the time. However, she’s recently become more comfortable with her lesbianism, after spending some time analyzing her attraction to men, saying “I just wanted y’all to know that everyone knew but me.” Kehlani’s coming out story has been impacted by The Community’s ever-evolving language, politics, and expectations. She’s spoken of being super attracted to gender non-conforming women before and, as a result, she’s felt pressure to reject the title of “lesbian.” Perhaps Kehlani coming out is a sign of good things to come.
If you want to sit or dance by a pool or beach with a lovely woman, having cocktails, mocktails, or a couple of beers, then I suggest you add “Honey” to your playlist.
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