Years & Years star Olly Alexander: ‘The landscape has Changed for Queer Artists’

Growing up in Blackpool, Olly Alexander lived next door to a church. As a young gay man, that presented him with a dilemma.

“I was always aware that, in the bible, homosexuality was viewed as sinful and that’s always stayed with me,” says the singer.

“But I really love religious iconography and religious language because it’s so powerful and so evocative… so now I love to play around with that and subvert it.”

He certainly achieves that goal on Years & Years’ recent single, Sanctify, which characterises being gay as a sacred act. (“Maybe it’s heavenly,” sings Alexander in the bridge.)

“I love a bit of drama,” laughs the singer, “and it doesn’t get more dramatic than sanctifying your sins when you pray.”

The 27-year-old was inspired to write the song after a brief relationship with a straight man.

“He told me was straight and we became friends, and at a certain point the relationship tipped over into something more intimate – and it felt like we were becoming lovers,” explains the singer.

“And suddenly, there was just an explosion of pain and conflict.”
The lyrics acknowledge the central tension of the relationship – with Alexander playing both the devil who tempts his lover to “sinfulness” and the angel who “walks through the fire” to help him explore his sexuality.

“I’ve been out as a gay guy for nearly 10 years, and I know how that journey of coming to terms with your own identity can be really painful,” he says.
“I wanted to write something that spoke to that experience.”

The single – Years & Years’ first new material since 2016 – forms part of a larger, mainstream cultural movement addressing sexuality and gender fluidity; via films like Call Me By Your Name and Love, Simon, and the lyrics of gay and queer artists such as Frank Ocean, Christine & The Queens, Muna and Troye Sivan.

“The landscape has changed dramatically for queer artists,” says Alexander.

“In the past, we’ve all been familiar with pop stars coming out in the middle of their careers, or after they’ve become huge and that feels like a heavy narrative to queer people.

“Now it seems to be really changing that artists can be out from the start of their career; and it’s not some sort of sensationalised headline.

“Of course, there are people who still really struggle with being out, and I know some artists think it might damage their career – but I don’t think the tabloids making a splash about sexuality would still happen.

Courtesy : BBC
Photo : pinknews

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