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What's Up?

by Gerald Holmes 6 months ago in playlist · updated about a month ago

Linda Perry

4 Non-Blondes

In 1992, the American rock group 4 Non Blondes released “What’s Up?” With over a billion YouTube views, "What's Up" is one of the most popular songs of the '90s,

So let’s take a look at how “What’s Up?” went from being a ‘90s rock hit to a queer anthem.

The song was an expression of something she [Linda Perry] was feeling, and it ended up being a pretty universal experience. "There's just something there that's pure, that you almost can't define, and that's the thing. We were just living as honest a life as we could, and I think the music that came out of it had heart."

This was the second single from 4 Non Blondes' debut album, Bigger, Better, Faster, More. The first was a song called "Dear Mr. President. Pink would later release a song of the same name.

This was the first Top 40 hit by an openly lesbian group (somehow the Indigo Girls never got higher than #52).

4 Non Blondes started in San Francisco in 1989 and gained traction at a time when record companies were looking for authentic female rockers who could translate to the pop realm.

"At the time, we were all women, we were all gay - that was the time before it was the cool thing to do, I don't even think k.d. lang was out of the closet yet."

Naturally, the song was already kind of queer from its initial creation because 4 Non Blondes was an all-lesbian band. Frontwoman Linda Perry, bassist Christa Hillhouse, guitarist Shaunna Hall and drummer Wanda Day all identified as lesbians when the song came out. In fact, Day and Hall were previously members of a band called The Lesbian Snake Charmers before joining 4 Non Blondes.

As LGBTQ people experience greater amounts of oppression and mental illness than the average person, 4 Non Blondes’ song became an anthem for self-love, sanity (and a little screaming) in a repressive age.

When the Wachowski sisters first released Sense8 in June 2015, it took a while for viewers to realize it was the most queer sci-fi series of all time. But in Season 1, Episode 4, the Wachowskis helped solidify the mental and emotional bond between their eight telepathically linked protagonists through a musical interlude in which all eight characters start singing “What’s Up?”

Below Is the cast of Sense8 at the 2016 Sao Paulo Pride parade singing "What's Up."

Linda Perry (born April 15, 1965) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and record producer. She was the lead singer and primary songwriter of 4 Non Blondes, and has since founded two record labels and composed and produced hit songs for several other artists. They include: "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera; "What You Waiting For?" by Gwen Stefani; and "Get the Party Started" by Pink. Perry has also contributed to albums by Adele, Alicia Keys, and Courtney Love, as well as signing and distributing James Blunt in the United States. Perry was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015.

Pop diva Christina Aguilera is known for her big voice, over-the-top wardrobe and pop hits like “Genie in a Bottle” and “Fighter,” but the superstar earned her status as a gay icon for advocating for LGBTQ equality and representation over the course of her career. After the mass shooting at LGBTQ nightclub Pulse -- where 49 people, mostly young, gay and Hispanic, lost their lives -- Christina dedicated the song “Change” to the victims and survivors with proceeds going directly to the victim’s families.

Beautiful,' with it's message of self-empowerment and individuality was on track to become an anthem for the LGBTQ+ community, but after the video came out and it included positive images of gay and transgender people, its distinction was guaranteed."

In 2002, Christina dedicated her single “Beautiful” to the LGBTQ community, and the Jonas Åkerlund-directed music video earned Xtina a GLAAD Media Award for its positive portrayal of gay and transgender people. In her acceptance speech, Christina dedicated the song to “anyone who’s been discriminated against or unaccepted, unappreciated or disrespected just because of who [they] are." In 2011, U.K. LGBT rights organization Stonewall named "Beautiful" the most empowering song of the previous decade for gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

Below is Linda Perry, in 2016, singing the song Beautiful, which she wrote for Christina Aguilera.

In 2000, Perry was contacted by pop-rock singer Pink, seeking production and songwriting assistance on her second album.

P!nk has been a longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights. Not only did she include scenes from a same-sex marriage in her “Raise Your Glass” video (inspired by her own best friend’s wedding), but in “Dear Mr. President,” she questioned how then-President George W. Bush would react if one of his daughters were lesbian. It’s no doubt that P!nk is one of the LGBTQ community’s most tireless warriors,

P!nk has been vocal about her support for the LGBTQ community in the past. In a 2012 interview with Gaydar Radio, the singer shared her feelings about the phrase “gay wedding.”

“I think that the best day will be when we no longer talk about being gay or straight ― it’s not a ‘gay wedding,’ it’s just a ‘wedding.’ It’s not a ‘gay marriage,’ it’s just ‘a marriage.’”

P!nk put “What’s Up” in her setlist for her 2002 Party Tour and has often performed it since. She says that growing up, she often sang this song with her friends before becoming a singer herself.

Before telling us to celebrate our flaws, P!nk’s lyrics mirrored the struggles of LGBTQ youth.

Her “Don’t Let Me Get Me.” lyrics resonated with teenagers struggling with their identity. “Don't let me get me/ I'm my own worst enemy/ It's bad when you annoy yourself/ So irritating/ Don't wanna be my friend no more/ I wanna be somebody else.”

Pink is one of my all-time favourite singers. She sings from her soul and makes no apoligies for who she is.

With apologies to Linda Perry, who I think is one of the best songwriters of our time, The video below with Pink doing "What's Up" live at Wembley Arena in 2016, is my favourite live version of the song.


Gerald Holmes

Born on the east coast of Canada. Travelled the world for my job. Met my wife in China and happily married for 18 years. Just finished my first novel.

R.I.P. Tom Brad. Please click here to be moved by his stories.

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