Take It or Leave ItSizzy Rocket on Creating Pop Music Just for Queer Women

Sizzy Rocket (Photo credit: Alex Bianchi)

Sizzy Rocket’s sophomore album Grrrl, released in June 2019, challenges the current canon of mainstream pop music about queer women. Unlike riot grrrl artists who provided queer representation in punk and rock music, as a pop artist, Sizzy Rocket isn’t seeking to make politicized waves. Still, the nature of her existence as a lesbian artist is such that her music presents a challenge to straight listeners and the industry alike. She’s a girl who likes to fuck girls. In her breakout 2016 single, “Bestie,” she sings “I wanna fuck, fuck, fuck my best friend” to a cheerful beat, a rebellious departure from the often-felt nervousness of many queer women that, god forbid, we want to do anything remotely sexual with our best friends and face abject humiliation as a result.

Her new album is distinct in that, like “Bestie,” it maintains disinterest in any sort of softened queerness. “Tattoos” is an entire song about Sizzy Rocket’s admiration for girls with ink; “Summertime Wine” feels like a 2007 autotuned R&B song about wanting to, as Sizzy Rocket says, “waste your time”; and “Attached” relates to queer women who are both bored with and obsessed with their girlfriends. Grrrl feels like a needed answer to the sweet, almost desexualized songs that make up much of what can be considered the recent pop music WLW musical canon, ranging from artists like Hayley Kiyoko, who is out, to Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift, who are often accused of queerbaiting. Sizzy Rocket’s work challenges what we often see in queer music videos, calling out that relationships between women aren’t limited to sugary, intimate moments while hazy, pretty lighting fills the room—they are real, sometimes messy, and sometimes not pretty at all.

I talked to Sizzy Rocket about how lesbian pop artists are still limited by record labels (something she’s tweeted about), the seeming increase in queer women artists in pop who don’t hide behind euphemisms and limit romantic and sexual relationships between women to what many view as friendship—not that friendships aren’t valid and important—and cultivating a devoted community of Gen-Z listeners within the genre.

Tell me how Grrrl came into being. How did you know it was time to make an album that maybe wouldn’t mesh with every single listener out there, but would speak to this specific experience of what it’s like to be a queer woman in 2019? 

I’ve been doing [music] since I was 7, but I’ve always felt, even in my first record deal, like I was making music that the world wanted me to make or the label wanted me to make—it wasn’t crafted purely from me as an artist. I got out of all of my deals about a year ago, and I had been thinking about what it would be like if I just sat down with a blank piece of paper and wrote an album. What would that sound like? What would the lyrics be? What would it be if I was just creating something for me?

Your music is so different from what I’ve seen from most songs about queer women. So many artists take a softened approach, talking about first love and feelings and heart, but your work doesn’t have that same feeling. It’s not that this softened approach is bad, but that, because it’s more palatable to straight audiences, it seems to be easier to get this music out there. We don’t have as much music like yours, which is beautiful, but it feels more tangible and real, rather than like moments that exist in this feminized dream state. For example, in “Bestie,” you unapologetically say, “I want to fuck my best friend.”

Mostly, that’s just who I am. When you’re creating a song about, or any art about, a girl-on-girl relationship, whether that’s specifically a song about a lesbian or like a girl kissing a girl, the male gaze [invites itself]. But when I’m making songs about these relationships, I feel like [the male gaze] is completely removed. Instead, it’s like, Here is the truth about what happens. I think we come across the soft sexiness in pop music because it’s being created for someone else. But, as was the case with Grrrl, I was just like, “Here’s my experience. There’s no sugar on it. Here it is. Take it or leave it.”

Many queer artists, actors, and even influencers like Hayley Kiyoko and Fletcher have talked about trying to be authentic to their own identities and create space for queer fans without alienating wider audiences. Have you ever been interested in appealing to the masses? If not, what has motivated you to create music?

I reached this place in my life where I was really unhappy about trying to please other people. I’ve had some great songs come out, and I’ve had all of these experiences. But then I turned 27 this year, and I was like, “Oh my god. I’m 27. I really just want to start being a real artist.” To do that, I have to be real with myself and with who I am and with my art. Once you’re in that place, it’s really hard to go back. And I feel like my music is one of the only places where I can be 100 percent honest. Because sometimes on Instagram it’s hard. In friendship it’s hard. It’s really hard, in daily life, to just be 100 percent yourself. And I get that. But when I’m in the studio, I feel like that is the place where I can just be 100 percent.

Sizzy Rocket - GRRRL (Official Music Video)

When I first listened to your music, I immediately thought of that scene from The L Word where Jenny and Shane are being interviewed by their gross guy roommate. He’s challenging them, saying lesbians can’t really have sex, not in the same way straight people can, and Shane says, “What makes you think that lesbians can’t fuck?” Your music pushes back against the mainstream disrespect for lesbian sexual relationships. Was this an intentional choice?

It’s funny because I’m actually not intentionally fighting for sexual legitimacy. But it just comes across [in my music] because I’ve experienced so much. I’ve literally been [in situations where] I’ve had male managers, producers, or people around me that are like, “Well, how do you know when [sex is] done?” Or just asking [ridiculous] questions. My defenses are up because of that.

What are your favorite songs on the album, and why?

“Tattoos” is my favorite song. It’s powerful, and it really sums up my whole love life perfectly. I wrote it on the piano, and I’ve been trying to nail that kind of song for a while—where it’s written like a piano ballad, but it translates as kind of like hip hop bop; like it’s dope, you could dance to it. The fact that I nailed that is very important to me. I also wrote it with Chloe M.K., who’s like my sister. She opened for me on [my tour this summer]. When I’m thinking about my favorite song on the album, it’s more about the experience of writing it rather than how it turned out.

My other favorite is “Grrrl,” because when I wrote that [song] the whole album fell into place. I remember coming in [to the studio] that day, [feeling like] we need something to tie this whole thing together, so let’s try writing something. We wrote that [song] in 15 minutes. It felt really natural.

How would you describe the general state of music made by and for queer women?

Now, there are so many dope queer female artists—I love girl in red. I love King Princess. I love Dorian Electra—but when I was in my early 20s in New York, there was no one. I had Peaches, but that was the only example. I feel like being an out lesbian, in particular, in music is really scary because we’re paving the way now. We’re, I would say, the first generation that’s like, “I’m gay,” “I’m nonbinary,” or whatever you are, and you can claim that proudly and then also be a legitimate artist and have an audience and have a career. Younger queer artists definitely inspire me every day to be truer to myself. I didn’t have that example.

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How would you describe your fandom? They seem very dedicated.

I love my fans! They’re so passionate. And I don’t know why. I don’t know what it is, but have a really special relationship. I call them the cult; that’s the name I gave them in 2016 when we found each other. I literally woke up one day, the week that my album was about to come out, to a couple thousand new followers of—teenage girls just being like, “Oh my god. I love you so much.” I was like, Where is this coming from? It’s weird and magical, and I think our connection is definitely this real, next-level understanding of each other.

Gen-Z is very, very queer, and I’ve noticed that most of the music coming out from queer artists, especially queer women artists, feels targeted toward younger listeners regardless of whether or not these artists are also from Gen-Z. Why do you think that is?

[My music] connects with and resonates [with them] because they are who I was when I was a teenage girl—I’ve had those same experiences, and I have had those feelings. Being a teenage girl isn’t easy; it’s very intense, and you feel misunderstood. You’re going through things for the first time, and you feel alone. My music tells them that they aren’t alone, and that it’s okay to feel difficult, feel too much, feel like you’re a loser, feel like, “Oh my god, I have a crush on this girl, and I don’t know what the fuck to do about it.” My music is a kind of big sister, saying, “Hey, it’s okay to be going through that because I went through that.”

What song should new listeners listen to first to get a taste of your music?

“Grrrl,” for sure, because at the heart of Sizzy Rocket is like just bleeding-heart piano ballads. It’s definitely the nucleus of who I am. And it’s also punk. So “Grrrl” is a good start. [The] whole album is definitely the biggest Sizzy Rocket statement I’ve ever made.

In older tweets, you discuss not wanting to be labeled a “queer artist.” Now it seems like you’re embracing the label. What changed?

At first, I was really scared to come out. “Bestie” was my first single. I chose it. I’m hyper-aware of what that song is saying, but everyone around me was telling me that if I came out, it would ruin my career. My family was telling me that, my label was telling that. It was this thing of, “If you come out, it’s going to ruin your career, but do whatever you want to do.” [That put the pressure] back on me. I felt a lot of pressure about being out.

First of all, the fear that coming out is going to ruin someone’s career isn’t real, and I definitely needed to learn and face that for myself. Being authentic and living out who I am is more important than anything else to me now, because I feel like I want to walk the walk. My art and my life are one and the same, so I’m unable to just pretend that I’m something that I’m not. Coming out was inevitable. Honestly, after I did it, I felt so liberated. It actually strengthened the relationship [I have] with my fans. It showed people that you can be exactly who you are without fear. And it made my art better. It was definitely a process, but I’m here and I’m queer.

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by Rachel Charlene Lewis
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Rachel Charlene Lewis is the Senior Editor at Bitch. She has written about culture, identity, and the internet for publications including i-D, Teen Vogue, Refinery29, Glamour, Autostraddle, Ravishly, SELF, StyleCaster, The Frisky (RIP), The Mary Sue, and elsewhere. Her literary work, reviews, and interviews have been published in Catapult, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Normal School, Publisher’s Weekly, The Offing, and in several other magazines. She is on Twitter and Instagram, always.