You can’t not automatically love an artist with a single called “‘80s KWEEN” that hearkens back to the drag ball heyday with a modern soul twist. And when I learned Criibaby was a fellow bisexual — with a purple-tastic Instagram feed to boot — my adoration increased tenfold. In honor of National Coming Out Day, I talked to Criibaby about her inclusive new EP “love songs for everyone,” the importance of representation across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and the home videos no one knows about — until now!
GO Magazine: Tell me about your EP “love songs for everyone,” out today!
Criibaby: I’m a bisexual female popsoul/R&B artist by the name of Criibaby, and I’m releasing my gender-neutral, intentionally inclusive EP on National Coming Out Day, October 11th!
GO: Why are you releasing it on National Coming Out Day?
C: This is my debut EP, and so much of this project has been about finding a creative outlet to celebrate and fall in love with my queer identity. So what better day to release it than Coming Out Day, right?
GO: You describe “love songs for everyone” as “gender-neutral” and “inclusive.” Can you expand on that and why those descriptors are important to you?
C: My goal is simple: redefine inclusive music. One of the things that’s unique about this project is that there are no pronouns in any of the songs. By intentionally avoiding using any gender binary-specific words like “she” or “he,” the music becomes more inclusive and refrains from promoting a heteronormative, gender binary-focused viewpoint of relationships and identities. In this way, they are truly love songs for everyone. (And there are some wonderful asexual and aromantic interpretations to my lyrics, too!)
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GO: How did you get into music, and how did you find your voice/sound?
C: Growing up, there was never really a time when I wasn’t singing. I have the home videos to prove it — just ask my mom.
GO: Who are your musical inspirations?
C: I’m super inspired by female vocalists who changed the game for their respective genres, namely trailblazers like Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, whose poetic lyrics and jazz-infused neo-soul melodies make their music still hugely influential years later. The owner of the woman-focused independent label Club Queen Records, TT The Artist, and I bonded over our mutual love of Erykah, and that’s when I knew I definitely wanted to sign with her and release “love songs for everyone” on Club Queen.
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GO: What is your writing and recording process like?
C: Songwriting is kind of like solving a puzzle, except you never know which pieces you’re going to get first (and you might get handed a crucial piece while you’re driving or out walking the dog!). But if you can get a couple corners down, you’ll start to see the rest take shape. It usually takes me a couple hours in the studio to get a clear outline. From there, I’ll re-record over my scratch takes with better, more thoughtful takes, but sometimes the rougher first take makes the cut because they’re the most emotionally genuine.
GO: Bi erasure is still an issue in the LGBTQ+ community. As an openly bi musician, how do you feel you’re contributing to bi visibility and representation?
C: Being a bisexual means having to assert your own validity a lot, both within the LGBTQ+ community and outside it. To be perceived as “bi enough” is a constant inner challenge many bisexuals seem to experience. By doing my thing loud and proud as an openly bisexual woman, I hope to reach other queer or questioning folx and remind them that the journey to self-love and acceptance is one that’s worth the ups and downs. A range of LGBTQ+ representation — and a range of bisexual representation in particular — is extremely important. When I was closeted, it was because TV shows and movies showed me only one depiction of how lesbians and bisexuals are “supposed” to look, so I couldn’t be that, because I didn’t “look queer.” If I had seen someone who looked like me onstage taking up space as an openly queer artist, it would have really helped me understand my identity and feel like I belonged.
GO: What does National Coming Out Day, or coming out itself, mean to you?
C: Everyone has a different experience coming out. (And if you haven’t yet, or don’t plan to for a long time, you’re still valid.) There’s no right way or time or place to do it. You’re never too young or too old or too anything to come out. It’s a decision that’s completely up to you, and you alone. For me, it was a decision that ultimately made me feel way more empowered and comfortable in my own skin.
GO: What’s your favorite song on “love songs for everyone” and why?
C: My favorite track is the last one on the EP; it’s a tune called “80’S KWEEN.” If dreamy popsoul met lush, synthy disco, this is the cloud they would snuggle up on. After listening to queer musical duo SATEEN and watching the classic 80’s ballroom culture documentary “Paris Is Burning,” I thought to myself, “What if I reimagined the sparkle of queer ’80s disco in my own mellow, popsoul aesthetic?” The director of the documentary, Jennie Livingston, literally “showed me a world that I had never seen,” through her journey into the glitz and glamour of ‘80s ball culture, where anyone can be whoever and whatever they desire, throwing away any preconceived notions of gender roles or heteronormativity. And that’s what inspired me to write this song.
As an important side note, there is some controversy surrounding this film, namely that Livingston did not fairly compensate the artists within the documentary — and it’s a good opportunity to address that LGBTQ+ artists must not be othered and exploited in order for queer culture to make its way into the mainstream, even if the project was well-intended.
My song “80’S KWEEN” is at its core, like many other songs on the EP, about celebrating soft, sweet, love for everyone.
To learn more about Criibaby and listen to her curated biweekly playlists, click here. Happy National Coming Out Day!