Each semester, the University of Maine at Farmington hosts a course focused on the New Commons Project. In April 2019, students enrolled in this course researched, sequenced, and designed Spotify playlists focused on a specific social issue. (Educators can find this assignment and more on our Teaching page.) Here is one student’s playlist:
fuck the cis-tem
The thematic, political, and historical topic covered in the Spotify playlist, titled ‘fuck the cis-tem,’ is Queer representation. Queer representation in the media, especially through current pop anthems, has done harm in the past in terms of representing the LGBTQ+ community. Songs like “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry and “Girls” by Rita Ora are harmful when it comes to representing a community that has been historically marginalized, and it is important to note that these songs were written and performed by straight, cisgender women who profited off of misrepresentations of queerness that can fuel the male gaze.
This Spotify playlist consists of songs, spoken word poems, and musicals that represent the LGBTQ+ community not only in a lyrical sense but also because the selected artists will be within the LGBTQ+ community, as well as challenging the gender binary and the heteronormative structures that society has built. This playlist will be a culmination of works done by non-heteronormative folk in the music industry over the years, representing gender expression, sexual expression, acceptance, and pain through their stories. This playlist will also embody strength during the rise of the Trump Administration and a dark political climate that does not align with those in the LGBTQ+ community. As such, the chosen songs will represent resilience. This playlist is a space where unapologetic self-expression exists and is embodied by each artist.
The track order is crucial in this playlist, for the sequencing tells a story about self-discovery. It will be the listener’s job to experience this story through listening to this playlist in its presented order. This newfound self-discovery and love cause an internal struggle within an individual in an environment that is not accepting. This is a story about discovering oneself through experiencing love, and in the process feeling the ebbs and flows of romance. Let there be a sense of ambiguity throughout your listening experience. Through the use of these songs, written and performed by individuals within the LGBTQ+ community.