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21 August 2019

Ariana Grande may have come out as bisexual in a song. There’s something nicely celebratory in that

By Eleanor Margolis

I’m going to be perfectly honest: “Monopoly” is the first Ariana Grande song I’ve knowingly listened to. I’m sure I’ve heard her before without realising it (hey, I shop in Superdrug as much as the next guy).

Anyway, I did not care for the new track. Let me be clear – I don’t mean this in a superior “I only listen to obscure music” way. I mean it in an “I’ve lost touch with the world and it frightens me every second of every day” way. And, if you’ll allow me to sound like a dad very briefly: where did this obsession with auto-tune come from? Outside of “Believe” by Cher (a genuinely great song) it’s the aural equivalent of that stomach-dropping feeling you get in lifts.

My daddish critique of “Monopoly” aside, this is a track in which – supposedly – Ariana comes out as bisexual. The lyric in question, “I like women and men”, isn’t quite as unambiguous as a similar Peaches lyric from her 2003 song “I U She”: “I don’t have to make the choice, I like girls and I like boys.” But it’s also unlikely Ariana is singing about liking – say – her mum and dad.

Seemingly within seconds of “Monopoly”’s release, Ariana was being accused of “queerbaiting”, and those wondering whether this was a “coming out” track were accused of being problematic. I was actually under the impression “queerbaiting” meant beating up gay people, but it actually – according to the BBC – is when an artist teases their LGBTQ fan base with coy suggestions that they might not be entirely straight. The reaction to the pretty uncontroversial lyric mostly left me wondering what it’s like to be so famous that five of your words can launch a thousand think pieces (a thousand and one including this). Ariana is so phenomenally well publicised that the media coverage of her sexuality has already given way to articles about her new “Thank U, Next” beauty range. Just imagine being able to quash bi rumours by releasing cosmetics. That’s a rich, decadent “last days of Rome” kind of fame.

Queerbaiting or not though, there’s something nicely celebratory about coming out via a song. Sure, if that’s actually what’s going on, Ariana could’ve been clearer about it. Off the top of my head, she could’ve dropped a track called “bisexual”, containing the lyric, “I am bisexual”. Ultimately though, the only thing that should be taken away from this brief queer moment in the fast moving world of Ariana Grande breaking news, is that so many famous women are now coming out as bi and pansexual. From Gillian Anderson to Janelle Monáe, the floodgates have well and truly opened, and that can only be a good thing. Famous women coming out as bi has become almost a cliché.

If only the same could be said about men. Bi men have been a theme in music since the seventies (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed). But there’s always been something back alley-ish about it. Not to downplay what they did for queer visibility, the likes of David Bowie were mostly just doing the “hyper-sexual demigod” thing. Imagine if someone as boring as Ed Sheeran came out as bi. Now that would be a game changer.

Where, indeed, are all the dull bisexuals?

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