To state the obvious: this is not a review. I have no taste in music and I have no desire to cultivate a viable critical voice regarding musical authenticity, innovation or their less appreciated opposites. Planningtorock is always seductive and I am always easy. Instead, this is first a brief review of some the reviews of All Love’s Legal followed by a series of questions activated by the new subject, Jam, within the larger project of Planningtorock.
Samuel Tolzmann of Pretty Much Amazing manages to reduce the album to: “45 minutes of ‘Born This Way,’ only it’s also not very catchy.” Fair is fair. Jam borders an excessive amount of sloganeering within the album. Tolzmann grieves her inability to sell him the appeal of ending patriarchy (Trigger Warning: Total Dude Review). But I must say that thoughtful politics rarely stem from music. Emotional politics however, are fed by song and let us for a minute not value former or the latter, instead allowing them to simply be.
For me, the immaturity of these lyrics reflects beautifully the unimaginative present of gay politics and it’s hijacking of human rights dialogue. Reviewers of the album link it with the Sochi Olympics, exotic counties who punish homosexuality with death, and of course the more evolved Western “shift” away from “inhumane and outdated ideas around marriage.” Released within the same year the Associated Press Style Book declared that no human is to be described as illegal, All Love’s Legal must have a more layered intention than simply gay marriage… legality and love are never comfortable in bed together.
How, within the sweeping universality of Jam’s lyrics, can we only relate one singular image of a love that’s possibly illegal? From a gay perspective alone, aren’t there multiple forms of criminalized love? Sex work? Man/Boy? CHEMSEX? Public Cruising? Sero-discordancy? Anonymous monetary domination? Polyamory? Indeed, these are disparate examples but love exists in all of these places regardless the legal positioning of the Nation/State.
Isn’t the idea of a citizen put to death for being homosexual terrifying because it reflects the infinite capacity for violence within and by the Nation/State? A nation putting any citizen to death is the real horror. Isn’t the reading of love by the Nation/State inherently violent regardless homosexual inclusion because the Nation/State requires permanent otherness by its very nature? Doesn’t legal consideration eliminate and manipulate love?
Who is the ‘you’ Jam speaks to when she says “You can’t illegalize love?” I read it only as a statement to the Nation/State… it’s the only universal application of the lyric that aligns with her utopic message. Indeed the failure to hear anything but a gay agenda in this song, reiterates the lacking imagination regarding a stand against queer oppression in Russia: rather than challenging the laws of our own countries with the aim of making asylum and a path toward citizenship viable to persecuted Russians, we simply held slogan signs in our undies and staged kiss-ins. Challenging the path to citizenship works not only on behalf of queer Russians, but also Syrians and other victims of nationalist violence. Isn’t this equality our goal?
“Love is the one thing that gives life its purpose.” Planningtorock
When law and Nation fail us, love is supposed to sustain us. Are we criminal if it doesn’t? I believe many lives are given purpose outside of love. And love is a slippery slope. The struggle to cultivate, define and maintain measures of authenticity in one’s love life is its accompanying violence: She’s not in love, she’s having an affair. Look at the younger guy with his sugar daddy… he must just want his money. His wife was once a man so actually he’s gay right? Suddenly our most private ‘sustaining’ love-partner relationship brings everyone else’s private lives to be judged and labeled because our love must always be different, and better.
The globalized values of capitalism have fingerprints all over our love lives. We believe we invest in relationships, and that longevity inherently produces more. We believe our children owe us and our parents cheated us. Our friendships become banks of love to withdraw when needed, and store for later while we leave all other love transactions to clear their approval ratings.
Clearly a humanist politics of love as universal doesn’t digest well for me. And a genderless society sounds about as hopeless as believing we no longer have to ‘see race.’ But perhaps now somewhere there is a frustrated lonely teen jamming out in their room to these anthems of refusal. Gender is not just a lie in the scope of the world, gender has a very real gravity and violence in reality… but for a moment maybe our previous teen gender deviant selves would have relished such explicit and catchy belligerent refusals of reality.
Planningtorock’s “All Love’s Legal” is out via Human Level.