Anohni’s Rousing Protest Pop

Photograph by Francesco Carrozzini. Courtesy of Trunk Archive.
Photograph by Francesco Carrozzini. Courtesy of Trunk Archive.

The trans singer-songwriter has crafted an album of EDM to save the world.

TUE, 2016-05-03 12:41

In January, the singer Anohni (formerly known as Antony) became the first transgender performer to receive an Oscar nomination. The news felt particularly salient after an unprecedented year for trans visibility. However, her achievement was undercut a month later when she discovered she wouldn’t be singing “Manta Ray,” her collaboration with J. Ralph for the documentary Racing Extinction, at the awards. Three of the other acts up for Best Original Song—Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, and the Weeknd — were scheduled to perform, as was non-nominee Dave Grohl; Variety reported she was removed from the lineup due to “time constraints.”

Anohni had planned to attend the ceremony, but then three days before the event she published an essay on Pitchfork explaining why she’d ultimately be skipping it. In her opinion, she hadn’t been left out of the proceedings because she was transgender — at least not directly — but because, she wrote, she was “relatively unknown in the U.S., singing a song about ecocide, and that might not sell advertising space.” The snub and the Academy’s lack of communication with her opened a wound she’s been nursing for decades, one inflicted by a capitalist system of “social oppression” that she’d refuse to support.

“I felt very defeated,” she says, on the phone from Paris two weeks later. “I wasn’t considered financially significant enough for them to tend to my well-being. It reiterated an ongoing theme in my mind, which is that in America, you have to pay to be respected. That’s what Beyoncé means at the end of ‘Formation’: My money is my best revenge.”

This is how conversations with Anohni often unfold. A question elicits a response that coils its way through personal sentiments, race, class, patriarchy, and avant-queer history, one cri de coeur sparking the next, to the point where you wonder if she’ll stop to catch her breath. Click here to continue reading on

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