By Kayla Sadowy
So much is going on, but you can always come around. Why don’t you just sit with me for just a little while? Come and tell me, what’s wrong? Gimme all your love, gimme all you got. When I hear these lyrics, I clearly hear God’s cry for God’s people. I hear instructions for care and concern for each other. But when I take the time to listen deeply, I hear the many nuances and risks behind the words embedded in the music. I hear a divine embrace of the queer experience.
So many highs, so many lows both in register and volume. Different tempos, layers of instruments at different times, all sorts of textures, all contained within four minutes. Most popular music would not dare touch all of these elements in one song, but the Alabama Shakes do it with minimal lyrics and maximized emotion.
See, in Gimme All Your Love, there is no mistaking the contrasts and adventures in sound which relay a pronounced intensity open to the listener’s interpretations. Is Brittany Howard’s androgynous, raspy voice lamenting? Celebrating? Seducing? What are the Alabama Shakes trying to say with those four big notes followed by sparseness? What do we do with the open instrumental section in the second half? To me, these refreshing deviations from predictable pop music scream the queer experience. The rich textures of our voices carry the complex wisdom of life experiences. Taking risks for expansive, life-giving experience is something queer people know well. One second we are high on our own freedom and liberation, and the next we know the pain of phobias and -isms meant to trap us. So I am left wondering, are we hearing the music of our communities? And, what is the music of our own words?
In a world starving for liberation, God calls us to deeply listen to all of the LGBTQIA+ community, especially those living with layers of oppressed identities. We have the capacity to turn up the volume of these voices and listen for the many textures shaping them. We can make sure our words are more than words, that they are backed up by the act of making sound and the perpetual motion of tempo. We can take a back-up role when necessary, while also understanding when it is our time to be featured. We can also remember that we are part of one absolutely fabulous band, bound together by the music we make.
Let us pray…God of all sound and music, widen our capacity to listen. Sustain our voices when they proclaim the liberation found in Christ. Give us the breath of your Spirit to sing for justice. Bless the queer voices we bring to witness. Amen.
Kayla Sadowy (she/her) is a bi-vocational seminarian based in Philadelphia. Her work as a music therapist has proven the power of music to be a force for transformation and new life, especially to oppressed people. Kayla’s public witness seeks equity over equality, justice over fairness, and aesthetics over beauty. She loves cooking anything from scratch, hiking with her partner, and experimenting in ever-elusive urban gardening.