Academic journal article Women and Language

"When It's Deep-You Know It": Sexuality, Liminality, and Hebrew in Corinne Allal's Pop Songs *

Academic journal article Women and Language

"When It's Deep-You Know It": Sexuality, Liminality, and Hebrew in Corinne Allal's Pop Songs *

Article excerpt

Abstract: Corinne Allal, one of the leading Israeli female singers and musicians, officially came-out to her audience in 2001, at the age of 46. Previously, however, in her album "When It 'S Deep" (1996), she had performed her own original lyrics (and those of other songwriters) that included same-sex love manifestations. This "unofficial" coming-out was ignored by the Israeli media which have hardly related to her sexual identity although her lesbianism has been a kind of "open secret" among journalists, musicians and the many of her female and male, straight and lesbian fans who have identified with her messages for many years. Significantly, this erotic knowledge was manifested in her album "When It's Deep" not only in the texts themselves but also in the subtexts, double and subtle meanings, alternative presentation, and particularly in the sophisticated linguistic manipulations of Hebrew, a gender grammatical language that "frames" the speaker's gender and sexuality.

Kobi Meidan: "Actually, what are we talking about? We're talking about that you live with a woman". Corinne Allah "We're talking about that I've recorded an album ".

--An interview on the cover of Ha'ir's gay pride issue [in Hebrew], June 21, 2001


Linguistic activity as social practice not only reflects norms and patterns of socio-cultural groups but is also involved with the constitution of personal and collective identities in concrete situations. Accordingly, 'talking like an Israeli' or 'shutting-up like a man' are communicational practices that participate in creating an Israeli or a masculine identity and determining its limits. This perception of the human being considers the subject as an active person in her/his own world but, at the same time, emphasizes the creative potentiality of self-depicted social groups in relation to the socio-cultural sphere where they perform (Katriel, 1999, p. 13).

Simon Frith stresses that identity is mobile, a process not a thing, a becoming not a being. Our experience of music is best understood as an experience of this self-in-process. "Music, like identity, is both performance and story, describes the social in the individual and the individual in the social, the mind in the body and the body in the mind; identity, like music, is a matter of both ethics and aesthetics" (Frith, 1996a, p. 109). What Frith suggests is not that social groups agree on values which are then expressed in their cultural activities (the assumption of the homology models), but that they only get to know themselves as groups (as a particular organization of individual and social interests, of sameness and difference) through cultural activity, through aesthetic judgement. "Making music isn't a way of expressing ideas; it is a way of living them" (p. 111).

Whether in the form of opera, musical theater, blues, "women's music," disco or "homocore," gays and lesbians, in particular, have relied on popular music to express both personal desires and political demands (Creekmur, 1995, p. 403). In particular, music that is clearly understood as mainstream and heterosexual can be enjoyed and used in a lesbian context (Bradby, 1993). The particular intensity of this queer devotion to popular music can be explained to a large degree by the sexual preoccupations and connotations of the medium in all of its diverse forms. Given the suppression and stigmatization of same-sex desires by the heterocentric and homophobic elements of dominant culture, as Alexander Doty and Ben Gore (1997) note, pop music's very public flaunting of the seemingly 'private' realm of sexuality provides an accessible, visceral space for lesbian and gay 'pleasure and self-discovery'. Moreover, "While the industry persistently makes use of the unorthodox inventiveness of gay men and lesbians, it rarely welcomes openly queer performers, never mind lesbian or gay representations that directly challenge the presumed 'supremacy' of heterosexuality; unless, like Bronski Beat briefly in the mid-1980s, they become commercially promising" (Doty & Gove, 1997, p. …

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