Why now’s the perfect time to reappraise kd lang’s queering of a genre

Cowboy boots and bolo ties are all the rage right now and, thankfully, like a rhinestone capelet swaying in the breeze, music isn’t far behind with its reappraisal of the country genre, spearheaded by queer artists and women. But this is not the first time the genre has been subverted; 27 years ago, fan of soft tailoring and lowercase letters kd lang released Constant Craving, a song so suggestive of lesbian longing that it became the sapphic anthem for unrequited love.

As one of the first openly gay lesbians in pop – she came out, against her label’s wishes and into a deeply conservative country genre, in an interview with the Advocate in 1992 – Lang never shied away from incorporating her identity into her music. Her album, Ingénue, about an unrequited love for a married woman, was not only a multiplatinum hit, but a cultural milestone for LGBT issues, raising them into the mainstream cultural conversation. Crisp suits, a teddy boy haircut and the voice of an angel; even Madonna couldn’t resist. “Elvis is alive … and she’s beautiful,” she said at the time.

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