The electro-pop artist’s new track embraces vulnerability and queer joy.
Madison-based producer/vocalist/songwriter Sidney Johnson’s main project, Midas Bison, tends to embrace contradiction gleefully and head-on. On releases like 2015’s Trios and 2014’s Glazer EP, Johnson uses unabashedly wide-eyed and shiny pop hooks to unpack tangled emotions, and their lyrics veer between blunt confessions and elliptical mouthfuls. (“Suburban romance is just really not cut out for me / Yet effortless I dive in, my commas let the right in and the flaws out,” Johnson sang on the Glazer track “I Still Try.”)
The new single “Bleached” picks up in this vein, but with an unmistakable theme of transition. Johnson opens the song this way:” Ever since I bleached my hair/ I feel the curls unfurl in the open air/ And I feel like a child again/ Romping around on the weekend.” Johnson says they want to keep the lyrics open to interpretation, but acknowledges that the song grapples with change on a few levels. It’s about a new hair color, sure, but it also deals with Johnson’s embrace of queerness and transitioning from a male to a non-binary identity.
“Literally my life changed after I bleached my hair,” Johnson says. “I was like, ‘Wow, I really am trans and queer and poly and everything conservatives hate.'” The song turns that realization into a sense of renewal: “Finally it’s just me on the open range/ Not estranged, destined to illuminate,” Johnson sings in one of the later verses.
“I wrote it after I got a new laptop, so it felt refreshing, like I was entering a new phase of music-making quite literally,” Johnson says. “I wanted to write a song about queer joy, as resistance to the strife I was experiencing internally and in reaction to our political/cultural sphere.”
Amid all of this, Johnson still grapples with a bit of doubt and insecurity, with lines like “I wish that all my my missteps could be hemmed by a seamstress,” but even them, the lyrics treat such feelings as part of a process that’s leading to a more positive outlook.
Sales of the single on Bandcamp will benefit the American Civil Liberties Union. Johnson is working on finishing a new Midas Bison EP for release later this year, and plans to book some live shows soon as well.
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