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A playlist curated by indie-pop band Muna, full of sapphic energy

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This is The Mix Tape, a monthly playlist curated by someone remarkable. Is there a person you want to see featured here? Let us know.

Sapphic longing is a well-known cliche in lesbian and queer culture. memes, playlists and media abound with references to yearning, desperation and unrequited love. There’s even a sappho bot on Twitter that auto-generates lines from the famously queer ancient Greek poet: “Sweet mother, I cannot weave — slender Aphrodite has overcome me with longing for a girl.”

It’s a trope the band Muna has reverence for but was trying to “rage against” on their new album, says lead singer Katie Gavin. Over the band’s 10 years of collaboration, members Gavin, Naomi McPherson and Josette Maskin have explored the lows of angst, heartbreak, sadness, liberation and of course, longing. But on the band’s self-titled third album, they go all in on euphoria, self-assuredness and, most of all, emotional growth.

And the members, who all identify as queer, are more than aware of what their music means in the longer tradition of “sapphic anthems.” Some of their songs are explicitly written in conversation with it.

Perhaps no song better illustrates this than the album’s lead single “Silk Chiffon,” a tongue-in-cheek anthem “for kids to have their first gay kiss to,” as guitarist and producer McPherson has said.

The song went viral on TikTok last summer for its deadpan hook: “Life’s so fun, life’s so fun,” often juxtaposed with a crucially unfun anecdote It features the band’s frequent collaborator — and notorious sad girl — Phoebe Bridgers, who signed the band to her Saddest Factory Records label in 2021.

In conversation with their third record, we asked Muna to curate a playlist of their favorite songs with sapphic energy. Their choices range from queer icons such as Tracy Chapman and the Indigo Girls to artists who aren’t necessarily queer themselves but are “queer-claimed” for one reason or another, as Gavin puts it. But unlike “Muna,” it’s not a going-out playlist, according to McPherson. Put it on for your next long drive, slow weekend or gay potluck, they suggest.

“It’s staying-in music for the lesbians — they’ll get it,” McPherson says.

Listen here and read along with some of their commentary, edited for length and clarity, below.

1

‘You Oughta Know’ by Alanis Morissette

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McPherson: There’s a lot of powerful, correct angst in her music. She she’s railing against a lot of the standards at the time. And her presence of her in the industry was like, you know, railing against the sort of political vibe of the times, these dry White guys.

Gavin: There’s a reckoning on this album with the shame of being indoctrinated into a religion or society that you don’t fit into. That’s especially apparent in the lyric, “It’s not fair, to deny me of the cross I bear that you gave to me.” We definitely fed into the Alanis tradition when we started as a band.

two

‘White Flag’ by Dido

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McPherson: There is a desperate, unrequited longing that is portrayed by that song. That’s a through line of queer- or lesbian-claimed music from this era.

masking: I don’t know a dyke who doesn’t love Dido. I had this math teacher who used to play either Dido or Enya during tests. You could just pick up the energy.

Gavin: I’ve definitely taken inspiration from the way Dido sings and the emotion she holds in her voice. She could sing the phone book, and it would make me cry. Plus, there’s the yodeling of it all.

4

‘Linger’ by The Cranberries

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Gavin: There’s something that feels so good about it. The Cranberries almost make sadness sound euphoric.

McPherson: This song is desperately sad, but it’s also a song you’d put on the car if you want to have fun with your friends on a drive. But then you listen to the lyrics and think, “This is absolutely devastating.” We’d be lucky if people could draw that parallel to our music as well.

5

‘tangerine’ by Kehlani

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Gavin: We listened to Kehlani a ton when we were just starting as a band. We just love her.

6

‘There She Goes’ by Sixpence None the Richer

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masking: I love a cover when the lyrics aren’t changed to meet a heteronormative gender standard. This is one of the first songs I remember hearing at a young age and thinking, “This is interesting to me.”

8

‘Close to Fine’ by the Indigo Girls

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Gavin: I feel like it’s so obvious why they’re lesbian-claimed, and this song is just a magnum opus of lyric-writing. It’s a song I wish I wrote. Sometimes Muna fans make jokes that we wrote our songs about their lives, and this song gives me that experience. Like, wow, I can have these realizations that can feel so personal to me and then someone else has already written a song about it decades ago.

eleven

‘It’s Good To Be In Love’ by Frou Frou

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Gavin: We’ve been so inspired by Imogen Heap [half of the duo Frou Frou]. This song is another beautiful representation of unrequited love, which, unfortunately, lesbians are addicted to.

12

‘Nineteen’ by Tegan and Sara

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McPherson: We have to shout out Tegan and Sara. This song, I feel, is like the pinnacle of young queer angst in music, especially of that era. And it’s such a devastating performance. It’s kind of an opaque song — it’s a bit hard to understand when you first listen to it, but you feel that energy in it.

13

‘Give Me One Reason’ by Tracy Chapman

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McPherson: Chapman is probably the single most underrated political songwriter of all time, and I think that is due to straight-up misogynoir and racism. She is a prophetic voice. There’s always something about her music by Ella that feels so poignant. And she’s also a queer person, so that she lives in the lyrics in such beautiful and interesting ways. She’s just a phenomenal voice in American music history, and she does not get enough credit for how important she is. She should be up there with the Woody Guthries and the Kendricks, and other songwriters who speak about politics in a really cool and interesting way, to me.

Gavin: She also represents something I really love about queer people, which is an openheartedness and vulnerability. She can depict the pain of oppression alongside this fierce belief in love and connection and transcendence. She represents, to me, queer people’s ability to ground their revolutionary ideas in their desire for and belief in transformative love.

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