In 2016, a gunman shot and killed 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. The attack came during the club’s Latin night, meaning the majority of the people killed and injured were not only gay but also Latino, two of the minority groups that find themselves under near constant scorn in American political discourse. The attack became the deadliest shooting by a lone gunman in United States history.
One year on, the atrocity is being commemorated by Scissor Sisters and American singer/producer MNDR with new track ‘SWERLK’. The song celebrates international Pride Month and also marks the first time Scissor Sisters have released new material since they went on hiatus back in 2012. As bastions of the LGBTQ music scene, it feels fitting they should be the ones to front the queer-pop anthem, with all the proceeds being donated to Contigo, a non-profit set up in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting to “fund community organizations working to heal, educate and empower LGBTQ and Latinx individuals, immigrants, and people of color.” The track can be downloaded for any amount of money (or for free) here, with all the cash going to Contigo.
Regardless of whether or not the track is actually any good, we can all agree this is being made for an exceptionally good cause. It also makes reviewing it objectively a tough task, but let’s have a bash anyway.
‘SWERLK’ is built from several components vital to the LGBTQ club scene, the Scissor Sisters themselves being just one. The thumping techno beat is reminiscent of the heavy dance music that throbs from the sound systems of gay clubs the world over, the repetitive electronic riff designed to get the punters packing out the dance floor. The vernacular used is also unmistakably queer, the title a combination of the words ‘swirl’, ‘twirl’, ‘twerk’ and ‘swerve’ which also serve as the track’s hook.
For those unfamiliar with MNDR, she’s best known in the UK as the vocal on Mark Ronson’s 2010 hit ‘Bang Bang Bang’, though has also released her own solo records, including the 2012 album Feed Me Diamonds. Of ‘SWERLK’, she says “More than ever, we need to SWERLK into pride knowing that love is in the air for all of us,” adding that “last year gave us a reminder of how much we still have to accomplish.”
The real triumph of ‘SWERLK’ is how unashamedly queer it is, from the brassy spoken voice overs to the strutting, hip-swinging beat that sounds like it would fit perfectly in an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Although it lacks the brazen sexuality of say ‘Filthy/Gorgeous’ or the sheer catchiness of ‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancing’, ‘SWERLK’ is a celebratory, finger-snapping, sashaying, unapologetic bit of dance pop that encompasses all the things the club-going LGBTQ community thrive on. Proudly flying the flag this Pride month, ‘SWERLK’ comes at a time when LGBTQ people need an anthem that is distinctly theirs, a track that refuses to tone down its pride in spite of the terrorists, politicians and fanatics that are so hellbent on crushing our spirit.