The Importance of Pronouns in Music

When the average listener hears a song, they may not realize how careful songwriters are with the creation and curation of their lyrics. The way we write is the way we want to be perceived and heard. But sometimes we get stuck on one phrase, cadence, or even an adjective.  In my early days of songwriting, as a somewhat shy gay girl, my own personal hang-up was my choice of pronouns (or lack thereof) in my music. Up until now, I never believed in using pronouns in my lyrics because I wanted the listener, regardless of their preference, to sing and derive their own meanings regardless of gender. Today, I think differently – my views have shifted along with my self-confidence. Now, I’ve shifted my focus onto my own self-perception versus worrying about how I hope others will see me. The use of pronouns in my EP Dirty Laundry is the first time I’ve publicly vocalized my personal romantic preferences. Scary, right? I know. I’ve made it clear who I’m talking to, and that’s where things get incredibly personal.

The interesting factor is that I’ve never really had to think this way when I write with straight-identifying artists. Their pronouns come through comfortably and it’s their truth, so why would they even stop to think about it? Being an artist who happens to be openly gay is a new concept to me, as I only came out to my parents two years ago (also very much one of the reasons for not using pronouns in my first EP Beautiful Chaos). Listening back to it now, the shyness about my romantic experiences is very apparent. Rather than being blunt and confrontational, like I am in my latest EP, I was vaguer in the first one because I was nervous that straight-identifying people might hear my story and think it doesn’t apply to them. I still, of course, want my listeners and fans to relate to my story, but it doesn’t mean that I need to hide my sexual orientation for that to happen. I realized that if I was going to tell the story of the relationship with my ex-girlfriend, I was going to have to do it properly, honestly, and with pronouns.

I’ve had conversations with many writers, producers, and friends about my new-found usage of pronouns in my music; and someone once asked me, “Don’t you need to tell the world that you’re gay before you just surprise them in a song?” I was taken aback by the question, as it was not something I ever really considered. While it was a totally harmless and thought provoking question, it felt like they were implying that I needed to ask my audience for permission before writing my truth. That’s what “coming out” feels like to me, and that’s why I never felt the need to make a PSA about it. We currently live in a pretty awesome era of music, where artists don’t feel the need to “come out” before they release a song about same sex/gendered love, and I think that’s pretty neat. Artists like Sam Smith and Halsey are vocal about who they are singing to and don’t feel the need to make sure it’s okay with their listeners before they do so. Even though Sam Smith is a man singing to a man, as a listener I still find ways to apply his music to my own life. When I first heard “Stay With Me” I remember crying because the music and the story itself touched me, regardless of who it was about. While the use of pronouns is an integral part of an artist’s story, it’s not necessarily always important to the listeners’. Let me explain: music is universal, and whether or not the pronouns apply to everybody is irrelevant because it’s truly impossible for that to happen, as everyone’s story is different. It’s about internalizing the story itself regardless of who it is referring to. There’s a lesson to be learned in every song, and it’s up to the audience to find a way to fit a piece of it inside their own lives. 

Listen to Kayla Diamond’s EP “Dirty Laundry”

Photos by Vanessa Heins

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