Introducing the first track from her first album in four years, Anna Calvi describes ‘Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy’ as being beyond definition. The song is beyond definition because queerness is, and the track isn’t a departure from her previous records, it is an extension; an unleashing; an entirely honest, boundary-breaking, binary-destroying hit of truth.
‘Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy’ is about the defiance of being happy. It’s about pleasure without shame, allowing yourself to be exactly who you want to fucking be, and being proud because you’re you. It’s about the primal rage of being human and the joy when a tiny piece of it, of yourself, makes sense.
Not only is it a queer song from a queer album, Anna Calvi isn’t breaking free from or out of anything, she’s embracing everything that she is and we are with every fiber of her spirit.
If you’re not yet aware of Anna Calvi and her work, you will be soon. She’s been nominated for the Mercury Prize twice, a Brit award or two (I forget, mostly because the Brits like to highlight ginger guys with loop pedals, and that’s not a language I know how to speak, je ne parle pas Ed-whatever), and has collaborated with Marianne Faithfull, Amanda Palmer and David Byrne. She’s also toured with the likes of Grinderman and the lead singer from The Smiths.
When I name my top three guitarists of all time, Anna Calvi will be there. While ‘Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy’ lacks the “traditional” sound (in quotes, because traditional is the antithesis of a wild word) of her former albums, the sneak peaks and roaring covers she’s been posting to social media in the run-up promise a little of everything.
And it was within those, in her manifesto, where she said it best:
I’m hunting for something – I want experiences, I want agency, I want sexual freedom, I want intimacy, I want to feel strong, I want to feel protected and I want to find something beautiful in all the mess.
I want to go beyond gender. I don’t want to have to chose between the male and female in me.
I’m fighting against feeling an outsider and trying to find a place that feels like home.
I believe that gender is a spectrum. I believe that if we were allowed to be somewhere in the middle, not pushed to the extremes of performed masculinity and femininity, we would all be more free. I want to explore how to be something other than just what I’ve been assigned to be. I want to explore a more subversive sexuality, which goes further than what is expected of a woman in our patriarchal heteronormative society. I want to repeat the words “girl boy, woman man”, over and over, to find the limits of these words, against vastness of human experience.
I believe in the female protagonist, who isn’t simply responding to a man’s story. I go out into the world and see it as mine – I want something from it, rather than just being a passive product of it. I’m hungry for experiences. Sometimes things seem clear, and other times I feel lost. I feel strong and yet vulnerable; I wear my body and my art as an armour, but I also know that to be true to myself is to be open to being hurt.
The intent of this record is to be primal and beautiful, vulnerable and strong, to be the hunter and the hunted.
Hunter, the upcoming album from Anna Calvi will be released 31st August. Tickets for the European tour go on sale on today, 8th June.