Rainbow Jams

Rainbow Jams: Exploring the Changing Rhythm of NYC’s LGBTQ+ Party Scene 

By Bijay Thapaliya

The purpose of this content analysis project is to investigate how gender and sexuality are represented, constructed, and challenged in NYC party music lyrics throughout its history. Through this project, my goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the various genres of party music in New York City, including jazz, hip hop, disco, house, techno, salsa, etc. I want to investigate how these musical styles have reflected the social and cultural changes in the city over time. In addition, I aim to explore the diverse expressions of gender and sexuality in the lyrics of NYC party music and really see how they challenge/reinforce societal norms and stereotypes of their respective eras. Ultimately, my primary hopes are to investigate the impact that these lyrics have on local listeners and society at large, and how they shape/challenge individual identities and behaviors. To achieve this, a representative sample of songs from genres such as hip hop, disco, house, pop/rock, techno, and salsa was selected, spanning each decade from the 1970s to the 2010s – this list was compiled into a spreadsheet table with all of the songs’ relevant information such as song title, artist, release date, relevant historical or social background and its connections to NYC. 

Background on Songs used for analysis

The quantitative analysis employed ATlas.ti which is a software tool commonly used for data analysis. Five main predetermined code groups were established: Gender representation, Sexual orientation and identity, Sexual empowerment and agency, Inclusivity and diversity, and Social commentary and activism. These code groups served as overarching categories to organize and interpret the lyrics. Quotations from the songs were coded, assigning them to the appropriate code group and sub-code. New sub-codes were generated for each song and then placed to their respective code group. Through this process, I was able to record quantitatively how gender and sexuality were represented, constructed, and potentially influenced in each song. To visually represent the distribution of code groups and sub-codes, a treemap was then generated. Additionally, a sankey diagram was created to illustrate the interconnections between the predetermined main code groups and the codes that emerged during the analysis. I also compiled frequency diagrams to analyze the prevalence of code groups and sub-codes in songs released during different decades within the NYC party music scene. Only two songs per decade were analyzed, which limits the analysis to quite a small sample size. 

Data Graphics and Diagram:

Sankey Flow Diagram of Code Groups and Codes

In addition to the quantitative analysis, a qualitative examination of the lyrics was performed. I focused on analyzing approximately five lines from each song to capture the meaning and tone conveyed. By examining the lyrics in detail, patterns in meaning and tone across the songs were identified. This qualitative portion of my project aimed to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how gender and sexuality were portrayed within the songs and the emotional impact they may have on listeners. 

Qualitative Analysis Table:

Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.Exploration of a character named HollyAdventurous, 
Plucked her eyebrows on the way / Shaved her legs and then he was a sheHolly’s transformation and self-expression
Quirky, confident
Little Joe never once gave it away / Everybody had to pay and payDepiction of a character named Little JoeMysterious
Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets / Looking for soul food and a place to eatIntroduction of the Sugar Plum Fairy characterEnergetic, lively
Jackie is just speeding away…Then I guess she had to crashJackie’s reckless behaviorRebellious, 
“Walk on the Wild Side”
Make me feel – mighty realThe desire for an intense emotional connectionPassionate
When we get home darlin’ and it’s nice and darkEmphasizing intimacy and connectionRomantic
I feel real when you touch mePower of physical touch and intimacy Passionate/sensory
“You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” 
Here comes Dick, he’s 
wearing a skirt
Challenging gender norms and expectationsDefiant, 
And they love each other soAcceptance and desire for 
Mirror image, see no damageEmbrace of self-reflection and acceptanceReflective, positive
Tomorrow Dick is wearing pantsBreaking expectations and stereotypesAssertive, free
I’m coming out, I want the world to knowEmbracing self-expression, revealing true identityEmpowering
There’s a new me coming outTransformation, growth, and embracing changeOptimistic
I’m completely positiveAsserting a positive outlook and attitudeEnthusiastic
“I’m Coming Out”
Girls who are boys who like boys to be girlsExploration of gender fluidity and non-conformityPlayful
Always should be someone you really loveEmphasizing the importance of genuine affectionSentimental
Avoiding all work because there’s none availableCritique of a lack of purposeSatirical
“Girls & Boys”
In her hips, there’s revolutionsFeminism, challenging societal normsConfident, defiant
When she walks, the 
revolution’s coming
Liberation, breaking free from constraintsEnergetic, empowering
When she talks, I hear the revolutionsEmpowermentRebellious
In her kiss, I taste the 
Passion, rebellionIntense
Rebel girl you are the queen of my worldAdmiration, personal connectionEmpowering
“Rebel Girl”
On nights like this…Solace and escape from a troubled worldReflective, melancholic
I put on some make-up…Transformation, finding empowerment in self-expressionConfident
I look back from where I’m fromPersonal growth and self-acceptanceNostalgic, introspective
Some girls, they got natural ease…Embracing individuality and rejecting expectationsRebellious
I’m pulling the wig down from the shelf / Suddenly I’m Miss Punk RockBeing able to take a rebellious and non-conformist identityDefiant, empowered
“Wig in a Box”
I kissed a girl and I liked itCuriosity and experimentationPlayful, provocative
I hope my boyfriend don’t mind itBreaking societal expectationsBold, daring
It felt so wrong, it felt so rightContradiction between norms and personal desiresConflicted, exciting
No, I don’t even know your nameMomentary connection, embracing spontaneityAdventurous
It doesn’t matter / You’re my experimental gameDisregard for labelsCarefree
“I Kissed a Girl”
“I’ll die way before Methuselah… miss them for all the tears they shed”Mortality, longing for emotional connectionPoignant
“I miss prosthesis and mended souls… match them with my euphoria”Wanting connection with others who share similar experiencesYearning
“When they said, ‘Je suis plus folle que toi'”Embracing individualityHopeful
“I’m in my right place… Don’t be a downer”Self-acceptance, dismissing negativityAssertive
“It doesn’t matter if you love him or capital H-I-M”Diverse forms of love and gender identityEmpowering, inclusive
“Just put your paws up ’cause you were born this way, baby”Self-acceptance, celebrating individualityUplifting
“I’m beautiful in my way ’cause God makes no mistakes”Self-worth and self-acceptanceSelf-affirming
“I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way”Staying true to oneselfConfident
“Don’t hide yourself in regret, just love yourself and you’re set”Encouraging self-love and embracing one’s uniquenessSelf-acceptance
“Born This Way” 

Furthermore, in regards to my quantitative findings and analysis, the treemap visualization revealed that most of the predetermined code groups were present in each of the ten analyzed songs, with approximately 8-9 appearances for each code group. This suggests that the selected songs covered a wide range of gender and sexuality themes. The sankey diagram highlighted that challenging traditional gender norms and stereotypes within the Gender representation group and celebrating diversity and embracing various identities within the Inclusivity group were the most common sub-codes, each appearing in three songs. Interestingly, several songs exhibited interconnections between different codes, with instances of codes appearing multiple times (around twice) within a single song, as well as across different genres and time periods. Thirdly, the frequency diagrams, which examined the occurrence of code groups and sub-codes across each decade, revealed that the 1990s and 2000s exhibited fewer frequencies of subcodes compared to other decades. This observation may suggest that these periods were not as prominent in terms of the analyzed songs’ themes related to gender and sexuality. However, this ties again into the limitations of the project, namely the small sample size of only two songs per time period. 

The qualitative analysis provided insights into the differing tones and meanings conveyed by the lyrics within each decade. In the 1970s, the songs were characterized by passionate and energetic tones, often addressing messages of personal transformation and intimate connections. In the 1980s and 1990s, the lyrics reflected a defiant and rebellious yet empowering tone, emphasizing individuality and self-acceptance. Adding on, the songs from the 1990s explored non-conformity and breaking free from societal constraints. In the 2000s, the lyrics exhibited a confident and carefree tone, encouraging self-expression and disregarding societal expectations. Finally, the songs from the 2010s conveyed an uplifting and inclusive tone, with lyrics emphasizing emotional connection and embracing individual uniqueness. 

All in all, this content analysis project sheds light on the representation, construction, and challenges to gender and sexuality within the lyrics of various genres of NYC party music. The quantitative analysis reveals a diverse range of themes related to gender and sexuality, with prevalent code groups such as challenging gender norms and celebrating inclusivity. The qualitative analysis further highlights the emotional impact and evolving themes across different decades, from passion and transformation in the 1970s to defiance and self-acceptance in the 1980s and 1990s, confidence and self-expression in the 2000s, and uplifting inclusivity in the 2010s. These findings emphasize the dynamic nature of gender and sexuality representation in

NYC party music, as artists challenge norms and promote diverse identities through their lyrics. However, there are still limitations to my study, including the small sample size of two songs per year and the genre-specific focus. A larger and more diverse sample can provide an even better understanding of gender and sexuality representation in the NYC party music scene. Broadly speaking, we can see through this project that the complexities of gender and sexuality representation in music contribute to discussions on cultural expression, social change, and the quest for equality. Only by closely examining such lyrics and themes can we gain insights into how artists challenge norms, foster inclusivity, and move individuals. Through an understanding of these dynamics, we can continue to advocate for inclusive and empowering representations in music, paving the way for a more inclusive society for all.