Yes, I’ve Lost My Mind: t.A.T.u’s “All The Things She Said” as a Contentious LGBTQ+ Anthem

Before I knew my own identity as a pansexual transgender woman, before I really even knew what it was to even question my own identity, I heard that voice while watching WrestleMania XIX

Yes, I’ve lost my mind

Out walked then-Women’s Champion Victoria, accompanied by ECW legend Stevie Richards, to defend her title in a Triple Threat match against Jazz, another ECW alum and bonafide badass, and Trish Stratus, one of the greatest performers in the Divas era of women’s wrestling. I recognized the melody right away, as she had a generic, legally distinct version of the song for her entrance in WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain, but the real McCoy hit different for reasons aside from the obvious. While the version she used jumped from the chorus right to the synth solo, there was something different about this song. Teenage me, hormones and all but with the kind of sensitivity that comes from being raised by three mothers, couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

Then, upon learning the name of the song, I looked up the music video for “All The Things She Said,” Russian title “Ya Shosla S Uma,” by t.A.T.u.

The original music video, directed by Ivan Shapovalov.

My reaction was twofold. A muted part of me was like “woo, girls kissing, this is great!” Because what teenage boy wouldn’t think that? But there was more to the story. The song was about forbidden love, about the kind of affection that some believe should only happen behind closed doors, if at all. It’s about processing feelings and mixing them with what you’ve been raised to believe, and given that I was confirmed Lutheran in a tiny Podunk town with 1,000 residents and six churches in it, things hit a bit close to home. And again, this is before I figured out a damn thing about myself.

I’ve gone on record saying that wrestling has introduced me to so many bands, and in particular the soundtracks for the SmackDown! vs RAW games helped to shape my musical tastes into what they are today. I was at the point in my musical journey where I was past the point of hating the popular bands just because, and was branching out beyond just heavy metal. But still, this 2000s pop anthem was hitting differently.

Musically speaking, it’s a four-chord pop song. D flat, C, F, A flat. Guitars, synths, a drum machine, a simple bass line. The lyrics, as mentioned earlier, are concerned with what the others think, what am I thinking, and am I losing my mind? This is rather pedestrian in pop music today, but cast your mind back to 2002, when this song first was released. This is over a decade before Obergefell v Hodges, this is a few years before the blatant rainbow capitalism we see today. Hell, we were only just starting to see LGBTQ-themed media like The L Word and Queer as Folk, and those were on premium cable.

As far as its use in WWE goes, it was used while Victoria was a heel (villain). In an interview with Fightful, she revealed that WWE only licensed the song for a year, beginning with the Armageddon pay-per-view in December 2002. After that, and on streaming services (curse you, licensing fees), a generic soundalike is used in the song’s place. On the May 24th, 2004 edition of RAW, well into Victoria’s babyface (hero) run, she began using Hood$tars’ song “Don’t Mess With,” featuring a then-unknown Nicki Minaj laying down bars. 

Victoria entering to “All The Things She Said” on the April 19, 2004 episode of WWE Monday Night RAW. This would be one of the last times she would enter to the theme.

So is this WWE using the old trope of a villain being different, ostracized, or something that we dare not speak out loud? Granted, in the Divas era of wrestling, there was always a nudge and wink of girl on girl action for titillation’s sake, but there’s not much in Victoria’s WWE run that would suggest her playing for the other team. To her credit, Lisa Marie Varon, the woman behind Victoria, was afraid that the song would cast her persona as a lesbian, especially given how some fans tend to see the characters on TV as dialed-up representations of the people portraying them. When WWE made her visuals in her entrance Titantron video creepy and unsettling, it gave a bit more credence to the evil lesbian trope. Varon was a bodybuilder and a fitness model before turning to wrestling, a point that was used in her first storyline in WWE. 

By pointing this out, I don’t mean to demonize the WWE or its creative team, but I have to wonder if they were really paying attention to what they were setting Varon up for. Yes, it’s a great song they gave her, but there’s far more than meets the eye, especially the one coming out of her hand in said video.

The unsettling, Exorcist-like TitanTron video for Victoria, ca. 2003.

The irony here is that, the same year that WWE licensed “All The Things She Said,” they landed in hot water following a “commitment ceremony” between Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo that was admitted to be a publicity stunt. The company even got GLAAD involved to do things right by the community. But I digress.

“All The Things She Said” can’t be talked about without mentioning the controversy which befell the band. A year after the duo split with their producer and Cowell-esque figure Ivan Shapovalov, the jig was up, as it was revealed that Yulia Volkova not only had a boyfriend, but was pregnant. And twenty years later, the feelings of the Russian government towards LGBTQ+ folks are… the less said, the better. But were the girls just using the lesbian storyline for attention? After all, going back to her Fightful interview, Victoria herself didn’t want to represent a community she wasn’t a part of, and didn’t want to be accused of being a “fake lesbian,” much in the way that Yulia and cohort Lena Katina were.

In an interview with The Independent in 2008, Lena shed some light on the intent behind the song, stating:

“If boys like boys or girls like girls, so what? We’re all people – we tried to show people that there’s no need to pressurise or ostracise people because of it. The situation is still bad but it has got better.”

Yulia then throws her two cents in, adding:

“It was our teenage years. You have to try everything. It felt at the time like it was real love – it felt like there was nothing more serious… Now when you look back at it of course it’s ridiculous. We still sleep in the same bed sometimes. But it doesn’t mean we stay up all night having sex,” she says. I look the other way, trying my best not to conjure up a mental image. “We just have very close, friendly relations. Though we do still sometimes get drunk and kiss each other. But it’s just fun between friends.”

Before we go dismissing the girls as faking it till they made it – and given the lasting success and influence of the song, oh boy did they make it – sexuality is a fluid thing, and can change over time for a number of reasons. At the time the song came out, the girls were barely adults, and who knows what the influence of their native Russia had on things. I’m not trying to insist that the girls from t.A.T.u have been queer all along, as that’s their story to tell, but what I am suggesting is that their story is one that rings true for so many people, whether they end up coming out or not. In so many words, the fact that this singular pop song from a Russian duo resonates with so many people, even in the face of all the gaga and the public outcry, will forever define t.A.T.u. 

The song has seen covers from Halflives, Poppy, and Seraphine, and the more aggressive Fernando Garibay remix still makes its way to dance floors from time to time. While the singers of said song, as well as its usage throughout the last two decades, have not gone without a few bumps in the road, we can still celebrate “All The Things She Said,” as so much has changed since its premiere, save for a certain dictator in the singers’ native country. It is as central to the scene as any other song, as it highlights being on the outside looking in, and all of the struggle that comes with it. 

To quote the song, it’s about that moment when one asks, “Have I crossed the line?”

Let’s end on a high note with the aforementioned Fernando Garibay remix of the song, available on the 10th Anniversary Edition of 200 KM/H in the Wrong Lane.

Riveting Music Tells Those In Power To ‘Regulate This’ With Upcoming Cover Compilation Devoted to Girl Power

Riveting Music has offered up some excellent compilations in recent years, namely Tear Down the Walls: A Tribute to Pink Floyd. The goal of Riveting Music, much like ours here at Sounds and Shadows, is to put industrial and alternative music out to a wider audience. Their next undertaking is set to help fight back against the unfortunate overturning of Roe v. Wade, which has since endangered the reproductive rights of millions of Americans.

https://rivetingmusic4u.bandcamp.com/

Regulate This: A Riveting Tribute to Girl Power is a compilation of twenty-one artists each covering a song dedicated to feminism, girl power, and standing up to the patriarchy. All proceeds from the release are going to the Global Fund for Women,  While who is covering what hasn’t been released just yet, we know that the following artists are involved: Containher, Sapphria Vee, Caligulust, Demons Need Angels, Schedule IV, Society Burning, Fractured Machines, The Blue Hour, File Transfer Protocol, Mach FoX and Illuminate Steele, Latex, Machines With Human Skin, Out Out, Flood Damage, Fatigue,  Sandi Leeper, Bellhead, Deconbrio, Alcestea, The Joy Thieves, and Eva X.

https://rivetingmusic4u.bandcamp.com/track/love-is-a-battlefield

The following artists will be covered on Regulate This: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Portishead, Animotion, PJ Harvey, Bjork, Toni Basil, Garbage, Janet Jackson, Ani DiFranco, Bonnie Tyler, Pat Benatar, La Tigre, The Plasmatics, Kim Carnes, Fleetwood Mac, Laurie Anderson, Belinda Carlisle, Danielle Dax, Berlin, Dolly Parton, and The Eurythmics.

Love is a Battlefield | The Joy Thieves | Riveting Music (bandcamp.com)

The full compilation will be released on September 9th, but to tide us over, we’ve gotten a taste of what is to come. The Joy Thieves have teamed up with I Ya Toyah for a rendition of Pat Benatar’s 1983 hit “Love is a Battlefield.” It’s faithful to the original, though an increased guitar presence helps kick things into another, more powerful gear. It brings the sound forward in time from the early Eighties new wave to a mid-Nineties industrial rocker, while remaining a loving tribute to Benatar’s original work.


Check out the track below, stay tuned for the music video on Friday, August 26th, and the full Regulate This compilation on Friday, September 9th. For more information on the Global Fund for Women, check out their website here.

KMFDM’s Reunion Record ‘Attak’ Serves As A Memory Of A Post-Mass Tragedy World, And How Public Opinion Reigns Supreme

Being a mid-Nineties baby, I don’t have many memories of a world pre-Columbine or pre-9/11. I’ve been through my fair share of security checkpoints, I’ve been through my fair share of active shooter drills, and have been in lockdown situations more times than I care to count. It is a scary world we live in these days, but what doesn’t seem to change are the arguments we hear for the supposed causes of these mass casualty events. It’s the media, it’s the suggestible youth, it’s those damn foreigners, so on and so forth. To say that the music world was rocked by the events of both Columbine and 9/11 is to put it gently. Acts such as Marilyn Manson and Slayer were crucified in the media, but perhaps none was caught in the crossfire more than a band who had just disbanded months prior: the mighty purveyors of the “Ultra Heavy Beat,” KMFDM.

The band took a beating in the media due to the coincidence of their Adios record releasing on April 20th, 1999, the same day as the Columbine tragedy. Further, several of the band’s songs, namely tracks like “Son of a Gun” and “Stray Bullet” were quoted on one of the shooter’s websites ahead of the shooting, and of course the media added that and the band’s German roots and arrived at Nazism overtaking these poor lost souls.

Deep exhale of exasperation…

By the beginning of 2001, KMFDM reformed, and while Günter Schulz and En Esch opted not to partake, Sascha Konietzko and Tim Sköld, the remaining members, added singer Lucia Cifarelli, formerly of the band Drill, as well as previous co-conspirators Bill Rieflin and Raymond Watts. While En Esch lauded his creative freedom, Konietzko was happy to see a more positive creative direction, not to mention fewer egos driving the machine forward. Add to this a change of record label, from the commercially demanding Universal to the industrial-friendly Metropolis, and on March 19, 2002, Attak was released.

Fun fact: the idea was thrown around to use Middle Eastern writing to spell out the album’s title, which would have been written as Attaq, but after the shit hit the fan with Columbine, not to mention the all-too-recent attacks on 9/11, and even Kap’n K thought that was “pretty fucking harsh.” Good call, Kap’n. Of course, the next album the following year would be called WWIII, so you can’t say Sascha doesn’t know exactly where the line in the sand lies or how to cross it.

The title track “Attak/Reload” starts off with a vengeance, as Sascha softly assures “we’re gonna make you sorry for every word that you say…” What follows is an electro-heavy track with a mid-tempo groove. From the first chorus on, Lucia’s vocals dominate, doubled in the chorus by a robotic monotone. Lyrically, they’re challenging three years’ worth of frustration, singing about the “gravitational pull of delirium,” a phrase that’s aged a bit too well for comfort twenty years later.

Skurk” is a much more guitar-centric track, with a couple of sections of fancy fretboard footwork. If nothing else, it’s a good moment for Tim Sköld’s guitar work to shine, something it almost always does. It pivots into the sleazy “Dirty” and all of its Rob Zombie-esque glory (and I promise that isn’t an insult). We also get our first self-shoutout of the record, something of a signature of the band even today. If there’s a track that I could point at and be like “this, this is the quintessential Ultra Heavy Beat sound for this record,” the finger is pointed firmly at “Urban Monkey Warfare,” with its monster riffing and Sascha’s talk-singing verses against Lucia’s vocals in the chorus. 

“Save Me” is another song with a guitar for a backbone, as well as a fair amount of nu metal influence. According to Spotify’s metrics, it is the most streamed track on Attak, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s as radio-friendly as I’ve ever heard the band, the song as accessible as one can get. Things turn to dub on “Yohoho,” which is mostly chilled-out grooves with occasional guitar flourishes over Sascha’s whispered vocals. This is one of two songs with Raymond Watts getting a writing credit, and the influence is easily recognizable. “Superhero” is painfully Nineties in its construction, and even giving a wide berth between initial listen and revisit, it’s just not doing it for me. 

“Sturm & Drang,” however, which would go on to be the name of their 2003 tour, comes in like a bat out of Hell and doesn’t let up. An ultra-heavy beatdown of sorts, this one focuses on self-determination and the strength within ourselves, but does so not in a coddling way, but in a “hey dipshit, get up, get out there, and make shit happen” manner. Again, the guitar work of Tim Sköld drives this one onward, both in sheer riffing and his pre-bridge solo. Following is Raymond Watts’ lone lead vocal performance on the record, “Preach/Pervert,” with another shining example of the band’s signature sound, particularly in the sung-through-Watts’-gritted-teeth chorus. The one-two punch of “Sturm & Drang” and “Preach/Pervert” might be enough to sell some on the full record, had one never heard either song before.

“Risen” features a ping-ponging of vocals between Sascha and Sköld, with the latter chugging away on the low B. Forget about a one-two punch, the previous two songs and this make for a potent combination attack, which is a shame considering the final track “Sleep.” It feels like it’s trying to be too much at once, and while I’m glad to see Lucia assuming full vocal duties, that it’s happening on a meddling track like this is a bit upsetting, and serves as a snap back to unfortunate reality.

Those who long for the glory days of KMFDM, the En Esch / Günter Schulz era of the band are long gone. Is Attak on the level of say, Symbols or Nihil in the extensive catalog of Kap’n K and his merry band of industrialists? Maybe not, but all told this is an album that suffered due to controversy, rather than some of its contemporaries which thrived on it. Sadly, the idea of the mass media wanting to tear down something it knows precisely nothing about is something we’re still dealing with today, arguably more so than we were around the time of Attak’s release.

SKYND Serve a Sizzling Mix of Djent, Industrial, and Nu Metal on Newest Offering “Armin Meiwes”

If there’s one band that proves that genre labels are a little bit antiquated, it’s SKYND. Are they industrial? Sort of. Are they metal? Sort of. Are they – and here’s a term I haven’t seen thrown around in a hot minute – horrorcore? Sure, why not? What can be nailed down about this two-piece Australian act is that their music is centered around true crime, their founding in 2017 coinciding with an uptick in true crime podcasting and a renewed popularity for true crime television series. Their song titles are taken from real-life monsters, such as Katherine Knight, Jim Jones, and Elisa Lam. Their music videos are disturbing yet oddly compelling. And with their latest single, the duo look to cannibalize everything they stand for.

SKYND first played their newest song “Armin Meiwes” earlier this year while on tour in Europe to rave reviews. Sonically speaking, there’s plenty of meat on the bone, with the chorus using elements of djent, while the verses uses the syncopation and hip-hop-like dictation of nu metal, all with an electro-industrial base. The lyrics detail the cutting and the culinary aspects of the crimes, right down to the lines “roast the flesh, medium heat / add garlic, pepper, and salt / meat is too tough to eat / so I’ll feed it to the dog.”

For those uninitiated, Armin Meiwes was a repair technician who, in 2001, found a man who wanted to be eaten, offering himself to be voluntarily cannibalized (title of your next death metal song, anyone?). Long story short, Meiwes was arrested a year later and sentenced to eight and a half years for manslaughter charges, after authorities found body parts which he hadn’t consumed, as well as a videotape of the gruesome crimes which Meiwes, dubbed the Rotenburg Cannibal, kept for his own sexual gratification.

I mean, when a victim shares in dining on his own genitalia with his soon-to-be killer… 

He was re-tried in 2006, after prosecutors argued that the initial defense, that being that he only killed his victim because the victim requested such, was null due to the aforementioned videotape. He was then convicted of murder and therefore sentenced to life imprisonment.

If any of that sounds familiar, yes, this is the same story that Rammstein modeled their 2004 song “Mein teil” after, though they are by no means the first artists to draw inspiration from these horrific crimes.

SKYND is the kind of music I would describe as a connoisseur’s choice: it’s not for everyone, but that isn’t inherently a bad thing. Those who are looking for something different, those brave souls who wish for a bit of danger that may have been missing in their music for some time, may find solace in the songcraft of SKYND, as jarring and shocking as the content within may be.

Check out the music video for “Armin Meiwes” below, though viewer discretion be advised:

Rammstein Tell A Tale As Only They Can On ‘Zeit’

Had their 2019 untitled record been their last, I think fans would have been fine writing that line under Rammstein and celebrating the victory lap of one of the biggest international acts of all time. The matchstick-emblazoned seventh disc from the forefathers of Neue Deutsche Härte was a powerful statement, one that needed to be made after the band’s studio work lay dormant for a decade, owing to endless touring and myriad side projects. With the anthemic “Deutschland,” the unsettling “Hallomann” and “Puppe,” and the quintessential-sounding “Ausländer,” the untitled disc was a comeback record to end all.

So when the wait between records is cut to just shy of three years, color me and many others thrilled, as Zeit arrived this spring with a story to tell. Rather than weave the yarns as they’ve done inside of a song, such as “Rosenrot” or “Heirate mich,” this LP uses its title as a central theme. In several ways, the eleven tracks cover a lifespan, dealing with reflection, youth gone wild, and looking back on a life well spent. As the band comes up on nearly thirty years together, the lineup unchanged and the mission even less so, Till Lindemann and Co. aren’t above a song that would make any of those on the antiquated “Filthy Fifteen” blush, but even when things go fully X-rated, there’s a storyline purpose being served.

Having been around for as long as they have been, the band has made their own universe of sorts within their lyrics, and as such have no trouble referencing themselves or their past tracks. For one, “Schwarz,” adapted from one of singer Till Lindemann’s own poetry, features a line taken nearly word for word from the Rosenrot track “Hilf mir”:

In “Schwarz”:

Denn immer, wenn ich einsam bin, zieht es mich zum Dunkel hin

(Then whenever I’m alone, I am pulled in by the darkness)

In “Hilf mir”

Immer wenn ich einsam bin, zieht es mich zum Feuer hin

(Whenever I am alone, I’m pulled towards the fire)

In either case, the persona in the song is consumed by that which draws them in; that is, in “Hilf mir,” the fire literally consumes the persona, eliciting cries of the title, while in “Schwarz,” the persona finds a sort of uneasy comfort in the darkness.

We also see a couple of songs that feel like spiritual successors, if not direct ones, to previous hits. The sex-positive “OK” (standing for “ohne Kondom”) feels like part two to the controversial “Pussy,” while the far more straight-laced “Meine Tränen” feels like it picked up where the 2001 power ballad “Mutter” left off.

Musically speaking, the record leans a bit more into the theatrical and grand than previous offerings, and given Rammstein’s extensive catalog, that’s an achievement. For one, the horn section on the adipose anthem “Dicke Titten” adds a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor that put the band on the radar all those years ago, while it and its predecessor “Angst” employ a drop B tuning, something that I don’t believe the band has ever really messed with. 

But if the song is called “Dicke Titten,” or “Big Tits” in English, shouldn’t it have been in D? 

… moving on.

Of course, there is no shortage of snarling earworms of riffs, particularly in “Zick Zack,” the aforementioned “Angst,” and the explosive “Giftig.” Guitarists Richard Z. Kruspe and Paul Landers are riff lords for sure, and they live up to their collective reputation in spades here. There are a few surprises on the record, including a hilariously over-Autotuned Till on the penultimate song “Lügen,” which makes some sense, since the persona in the song is a pathological liar, and the argument for “Autotune isn’t an instrument” is still floating out there. A bit late to the draw for a band that was once ahead of its time, but point made and noted.

It should be pointed out that this album came about due to the lack of ability to tour during the pandemic. Think about this: this record, which is a good Rammstein record, thereby making it a great record by any other metric, was a “fuck it, let’s make an album” album. That the band can knock out a mostly killer disc like this for the hell of it is a testament to the lasting power of Rammstein. Even as most of the band members pass half a century in age each, if they’re putting out this level of material, then by all means, boys, throw shit at the wall and see what sticks.

… why do I read that back and fear that I’ve inspired a future music video?

Zeit is available now via Universal Music.