Music

Holiday Sidewinder Hits a Sexual Empowerment High on 'Leo'

By Jhoni Jackson

Earlier this year, Aussie pop singer Holiday Sidewinder gave us the disco-inflected breakup anthem we needed with "Tra$h Can Luv," delivering with it a dose of L.A. rooftop glam — all surrealistic glitter against a smoggy sky, which reflected well the type of one-sided relationship she was writing about.

But today, with the release of "Leo," Sidewinder assures is all she's truly moved on — and on, and on. Sexual agency is everything on this sharp number, with the names of just-for-the-moment lovers rattled off staccato style, nodding to just how separated individual pleasure and getting emotionally personal can be. Collaborating again with Thom Kerr, the video molds men around Sidewinder in shapes as stunning as the vintage Versace she's sporting.

Sidewinder gave PAPER the inside scoop on the video, the message of the song, and what we can expect on her forthcoming LP, Forever or Whatever.

On "Tra$h Can Luv," you ultimately begin the process of moving on from a relationship, but with the caveat that you're pretending not to care. "Leo" almost feels like a follow up; here, you seem to have genuinely moved on, all the way into a confident declaration of your sexual agency, totally independent of any need for a relationship. Is "Leo" coming from a personal place like "Tra$h Can Luv" was?

I always write from experience and add a dose of fantasy. I was a hopeless and foolish romantic, frivolous cheater, and serial monogamist. Every relationship was bumper to bumper. So I am now conclusively (and for the foreseeable future) a free and empowered sex-positive independent lover. Still learning though. Who knows what's next. Conflama for life, whether you like it or not.

How does the title factor in? Why "Leo"?

It's the first name in a series of lover's names I list off in the pre-chorus, as if I'm trying to remember the name of the lover I'm addressing in the chorus. Everybody asks excitedly if the song is about the astrology sign before they hear it. Maybe because it's Leo season. Or maybe because I live in Los Angeles now — the only place in the world where the first question is, "What star sign are you? Let me guess."

Can you tell us more about the video concept? I think it relates the message of the song really directly, but in such an artful way.

We were referencing that classic Richard Avedon Versace campaign from the '90s, specifically a shot I sent Thom of Christy Turlington in a red patent leather dress with a nude muscle man curled into her side. I also liked the sentiment of that famous Rolling Stone cover where John Lennon is completely nude and Yoko Ono fully clothed, and again he's curled into her. We wanted to flip and subvert the norm and celebrate (maybe objectify a little) the male figure through a fem-gaze. I love to see men embrace their vulnerability and females tap into their strength and power. Balance the scales a little; and where that meets is a glorious and sexy space! We just wanted to create something iconic, playful and funny.

Did you collaborate with anyone to create this video?

We collaborated with Lori Eastside ( she choreographed the Rolling Stones' "Harlem Shuffle" and Chaka Khan's "This Is My Night"). Her best friend was Suzi Sidewinder. Suzi was a fabulous NYC gal, who contracted and died from AIDS in the '80s. My mother cared for her in her final months and named me after her, so it was very special to work with Lori. Thom and I fortuitously met stylist Emma Trask at the Broadway Building rooftop pool the week before the shoot, and she came on board for fun, pulling two racks of archive Versace! Dreamy.

Your post on Instagram adds another layer to the conversation around women's sexual agency, particularly about how setting aside expectations, presumably for a relationship, can allow you to "embrace another person in their entirety." Can you elaborate on that a bit more?

I read a book called Sex At Dawn, and another called Testosterone Rex late last year that really changed my perspective on sexuality and made me question the standard narratives that I had bought into. Eve Babitz novels too. It's unfortunate that female figures and characters throughout history who possess sexual agency or are seen as "promiscuous" are often punished ins one way or they die. Think I Knew Her Well by Antonio Pietrangeli, Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It, Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Anna Karenina... the list goes on.

I want to continue to push against double standards between the sexes. I feel we can alleviate a lot of hardship and stresses that arise from relationships (and life) by living in and for the present, and that's what I was referring to with expectations and labels. As far as I can tell, no matter how many Disney films we've been brainwashed by, Gen Y's and millennials are not sold on fidelity and "forever," or rather, we are open thinkers, accepting and/or exploring all possible paths of sexuality, gender and relationships in this life.

Can we expect more messages in the vein of "Leo" on Forever or Whatever? (The title seems to imply we might!)

You know it! The title track "Forever or Whatever" is definitely the manifesto of the record. There's an array of scenarios and sentiments painted over the course of the album and they are all reflective of my last year sexual and romantic existentialism! Ha! There's a dead boyfriend song, "If I Was 17" song, an ode to Baby Oil... I can't wait to share it.

Director: Thom Kerr
Styling: Emma Trask (Opus Beauty)
Beauty: Pauly Blanch (Opus Beauty)
Hair: Iggy Rosales (Opus Beauty)
DP: Alexander Chinnici
Editor: Kyle Cogan
Producer: Jovita Lee
Executive Producer: Thom Kerr and Holiday Sidewinder
Production Company: Remedial Media
Talent: Jeff Thomas, Jase Battiste, Micah Walters, Delon Richards, Jamal Glasgow, Jonathan Baca

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