I am interested in the idea touched on in the article “Singing the Gender Wars,” by Frances Apricio, and further elaborated on by Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano in their article, “Crossing the Border with Chabela Vargas,” of the importance of the gender and sexual identity presentation of cultural producers in the transformation of a song into a feminist text, a queer text, a radical text, etc. I think there is an interesting trajectory of certain songs, plays, performances, etc. that have been performed over the years by various artists and the underlying meaning of which have been transformed by these different performers.
An example of this, changing in reading based upon a cultural producer’s gender and sexual identity, is the song “No Controles.” I know of “No Controles” as a song performed by the eighties and nineties all-women Mexican pop group Flans, covered by the popular Mexican rock group Cafe Tecuba, and as having been recycled recently by The Cholitas, a performance group featuring queer performance artist Vaginal Creme Davis. But apparently this song was written and originally performed by a Spanish man named Nacho Cano and later “given” to Flans by Cano, news to me.
The history of “No Controles” is interesting to me in how differently I read the different performances. My initial introduction was to the recording, and music video by Flans. I read this as a nineties poppy pop-culture-feminist song. Femme (or at least that is how I read them) women dressed in baggy clothes and “men’s suits,” dancing around kind of awkwardly, singing about not wanting to be controlled, as they rebel against “their maids?” I found this performance to be really fun, enjoyable, and softly feminist in its message and performance.
Years later watching the Cafe Tecuba video covering this song, I saw their attempt to turn this song into a radical critique of late-capitalist consumer culture. While I think this is an important and relevant social criticism, as it also felt like a song very much about male angst and rebellion, a familiar theme in popular rock and roll. Interestingly, seeing this performance, however, did help me re-appreciate the Flans performance, and reconsider the importance of Flans gender presentation, in making their version of “No Controles,” the feminist song it was/is to me.
A year ago I saw the Cholitas recuperate this song in a video on youtube, and I was drawn back to the text. The Cholitas’ performance is ostensibly a lip synch to the Flans version of No Controles, but to my eyes, this queering of Flans now relatively-non-threateningly feminist performance, once again, transforms No Controles into a really fun, and queer, feminist text.