American Flag Bikini
Available for sale: Digital file $200
On January 19, 2021, the day before the historic Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, New York pop artist Michael Love Michael releases their incendiary new single, “American Flag Bikini.”
As ever, Michael is using their music as a vehicle to address greater issues within humankind, advocating for change by confronting our world’s harshest truths. The track – written by MLM and fellow composer and friend Natti Vogel; produced by Beyonce collaborator Reuben Butchart and Michael – is a clarion call for all who’ve ever been marginalized by American society, especially in the last four years, a harrowing time period where seeds of hatred and division have sprouted like wildfire.
Michael wrote “American Flag Bikini” while attending a Provincetown, MA poetry workshop taught by legendary New York poet Eileen Myles. That fateful summer of 2017, a white supremacist rally called Unite the Right took place in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 11 and 12. As the rally grew in size, with protestors carrying flags bearing the Confederate symbol and swastikas, so did the counter-protestors determined to quell the hate speech. To make matters worse, while Virginia lawmakers declared the assembly of white supremacists dangerous and unlawful, Trump initially said that the rallies contained “very fine people, on both sides.” Things escalated when a white supremacist drove a car intentionally into a group of counter-protestors, killing 32-year-old Heather Hyer and wounding 35 others.
These horrific events became the basis for “American Flag Bikini,” a poem Michael shared with friend Natti. Natti helped Michael structure the poem into a proper pop song with theatrical flair. Its provocative opening lyrics: “I shouldn’t be so sexy/Shouldn’t wear no flag bikini,” speaks potently to the nuanced ways in which Michael, as a queer, Black nonbinary person of trans experience, can feel both unsafe in America, while also boldly reclaiming their power.
Michael essentially shelved the song until now - the storming of the Capitol, an attempted coup by white supremacists emboldened by Trump - has been, for many, far too much to bear.
“I believe it was Toni Morrison, among many great artists who intimated that we as artists have a responsibility to respond to what happens in the world through our art,” Michael says of deciding to put the four-year-old song out now. “That has always been a guiding principle for me. I can’t sit idly by while injustice happens all around us. Rather than rest on feeling helpless, this is something I can do: I can channel my point of view and write a song.”
Michael has been busy doing just that, while recording their upcoming sophomore album, and in sessions with producer Reuben Butchart, they felt inspired to finally finish what they started four years ago. The resulting production demands to be heard. It’s sexy, queer, soulful, of-the-moment yet timeless, and deeply unapologetic – and Michael’s righteous rage, angst and disappointment simmers just beneath the track’s shiniest surfaces. A music video for “American Flag Bikini” is coming soon.