’90s Flashback: Jill Sobule’s “I Kissed A Girl” Was A Watershed Moment

Mike Wass | April 10, 2020 2:29 pm
'90s Flashback: 'Freak Like Me'
Adina Howard walked so today's sex-positive R&B queens could run.

In this franchise, we look back on our favorite bops — both hits and underrated gems — from the 1990s.

The term “cultural reset” has been overused to the point where it has lost all meaning, but Jill Sobule’s 1995 hit “I Kissed A Girl” is a legitimate example. While a handful of artists had started to come out in the ’90s (Melissa Etheridge and K.D. Lang among other trailblazers), their music remained oddly ambiguous when it came to pronouns. And then suddenly, there was a queer woman singing about a same-sex fling — on top 40 radio, no less. The song eventually peaked at number 67 on the Billboard Hot 100 and deserves to be remembered as a watershed moment.

“Jenny came over and told me about Brad, he’s such a hairy behemoth she said,” Jill begins the perky tune. “And dumb as a box of hammers, but he’s such a handsome guy.” Our heroine then shares a couple of tidbits about her own lackluster relationship. “And I opened up and I told her about Larry and yesterday how he asked me to marry,” she sings sweetly over jaunty guitar. “I’m not giving him an answer yet.” Things take an unexpected turn on the chorus. “So we laughed, compared notes,” the singer/songwriter chirps. “She took off her overcoat, I kissed a girl.”

While the song’s message was toned down somewhat by a tongue-in-cheek video starring Fabio, it was a galvanizing moment for the LGBTQ+ community nonetheless. It’s impossible to write about “I Kissed A Girl” without mentioning Katy Perry’s similarly-titled hit. As much as I love that problematic banger, there’s a noticeable difference. Katy’s flirtation is framed as a drunken misadventure (“I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it”), while Jill’s experience is revelatory (“we laughed at the world, they can have their diamonds and we’ll have our pearls”).

Of course, Jill would go on to release a second ’90s staple with “Supermodel” from the Clueless soundtrack and has been consistently releasing great music ever since. (Start with 2018’s excellent Nostalgia Kills and work backwards). Revisit the first and best “I Kissed A Girl” below.

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