For British pop artist Sakima, queer sex has always been a topic he wants to discuss with his music. After the release of his sexual anthem “Daddy,” Sakima has solidified his place as the openly gay pop singer who doesn’t shy away from “dirty” topics.
That trend certainly continues with Sakima’s newest single, “Show Me” (premiering below), but this time, the singer approaches a moment just before sex where two lovers have a silent communication with one another using only their bodies. “Whether it’s an hour or it’s seconds, that moment just before you physically engage with someone is such a beautiful moment,” he tells Billboard.
Sakima talks with Billboard about the meaning of his new song, the queer history of using body language as a tool, and why the art for his new song features him with bruises all over his face.
“Show Me” is great. So much of the song is focused specifically around the idea of communicating sexually through your body. Why was that something you wanted to talk about?
Within the song, there’s quite an obvious allegory about body language, and talking without words. When you’re with someone, or you’re in bed with someone or even in a club or wherever it may be … it can be a lot of things, like you don’t know how to say what you’re really feeling, but you know that you can show them with your body. Whether it’s an hour or it’s seconds, that moment just before you physically engage with someone is such a beautiful moment. We always talk about sex, or about talking about sex, but what about the moment just before it happens?
I think as well, as a gay man, there is a lot that’s relatable from the queer experience where you can’t really say much. Everything is always very hushed and hidden, historically at least. There’s a lot of that kind of cultural context to the song, in terms of where you’ve come from as queer individuals, and our relationship to sex, how we go about it, how we get it. Back in the day, right throughout the ’80s and ’90s in certain areas, that whole idea of an exchange would be with your eyes. If you looked at someone, and if you held their gaze for three seconds, maybe it was ten, that was supposed to mean that you wanted to have sex with them. In terms of gay cruising and all of this stuff, there’s just so much about queer sexual history that’s about nonverbal communication, and I felt it was a natural way for me to express myself.
That’s really fascinating. I noticed that the art for this single and for your last single, “Death Is in the Air,” both feature you with a bruised face. What is the significance of that in terms of these songs, and also, are you OK?
[Laughs] Yeah, I know it’s a bit much. It’s quite funny, actually, because someone on Instagram reported me, because I posted that. Before “Death Is in the Air” came out, which is a really dark song that talks about this darker side and depression and all that shit, but I quoted one of the lyrics under a picture of me wearing all of this bruise makeup. And someone reported me on Instagram! It was really touching, while also incredibly annoying at the same time. Have you ever felt that feeling of thinking “That is so sweet, and so so annoying!”
I was trying to find a way to visually express what I was feeling about music itself, like the industry, queer representation, what it means to be gay now in the 21st century. I kept coming back to this idea of heterosexual or cisgendered people, a lot of the time, being like “Now it’s really great for gay people, you can marry each other and things are really lovely!” I thought, you think it’s okay, but even if there was complete equality legally & culturally within our society and we entered a utopia tomorrow, I would still spend the rest of my life haunted by the homophobia and the abuse of my past. My mind, my mental health is totally bruised by my entire young adulthood and childhood of homophobia and being beaten up for being gay all the time. I wasn’t trying to shock people with it, but I am trying to make people look twice. I put them on my face and wear them, and say, “I have been through this shit, and I’m going to talk about it. I’m going to be so open about it that I wear it on my face to make sure that I don’t let the issues go into the dark like they do so often.”
Something you mentioned was this idea that you have been very unabashed in the way that you approach talking about queer romance and queer sex in your music. What has been the response that you’ve been seeing to that representation?
I think it’s always mixed. There are always people that feel very uncomfortable. I mean, I’m trying my hardest, but I am not entirely 100 percent sexually liberated. There’s still certain situations where I will feel uncomfortable talking about queer sex, which I know is deeply ironic because I am being so public about all of it. But even like my neighbor today — I hope he doesn’t read this interview — I was out having a cigarette on my front steps, and he was out tending his garden. I’ve never spoken to him in my life, but I know he’s a bouncer for clubs. And he kind of finally started talking to me, and he asked about what I did. I said, “Oh, I work in music!” He was immediately like, “Oh, what’s your name, I’ll look you up!” But he did it there and then, and he starts pulling up the video for “Daddy,” and I was just like “Oh fuck.”
I was not sure, because the worst thing in the world, in this day and age — if somethings were right in front of his face, how is he going to react? And he’s my neighbor, so if he reacts badly, what am I going to do? So I’m not 100 percent confident and liberated, myself. So while there’s a lot of mixed reaction, for the most part, it is quite positive. Like 95 percent of people that I’ve engaged with or who have messaged me have been very excited and happy about this kind of narrative entering the mainstream. God, it feels pretentious to say a mainstream sphere, I’m not quite there. But for want of a better term, that narrative has entered that stage.
So with similar art covers on these two tracks and similar themes, are these part of some upcoming EP or album you’re working on?
Um … [Laughs] interesting question. Not really, but basically, I am working on a much longer-form project which I am going to call Project Peach. I don’t know if it’s an album or a mini album or a mixtape or like ten albums, but it is something bigger than what I have done before, and it’s going to be a complete celebration of queer art, queer iconography, queer stories, all of it. It’s called Project Peach for a reason; I was being really nerdy a couple of months ago, because I like to get academic with queer history. I was reading a list or something that was like “50 Facts From Gay History,” and there was this one thing that stood out about Ancient China, I think. It said the term that was used to refer to gay people or the act of same sex was “taking a bite of the forbidden peach.” I had never heard something so discriminatory and so poetic at the same time! So I wanted to use that, and that’s why I’m calling it Project Peach, because it’s a big celebration. Obviously there will be dark stuff on it as well, it won’t be all bells and whistles, but that’s part of our history, isn’t it? So I’m very excited, and it’s taking forever and I have no idea when it’s going to come out, but that is my focus.