Despite a decade spent crafting an image that vacillated between dominatrix, sex kitten and doe-eyed ingenue, Alison Goldfrapp had so far survived with nary a whisper about her private life in the media.
All that changed late last year when she was unceremoniously ‘outed’ in an article in British newspaper The Times titled ‘The rise of mid-life lesbians’. Goldfrapp was pictured with her girlfriend, film editor Lisa Gunning, as the author mused on ‘what makes a woman jump the fence’.
“I’ve always been very private, and no-one’s ever really asked me much about my personal life either. I never talked about boyfriends or girlfriends, so it was odd for it to come out like that,” Goldfrapp told Sydney Star Observer down the line from her London home.
“What was more odd was the tone of that article, which was pretty cliched and slightly insulting, with the idea of the ‘middle-aged lesbian’. I think the woman who wrote it has more issues than I certainly do — it all felt a bit sad.
“But as for people knowing about my girlfriend, it doesn’t really bother me at all. I knew that someone was going to take a picture of us at some point. And I’m very pleased they chose a nice photo — we looked quite glamorous, I thought.”
Since the article was printed, Goldfrapp has publicly corrected any assumption that she was a heterosexual woman experiencing a ‘mid-life turn’ at 44, explaining that she’d been in relationships with both men and women throughout her life.
Does she think her vampy image in the past helped to feed any perception of her as straight — as some sort of a heterosexual male’s plaything?
“I don’t know. For me, our music and our imagery have always been very ambiguous; it’s all about ‘anything goes, anything can happen, never say never’, and that’s how I am.
“I don’t like labels, that’s just the way I am.”
Indeed, her restless spirit is writ large on Goldfrapp’s five albums to date. For their latest, Head First, she puts away the riding crop and stilettos for a playful, short-and-sweet salute to the best of vintage ’80s pop.
“I wanted the album to have a dreamy, colourful feel to it. It’s airy, it’s light… I’m being very vague here, aren’t I?”
There’s a teenage innocence to the songwriting that seems a world away from the graphic nature of much of today’s pop scene.
Consider this pearler, from current single Alive: “I jump up and put on my jeans/It feels good, they’re a little tight.”
“It’s got a naivety and simplicity to it, which is something I was striving for. And that line — you know exactly what that feeling is, don’t you? I wish I could feel like that all the time.”
info: Head First (EMI) out now. Goldfrapp play the Big Top at Luna Park on July 29. Visit www.bigtopsydney.com