When I first came across Vermont singer/songwriter/producer Zak Kline’s personal-empowerment single “I Will” in January, his gorgeous falsetto and intricate production immediately grabbed my attention. Like a Bon Iver song, it managed to sound intimate even buttressed by string sections, backing choirs, and huge crescendoing choruses. Compared to the earlier material I found on his Bandcamp, “I Will” leapt out. I assumed it was a bold new direction for a musician who’s been quietly releasing music for a few years.
Turns out, he’s already moved on. His second single of the year, “Taste,” abandons all the genre markings of “I Will.” Gone are the strings, the choir, and the falsetto. In their place comes a thudding 1980s-channeling dance banger. Kline says “Taste,” not “I Will,” is that bold new direction. Less Bon Iver, more Bonnie Tyler. What hasn’t changed: His mission to affirm and celebrate queer youth.
“I wrote this song to celebrate teenage sexuality, specifically that of queer people,” he writes in an email. “Pop music is so often about sex and I feel like queer people need more examples of how to celebrate themselves, even when they find themselves to be different from everyone around them. I wrote the song from my own experience as a queer teenager who didn’t hear much music that reflected my own experience and I hope it helps someone else feel like they can enjoy being a kid just like everyone else.”