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Music News: ...Everyone Is Gay

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GuestbloggerRobbie Daw presents a weekly pop music update here on Towleroad! Robbie runs his own site called Chart Rigger.

Eminemelton"Teenage angst has paid off well. Now I'm bored and old." So begins Nirvana's third and final album, 1993's In Utero—the opening lines of "Serve The Servants."

Nirvana. Not the most gay topic of discussion, nor the gayest of music to bring up. So why bring it up at all?

This week is actually the eve of my first year doing a pop music column on Towleroad.

One question I keep coming back to is this: what really constitutes "gay music"? Scissor Sisters, Ari Gold, Elton John, Sam Sparro, Darren Hayes, Pet Shop Boys, The Feeling, George Michael and Andy Bell are mainstream gay artists or groups with gay members—all of which we've talked about here on Towleroad—but is the actual music those folks create gay?

As well, Madonna, Amy Winehouse, The Killers, Britney Spears, Sally Shapiro, Mariah Carey, LCD Soundsystem, Robyn, Kylie Minogue, Frankmusic, Sugababes, Cyndi Lauper, Spice Girls, Girls Aloud and Saint Etienne are music artists who have somewhat of a "gay appeal," though what does that really mean?

NirvanaflagsIs country music gay enough? Did Mika ever come out? Does Hip hop speak to us? When all was said and done, was Hard Candy any good?

And where do Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus, Duffy, Fall Out Boy, Santogold and Smashing Pumpkins fit in?

The truth is, I don't have the foggiest idea. What I do know is that pop music is subjective. And while I can't answer the question on what gay music truly is, I can say that no two people will probably every see completely eye to eye when it comes to individual taste.

But that's okay. Life would be pretty dull otherwise.

Over the past year, I've pondered my own psychological state after listing to Mariah's "Touch My Body," posed the question to you on whether Katy Perry is truly offensive, let nostalgia get the best of me over the re-release of Michael Jackson's Thriller and offered up Robyn scolding her godchildren in Swedish over the phone from Stockholm here on Towleroad—all in the name of delivering pop music news to the online masses from one guy's gay perspective.

Something about pop, whether it be one song, one artist or a single bar or note, can reach into the heart and send the imagination soaring, or hurtling back to a certain time and place.

NirvanaWhich brings us back to the original topic at hand. This past week NPR ran an interesting "All Things Considered" feature on 17-year-old Los Angeles native Spencer Elden (pictured right), who you may remember best as the baby swimming after the dollar bill on the cover of Nirvana's Nevermind album.

Admittedly, I'm a longtime Nirvana fan from the time when I was 17 myself and Nevermind hit like a grenade. So it's a bit surreal to catch up on what this kid's been up to.

Given that Elden appeared sans clothing on the cover, it's amusing to read him looking back: "Quite a few people in the world have seen my penis. So that's kinda cool. I'm just a normal kid living it up and doing the best I can while I'm here."

As for teenage angst paying off well, he notes that his father was given $200 for letting his son be photographed for the seminal, 26-million-selling record's artwork.

I guess it should be noted that, judging from his comments about "worrying about stupid girls," Spencer is apparently straight—a fact which inevitably calls to mind the opening of "All Apologies," the last track on Nirvana's final album:

"What else should I say? Everyone is gay?"

Nbroad.jpg THE WEEK'S NEW RELEASES:

Josh Kelley's Backwoods. (You know, the guy married to Katherine Heigl.)

British trip hop act UNKLE's End Titles... Stories For Film.

Remixes of Natasha Bedingfield's current hit, "Pocketful Of Sunshine".

The self-titled debut album from alt rock band Scars On Broadway.

Hot Chip's iTunes-only Live:Berlin Festival EP.

New singles from Lindsay Buckingham ("Did You Miss Me"), Jonas Brothers ("Tonight"), T-Pain ("Can't Believe It") and Hinder ("Use Me").

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Comments

  1. Hmmm... I'm a big Gangstarr fan. What about them?

    :)

    Posted by: JeffRob | Jul 30, 2008 4:21:05 PM


  2. Well I'm gay and I listen to pop punk.

    Also: that kid is 17 now??? Jeez.

    Posted by: Jones | Jul 30, 2008 4:51:43 PM


  3. Nirvana is one of the greatest bands of all time, and whether they are "gay" or not there was definitely something very *queer* about them, especially Kurt.

    I swear, I still get all weepy when I think too much about Kurt Cobain; what a loss.

    Posted by: Dan E | Jul 30, 2008 4:54:47 PM


  4. I am so glad to see Saint Etienne, Sally Shapiro and Santogold get shoutouts :)

    Of course, I want Sufjan Stevens to be gay and be my husband . . . but that's a different story.

    Posted by: Alex | Jul 30, 2008 5:30:24 PM


  5. What a lovely, introspective, and personal post. Well done.

    And, FYI... When all is said and done, yeah, HARD CANDY is really good. "Give it to me" is up there with the best singles Madonna has ever done.

    re: gay music, I would love to see you do an article on totally obvious gay artists that go over the head of the public. I know straight people who STILL don't get that the Village People were gay. And, helloooooo, Freddy Mercury? His band was actually CALLED "Queen!"

    Posted by: Strepsi | Jul 30, 2008 5:31:53 PM


  6. I had no idea Sam Sparro was gay. I've been LOVING that record for a couple of months now. I encourage anyone to check it out. Excellent.

    Posted by: Jefferson | Jul 30, 2008 5:34:16 PM


  7. Really great column. And I couldn't agree more... Anyone who listens to strictly dance music or "gay" music is kinda boring. While I love me some Madonna and Pet Shops Boys, I also listen to everything from Beatles, Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails, Death Cab, to The Cure. Ok, admittedly, Robert Smith is sorta gay.

    PS: You were only 17 when Nevermind came out? I hate you.

    Posted by: crispy | Jul 30, 2008 6:45:52 PM


  8. Sure seems like this week's column might have been a result of last week's comment section, but it's a brilliant commentary. I've been lucky that I've never felt the need to stick to the "gay" music, and count bluegrass, new age and hip hop among the types of music I regularly listen to. It's not just the music, though. It's the lyrics and the perspective of the writers and performers. And then end of the day, though, my motto is "get in where you fit in".

    Posted by: John | Jul 30, 2008 8:46:41 PM


  9. All music is gay in some respect. I mean, it's music and it's art and it usually conveys some sort of drama either in the lyrics and/or the melody. And I for one, love all kinds of music and despise some typically gay kinds mentioned in your post. It would be easier to classify some music as Definitely Not Gay. For instance, Fugazi, Jimmy Buffet, Hooty and The BlowJob. Not that there aren't gay people out there who love that stuff, but that they aren't exactly the target audience. Rufus Wainwright's music is classically gay in every way. Same goes for Imperial Teen, Morrissey, Ssion, Placebo, and Antony Hegarty, to name some more.

    Posted by: thomas | Jul 30, 2008 9:03:38 PM


  10. I was being sincere, by the way; I really do love Gangstarr. And I think more people should listen to good hip-hop. It gets a bad rap, especially in our community, often for good reason, but it shouldn't be generalized. The most artistic rhymers and beat-makers out there aren't any more homophobic than any other breeder, and the art form is addictive and delicious.

    Thanks for your time.

    I'm talkin bout De La Soul, Tribe C. Q., the Roots, Common, Lupe Fiasco, Talib Kweli, Dilated Peoples, Heiroglyphics, Cee-Lo, Guru, Jurassic 5, Mos Def, Nappy Roots, Nas, Pharcyde, Ras Kass, Swollen Members (LOVE that name), and lots of other stuff you don't hear on the radio.

    Posted by: JeffRob | Jul 30, 2008 9:20:43 PM


  11. Fugazi as Definitely Not Gay? Guy Picciotto always seemed kind of gayish to me. Several of my friends from my punk rock days were, in retrospect, total closet cases, and they all listened to Fugazi. Also, Ian MacKaye is entirely to blame for my shaved head fetish.

    Posted by: John T | Jul 30, 2008 10:19:22 PM


  12. I'm always shocked by "gay music". My musical taste includes just about everything except Broadway Musicals and Fusion Jazz. I love going to suburban gay bars because I hear crap that I would never hear anyplace else. I was actually shocked to hear Goldfrapp in a Ft. Myers bar just the other week. It was mostly second rate Army of Lovers sound-a-likes. I don't go out dancing because I hate the tweaked out soul-less music that's all the rage with the meth kids these days.

    JEFFROB, Back in the Lower East Side in NYC in the 80s there were renegade clubs that would have a real mix of gays, straights, thugs, banji girls, etc. The rappers, MCs and scratchers would take turns on the mic and the turntables.
    And don't forget Kelis, Peaches, Fannypack, and Santogold,

    Posted by: Mark | Jul 30, 2008 11:44:43 PM


  13. Robbie...thanks for the post about the kid from the Nevermind. And what a funny comment he makes about the fact that everyone has seen his penis!

    And thanks for reporting on Hot Chip...I *loves* me some Hot Chip!

    As for LCD Soundsystem appealing to a gay audience...REALLY? I had no idea. Really.

    Posted by: peterparker | Jul 31, 2008 12:44:56 AM


  14. I was 19 - sheesh, 17 years have passed?!!

    Can we see his penis again? Like in a year? Please? ;-)

    Posted by: Shane | Jul 31, 2008 7:30:56 AM


  15. I love this column, partly becasue I have no interest in reading the same old shit I can find everywhere else. It's not too disco, not too indie. The balance is... inclusive!

    Posted by: xolondon | Jul 31, 2008 7:40:03 AM


  16. I do get very surprised when I'm out on Fire Island with my friends and they are puzzled over the contents of my iPod. And then we go over to someone else's house or out dancing and everything is Mariah, Madonna, Mariah, Madonna, Mariah, Madonna . . . and some Hotel Costes thing.

    I love Madonna (Mariah, not so much), but given all the music blogs, iTunes, eMusic and the like it's never been easier to be in touch and informed about all the cool new music out there. I've introduced my housemates to Adele, Glass Candy, Lykke Li, Vampire Weekend, The Ting Tings, Jamie Lidell and Hercules and Love Affair (why that album isn't an insta-gay classic, I'll never know).

    Of course stuff like Sigur Ros, Spoon, Bon Iver, Yeasayer, Panda Bear, Santogold, M.I.A., Final Fantasy, Peter Bjorn and John (aka indie bands with boys in them) never really makes the cut for playing around the house. :(

    Posted by: Alex | Jul 31, 2008 10:48:47 AM


  17. I never thought I would see Guy Piccioto mentioned on Towleroad. When he was in Rites of Spring he was so powerfully emotional---not to mention, RED HOT---that I saw him every chance I could in high school. But I think with him it's just the pure emotion.

    I love Saint Etienne but don't get as much of a gay vibe there. Placebo, certainly, though Brian does a lot of that for attention. And Morrissey has tons of straight fans, often way more obsessive than the guys.

    I would add Goldfrapp to the gay list, without question.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jul 31, 2008 8:01:55 PM


  18. ROBBIE:

    Any word on a new Weekend Players album?

    Posted by: Eric | Jul 31, 2008 9:44:11 PM


  19. I live in Los Angeles and never go to the gay bars in WeHo any more. Most play what sounds like one continuous horrible soulless dance number. Call house, acid house, techo house, deep house, whatever, i call it shit. I second on Goldfrapp, saw them in at the Wiltern a couple of years ago and it was a virtual gay bar (the good kind).

    Also somewhat off topic, Brazilian singer Marissa Monte, has a huge gay following in Brazil. If you're looking for modern Brazilian pop music, give her a try. She is simple wonderful! Some critics consider her the best female Brazilian sing of ALL time, and that's saying something.

    Posted by: Scrufff | Aug 1, 2008 1:30:04 AM


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