Gay Iconography: Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears Is A Cut Above

Scissor_Sisters_-Fuji_Rock_Festival,_Japan-31July2010

Has there been a more famously flamboyant frontman than Jake Shears since Freddie Mercury? One of the lead singers of Scissor Sisters (along with Ana "Ana Matronic" Lynch), Shears' (né Jason Sellards) onstage antics and songwriting focusing on explictly gay themes has earned him a reputation as one of the most outrageous performers today.

From songs about coming out to "kiki-ing" with friends, the music of the Scissor Sisters has been largely influenced by gay culture. (In addition to Shears, members Babydaddy and Del Marquis are gay, and Ana Matronic has been immersed in the gay scene for years.) Their album Night Work, for example, was conceived of as a response to the AIDS-epidemic of the 1980s.

"It placed a big judgment call on [the gay club scene]. Suddenly, there was a big, 'Oh, you had it coming,'" he told The Guardian in 2010. I just started wondering where music was headed, where dance music would have headed, where all that would have gone. And Night Work is my hypothesis."

Though Scissor Sisters grew out of the New York City underground scene, they've enjoyed mainstream success, particularly in the United Kingdom. Their debut album spawned five top-20 singles in the U.K. and was the best-selling album of 2004, topping more traditional acts like Keane. They never reached the same level of prominence in the United States, but they have received mainstream attention, including appearance on talk shows (including Live With Regis and Kelly and The Wendy Williams Show). 

See some of our favorite clips of Shears and Scissor Sisters, AFTER THE JUMP

 

Shears grew up on San Juan Island, north of Seattle. In the It Gets Better video above, he details the bullying (and lack of support) he received while a teen. While attending college in Los Angeles, he visited Lexington, Kentucky, where he met Scott Hoffman (also known as Babydaddy). The two became fast friends and moved to New York City where they would go on to form Scissor Sisters.

 

The band’s second single from their debut album (after their breakout cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”) addressed the coming out process. Sex columnist Dan Savage has said the worst advice he ever gave was to a young Jake Shears. He encouraged him to come out to his family, and it did not go over well right away. Shears described the experience to RUComingOut.com: “The reaction was pretty bad and I had very few allies … Coming out can be hard and it’s something I would encourage people to do, however it’s important to really feel like you have a bit of a safety net, just in case.” Watch the video for “Take Your Mama,” above.

 

Scissor Sisters scored their first UK Number one with “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’” in 2006.  The song was co-written by Elton John (who also plays piano on the track). That’s far from the only queer and queer-friendly artist Shears has worked with throughout the years. He’s also collaborated on tunes with Cher, Kylie Minogue and Andy Bell.

 

Last year, Shears performed a cover of College & Electric Youth’s song “A Real Hero” at the GLAAD Media Awards. He added a verse dedicated to his friend Anderson Cooper. You can see a video of the performance above.

 

The band released its fourth album, Magic Hour, last year. The album includes “Let’s Have A Kiki,” a song that’s gone on to inspire papal parodies, brunch takeovers and, yes, even a Glee performance by Sarah Jessica Parker. We’re particularly fond of the band’s “instuctional video,” above, but that just might be about Shears’ mesh tanktop and football pants.

What’s your favorite Scissor Sisters’ jam?

Comments

  1. Truther says

    They are an incredible band and put on a hell of a live show. Their last album was somewhat lacking not in talent but in content but I think that’s because they’ve been on non stop tour you Europe for about a decade and didn’t have time to have the personal experiences that frame their songs. I still don’t know how they aren’t well known here, especially after they opened for Lady Gaga on several stops of one of her tours.

  2. bravo says

    There was a scene of is naughty parts on a DVD a few years ago – it was an ‘easter egg’. There were posts of it on the internet, but I can’t find any now. Let’s just say, it added to his appeal.

  3. says

    he’s charming, he’s articulate, he’s empowering, he’s talented, he’s OUT, he’s PROUD, he has both a knowledge and deep respect for our collective gay and queer history, and he’s SEXY AS F**K.

    only a worthless miserable hack with no life would find something to dislike about him.

    his music …..i spent the better part of my twenties shaking my @ss on the dance floors of clubs to his music, and post-club make out sessions with his downtempo tracks on my iPod dock.

    thanks, Mr. Shears. for the party, the after party, and for scoring my twenties. RAD.

    more plz :)

  4. enchantra hagatha hearne says

    Like I said, I’ll give him another listen. My impression was baed on a single performance many years ago on SNL or similar. He was wearing a pink jumpsuit and looked like an emaciated heroin using drag queen.

  5. Dave says

    Hey preachy preachers, music is subjective. Someone’s jam is another’s musak. With that said, I think their beats are tight, songs and subject are from-the-vine fresh. But that’s me. What is less subjective is how present, self-aware, and unapologetically OUT Jake has been, and for that, he is an Icon in our community.
    P.S – full disclosure, Towleroad in Ptown just gave me a free tote (thx!),
    soI hope I am above being bought, at least so cheaply!

  6. Tre says

    To compare Jake Shears to Freddie Mercury – or The Scissor Sisters to Queen, is insane. Queen and Freddie Mercury were and are iconic and packed stadiums for years, and had a multi-generational, multi-national fan base.
    These guys? Not even close.

  7. lonewolfen says

    Tre, with all due respect, Ta-Dh was a brilliant cd. So diverse and showcasing the whole band’s talents. It crossed over many different genres and never lost it’s vibe. Very much like Queen did, I’d know, I remember, I was there.
    I often wonder, in this day and age, if Freddie would have had a chance in this cynical cyber age, to be who he was. To share what the did. I seriously doubt it. Open your heart and you might find something new and beautiful. Does anyone have a real chance these days or is it all pissy bitching moaning that allowed Freddie to prove his worth?

  8. Marlon Manroe says

    The Scissor Sisters and Shears have what many gay pop musicians lack. Their talent is amazing and they’re not remotely stereotypical. They BRING IT live and aren’t afraid of adding a gay perspective, yet it never feels forced nor is it the only perspective. I don’t know how anyone could hate this band.

  9. EJ says

    When they were promoting their first album I saw the Scissor Sisters and really enjoyed them. They were fun and energetic and gay. A few years later (sometime after Ta-dah) I saw them again and it was very average. While it wasn’t a 180, it did feel like a different band was performing. Other than a few booty shakes, Shears lost all of that in your face gayness and banter that was on display during my first concert. I was sad because (especially during that time) it was great to see out performers just flaunt it a bit. My friend thought that the fear of being labeled a “gay band” and trying too hard to cater to U.S. radio changed their style. I can’t argue that may be what happened. I still like the Scissor Sisters and think their music is worth listening to, I just miss the flamboyant and edgy Sisters I first fell in love with.

  10. Avery A says

    If only Jake Shears weren’t such a little pussy, and actually wrote some gay songs. Instead of all scissor sisters songs are sung from the point of view of a straight guy.
    “Gay Icon”, indeed….

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