Pop mu­sic miss­ing GAY MEGAS­TAR

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - ENTERTAINMENT -

Free­dia, Le1f and Ze­bra Katz have got­ten no­tice with flam­boy­ant es­thet­ics (many in­cor­po­rate drag or sub­ver­sive per­for­mance art into their act) and unapolo­get­i­cally gay rhymes.

Free­dia, who has been around since the 1990s and helped put sweaty, tw­erk-cen­tric New Or­leans bounce mu­sic on the map, has a re­al­ity show on Fuse trac­ing his grow­ing fame.

Blanco is win­ning over crit­ics with his ven­omous rhymes chan­neled through a drag char­ac­ter who switches from street­tough male to ul­tra-fem­i­nine. And since break­ing out with party an­them Wut in 2012, New York rap­per-pro­ducer Le1f scored a deal with Ter­ri­ble Records and made his TV de­but on the most main­stream of plat­forms — The Late Show With David Let­ter­man.

Their suc­cess, and ris­ing fe­male voices such as Banks and An­gel Haze openly dis­cussing their sex­u­al­ity, continues to chal­lenge hip hop’s un­ac­cept­able yet shame­fully tol­er­ated misog­y­nist and ho­mo­pho­bic ways. Other gen­res are shift­ing, too.

Last year, Steve Grand went from an un­known singer-song­writer and un­der­wear model to vi­ral celebrity in just a week af­ter his video, All-Amer­i­can Boy, a tale of sweet, un­re­quited love for an­other man, amassed more than 1.2 mil­lion views on YouTube in 10 days. The coun­try tune quickly gained trac­tion for its ground­break­ing po­ten­tial in a genre that has been par­tic­u­larly shy about gay acts. In­ter­net viril­ity (and his strik­ing looks) worked in his favour, and the US$81,000 budget he set on Kick­starter to fund his de­but al­bum was matched four times over.

Amer­i­can Idol, which has been around for a dozen years, only re­cently had its first openly gay con­tes­tant when M.K. No­bilette com­peted last sea­son.

No­bilette wasn’t the first gay com­peti­tor on the singing com­pe­ti­tion, but in pre­vi­ous years the show didn’t have con­tes­tants dis­cussing their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion on cam­era de­spite delv­ing, pro­foundly, into their per­sonal lives.

The show’s most fa­mous gay con­tes­tants, Adam Lam­bert (who never hid his sex­u­al­ity) and Clay Aiken, “came out” af­ter ap­pear­ing on the show, al­though the me­dia spec­u­lated on their ori­en­ta­tion and the vot­ers’ readi­ness for an openly gay win­ner dur­ing their sea­sons. Now Smith seems poised to make an­other kind of splash. Since ex­plod­ing on U.K. ra­dio with hit col­lab­o­ra­tions Latch and La La La, all eyes have been on the baby-faced singer, 22, with stun­ning vo­cals and a knack for gor­geous, emo­tional bal­ladry. His sin­gle Stay With Me has cracked the Top 10 on Bill­board’s Hot 100, and his highly an­tic­i­pated de­but, In the Lonely Hour, en­tered the Bill­board Top 200 Al­bums chart this week at No. 2.

In the Lonely Hour bursts with painstak­ing hon­esty and raw­ness that pack more emo­tional wal­lop than any­thing cur­rently on ra­dio. The al­bum is ded­i­cated to Smith’s un­re­quited love for an­other man.

“Set my mid­night sorrow free, I will give you all of me / Just leave your lover, leave him for me,” he yearns on Leave Your Lover.

Pre­dictably, the song’s lyrics and mu­sic video have ig­nited ram­pant me­dia spec­u­la­tion. Like Ocean, he kept his re­sponse low-key, say­ing re­cently the al­bum is “about a guy, and that’s what I wanted people to know — I want to be clear that that’s what it’s about.”

Maybe one day these mo­ments won’t feel so ground­break­ing.

— Los Angeles Times

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