Be­hind the cur­tain

Róisín Mur­phy is set on do­ing a Wizard of Oz at the Milk fes­ti­val, writes Jim Car­roll

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

For straights and gays alike, more than tal­ent, the mu­sic in­dus­try’s cor­ner­stone is sex, and ris­ing stars learn quickly to use their sex­u­al­ity to garner at­ten­tion. To get a good foothold on the gay lad­der, it’s a good idea to hint at bi­sex­ual ten­den­cies, even if you don’t have them. David Bowie be­gan this tra­di­tion in the 1970s, Madonna latched on to it in the 1980s and, more re­cently, Lady Gaga played a deck of poker-faced bi­sex­ual cards to se­cure her pole po­si­tion.

Bowie, of course, was play­ing with gen­der and sex­ual bound­aries at a time when most peo­ple had never met a gay man or a les­bian, and gay peo­ple lived fairly un­der­ground lives. In the in­ter­ven­ing years, things have changed enor­mously, leav­ing a gap in the mar­ket for pop stars to come out of the closet and hold on to a gay fol­low­ing for the rest of their lives.

El­ton John led the way when he re­vealed his true colours in a 1980 Rolling Stone in­ter­view – since then, we’ve had Jimmy Somerville, Marc Al­mond, Boy Ge­orge, Neil Ten­nant, kd lang, Will Young, Melissa Etheridge, Ru­fus Wain­wright, Jake Shears and Beth Ditto – to name but a few. While other stars may come and go with in­creas­ing speed, you can be sure that the afore­men­tioned acts will en­dure with gay fans across the globe. Milk’s in­clu­sion of Right Said Fred and Sa­man­tha Fox plays on this uni­ver­sal truth, and fans will travel from far to kneel at the al­tar of their gay fame. They may be on the kitsch side, but this is added value for the gay au­di­ence. If you’re not ho­mo­sex­ual and hint­ing at bi­sex­u­al­ity is not your thing, record­ing a gay an­them will en­sure your queer sta­tus. There are two es­sen­tial el­e­ments for an en­dur­ing gay an­them: a good bass line and self­cel­e­bra­tion. Donna Sum­mer did it with I Feel Love in 1977, Glo­ria Gaynor with I Will Sur­vive in 1978 and, de­spite ru­mours that both women voiced ob­jec­tions to ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity on re­li­gious grounds, they con­tinue to be top of the gay pops to this day. Abba did it with Danc­ing Queen, Diana Ross with I’m Com­ing Out, Sis­ter Sledge with We Are Fam­ily. Bana­narama did it in 1986 with Venus and, 24 years later, they’re among the head­lin­ers at Milk. They got it – yeah baby, they got it. More re­cently there’s been the emer­gence of a gay in­die scene, pop­u­lated by louche-haired boys and girls who ca­su­ally drop al­ter­na­tive sex­u­al­i­ties into the act. For most of them, in­die-folk hero­ines Indigo Girls are touch­stones, a fact Milk per­form­ers Heathers might tes­tify to. A sis­ter act whose song Re­mem­ber When was used for a Dis­cover Ire­land TV ad cam­paign, their re­sem­blance to les­bian Cana­dian twins Te­gan and Sara has been on the tip of gay tongues in the past few months. Te­gan and Sara them­selves caused les­bian hys­te­ria when they ap­peared in Dublin’s Tower Records to sign their lat­est al­bum in June. Girls with tat­toos, pierc­ings and crooked fringes queued around the block be­fore storm­ing the shop.

Gay guys in the in­die know are hang­ing on to ev­ery last word ut­tered by Bloc Party front­man Kele Ok­ereke, who ap­peared on the cover of the alt-gay mag­a­zine du jour Butt last month to pro­mote his solo al­bum, ca­su­ally chat­ting about his sex­ual ex­ploits along the way. The Milk fes­ti­val line-up might not have in­die for the boys pinned down, but it’s try­ing to cover ev­ery other base for its niche au­di­ence – hence the end­less chat­ter.

The in­die kids want noth­ing to do with Alexan­dra Burke; the Seb Fon­taine house mu­sic fans wouldn’t be seen dead shak­ing their booties to Right Said Fred. Cult favourites Róisín Mur­phy and So­phie El­lisBex­tor may unify the troops with their sta­tus in the cool stakes, but it re­mains to be seen whether Milk’s eclec­ti­cism can cut enough mus­tard to break even. If it does, you can ex­pect the likes of kd lang to share the stage with Mar­i­lyn Man­son in years to come.

It’s a mix­ture of stuff. It starts with me play­ing other peo­ple’s tracks and, grad­u­ally, I bring the sing­ing and my own tracks in, mixed in with stuff which feels right. I don’t how I’m go­ing to do it, but I’m def­i­nitely go­ing to ex­pand this idea to make it more of an one-woman show. tours. Of course, the sit­u­a­tion will arise when it will feel right to do an­other al­bum, but I don’t think any of the tracks I’m do­ing at the moment would work stuck onto an al­bum. I want to stay true to my word and just con­cen­trate on tracks for dance­floors for now. Of course, once I’ve re­leased 10 tracks, you can go off and down­load all 10 and make your own al­bum.

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