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Music & Concerts

Now grown, Jonas Brothers reunite for frothy pop romp

New album ‘Happiness Begins’ is trio’s first new material in a decade



Jonas Brothers, gay news, Washington Blade

The new Jonas Brothers’ album ‘Happiness Begins’ is a delightful return to form. (Photo courtesy Republic)

Happiness Begins” is the first Jonas Brothers album in a decade. Even so, the now-grown Disney Channel heartthrobs’ presence has remained ubiquitous — Joe Jonas’ pop-funk group DNCE dominated the charts following the release of the single “Cake By The Ocean” and Nick Jonas’ 2016 solo pop record had numerous successes, including “Champagne Problems” and “Close.” But the new album is largely a return the group’s classic sound.

The brothers Kevin, Joe and Nick, ages 31, 29 and 26 respectively, first rose to prominence after being picked up by Disney Channel. But unlike many of their fellow Disney Channel stars, the Jonas Brothers were always musicians first, actors second, setting them apart from the majority of Disney stars whose musical talents, if they may be called that, are discovered only after acting in major roles. The Jonas Brothers have always had solid chops, even if the music was geared toward adolescents.

Considering other boy bands like One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer, who owe much to the brothers, the Jonas Brothers more seamlessly transitioned away from enforced innocence to appeal to a broader audience. Joe’s innuendo-filled and delightfully fun DNCE project and Nick’s provocative Calvin Klein campaign, as well as his solo work, have opened the two up to a larger fan base, particularly among gay men in Nick’s case. He certainly gave Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes’ recent underwear campaigns some healthy competition. The new album is very much caught it in the middle of these various worlds and feels like something of a compromise between them: boyishness, sexual innuendo, pop, funk, pop punk and a lighthearted attitude.

The lead single “Sucker,” which opens the album, is a catchy pop-rock track that makes much use of Nick’s signature whiny falsetto. And it is more a remodel than new construction. It would be equally at home on the group’s 2009 album “Lines, Vines and Trying Times.” The song debuted at no. 1 on Billboard, fueled more by nostalgia than innovation. 

The single “Cool,” which follows “Sucker,” largely falls much into the same camp, a good tune that adds little new. Both singles seem to reflect a strategy to appeal to the group’s traditional fanbase. The album is somewhat frontloaded with songs that remind us who the Jonas Brothers were. But one can’t help but wonder what else the group is capable of. Fortunately, the album is quick to answer.

“I Believe” marks a turn in a more interesting direction on the album. The synth-heavy, harmonically dynamic track is a fantastic example of the group’s new direction. It is an impeccably good pop song and one you won’t regret leaving on repeat. To be sure, the apex of the album.

“Every Single Time” is another synth-heavy, up-tempo track that is on the slightly more innovative side. “Used To Be,” a more generically pop song, and “Don’t Throw it Away” seem to be the bridge between the more traditional sound of “Cool” and “Sucker” and the more up-to-date tracks like “I Believe.” And most of the album works to find a balance between the old and new of the Jonas Brothers. It’s a first foray into new territory that leads longtime fans by the hand. In that respect, the album is a big success, and bodes well for the brothers’ musical future.

Toward the tail end of the album comes “Rollercoaster,” another fast-paced anthem designed, no doubt, with DJs and dance clubs in mind. And while the song is decidedly contemporary in its feel, it’s hard not to read the lyrics as a metaphor for their music career: “It was fun when we were young and now we’re older/Those days when we were broke in California/We were up and down and barely made it over/But I’d go back and ride that roller coaster.” 

On the album cover, the three brothers are sprawled out, backs to the camera in front of pool as they stare out over the California desert: Happiness Begins. It is not just that the Jonas Brothers are back — they’re already looking forward to what comes next. 


Music & Concerts

It is Grace Jones v. Carly Rae Jepsen in the clash of musical titans

This year’s OUTLOUD WeHo Pride festival features a free concert on Friday with paid-ticket events on Saturday and Sunday



West Hollywood Brings You the Ying and Yang of Divas (Original artwork concept executed by Max Huskins)

HOLLYWOOD – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”  So begins the classic A Tale of Two Cities. The line seems to accurately describe our current times of queer triumphs and tragedies. It characterizes both the progress and the pain being experienced by the LGBTQ community as Pride Season opens.

This, however, is not the tale of two cities. It is the tale of one city, and two divas. Specifically, two divas who are putting their talent and their voices out to inspire our personal age of wisdom and drown out all the foolishness.

That city is West Hollywood and its Outloud music festival in conjunction with Pride. Launched in 2020 as a ten-episode series on Facebook, Outloud then created a weekend-long event in 2021 celebrating LGBTQ+ artistry and music. This year’s festival features a free concert on Friday with paid-ticket events on Saturday and Sunday.

Before the weekend of contrasting LGBTQ+ significances, Broadway and Disney Queen Idina Menzel headlines the roster on Friday Night.  With an LGBTQ fan favorite pedigree with hits from the show Rent, to defying gravity as the marginalized Elphaba of Wicked to the Ice Queen who “Lets it go”, Idina has been showstopping with LGBTQ themes that have spoken to a wide range of generations.

On stage at the Saturday and Sunday concerts will be the fascinating juxtaposition of two divas, each carrying her own LGBTQ significance, but who could not be more different from the other if they tried. It is Jones, as in Grace, versus Jepsen as in Carly Rae.

They are the Yin meets Yang of divas.

Grace Jones on the one hand, is legend, she is our origin. She rode an arc from Jamaica, to America, to Paris and beyond. Her voice reverberated from gay discos crying that she “wanted a man” in the first days when gay discos spun their mirrored balls. She, in many ways, defined us. She exuded non-binary before there was such a term and people just called her androgynous. She has stated, “Some people are both genders. I think you just come out the way you come out, and you have to embrace it honestly.” She is the diva quite at home in form fitting black leather with whips and fire. “I go feminine, I go masculine. I am both, actually. I think the male side is a bit stronger in me, and I have to tone it down sometimes. I’m not like a normal woman, that’s for sure.”

Carly Rae Jepsen is our sweet, affection seeking, secret diva. To much of the popular world she is a “one-hit” wonder, but to many LGBTQ folks her ongoing catalogue speaks to, and of, our hearts and the ongoing search for love. In terms of black leather, she has been heard to say, “I’ve never been an all-black girl. I like pinks and blues and greens, If you come over to my closet, you’ll be able to find a rainbow of things to wear.”

This diversity can be heard in the music each makes as well.  Grace Jones owns the edge, and has remarked, “Music has its own depths, and I let it take me where it takes me, even if it means stripping all my clothes off.” Grace’s music is known for its unique style and sound, influenced by reggae, funk, post-punk, pop and New Wave. It has traditionally resonated with the LGBTQ+ community as anthems for self-expression, liberation, and nonconformity.

Carly Rae Jepsen, on the other hand, has described her music as “Bejeweled. It’s colorful. It’s romantic. It shines.”

While Grace is global and created a worldwide fabric in fashion and music, Carly Rae is decidedly Canadian with a hometown girl kind of flair. “Canada was my whole world and my whole reality, and now I meet people who’ve never been there, and it’s like, ‘You’ve never been to my whole world?” she says.

Entertainment Tonight Canada called Carly Rae “the queen of the Gay Community.” She has been active in the music industry since 2007. She has released six studio albums, two remix albums, four EPs, 28 singles, 10 promotional singles, and 24 music videos. Her song “Call Me Maybe” became the biggest-selling song in the world in 2012 and the best-selling domestic Canadian single in history. She is known for her support of the LGBTQ community and her music has been embraced by the LGBTQ community for its inclusive messages of acceptance and self-love. She has said, ““I have so many gay friends that I love. It is a regular thing. And if my video is encouraging that mind frame with other people—well it is about time…”

“I WOULD much rather have a small and mighty group of people who are getting what I love about music and connecting than a ‘Call me Maybe’ ever again.”

Grace has said about herself, “I like conflicts. I love competition. I like discovering things for myself. It’s a childlike characteristic, actually. But that gives you a certain amount of power, and people are intimidated by that.” So if there were to be a Jones versus Jepson competition, who would win? Grace has sold more records than Carly Rae. Grace Jones has sold over 738,614 albums and had four songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Carly Rae Jepsen has sold over 521,000 albums and had six songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. However, Carly Rae Jepsen has also sold over 25 million records worldwide, which includes singles and streams. Grace Jones’ total record sales are not clear, but she has been active since the 1970s, and relatively few streams. It cannot be ignored however, that she is the one who has  a significant influence on pop culture and music.

Calling her out as a culture creator himself, Andy Warhol said, “Grace Jones is one of the most creative and brilliant people I have ever met. She is always pushing the boundaries of art and expression. She is a true original.”

While lack of acknowledgement has been a bone of contention from Grace for divas that followed and copied her (Hello, Madonna, she is speaking to you…), several have paid their homage. “Grace Jones is a force of nature, a wild spirit, a rebel. She inspires me to be more fearless and outspoken. She is a role model for women and men alike, “ stated Lady Gaga. Rihanna has similarly paid tribute, “Grace Jones is a trailblazer, a pioneer, a visionary. She has influenced generations of artists with her music, fashion, film and performance. She is a living legend.”

Carly Rae has been treated more like a kid sister diva, on the other hand.  When she broke Gaga’s record for longest duration at #1, Gaga teased that she would be “coming for her.”

Neither is a stranger to Pride stages. In 2019, they each owned rainbow tinted spotlights. Carly Rae served as Grand Marshal of Toronto Pride. Grace headlined at New York City Pride.

Now their talents combine on a stage in West Hollywood for Outloud. “Outloud is a show created for queer people in queer communities. It was born out of a need to support a struggling community of queer artists. While the top of our bill celebrates industry titans who each champion or represent LGBTQ causes, our drive comes from the diverse, eclectic assortment of established and emerging talent who represent the very best of queer music today,” Outloud founder and CEO Jeff Consoletti told Rolling Stone. To that point, the full roster of the three nights is choc full of incredible talent. 

Friday Night @ OUTLOUD Presented by WeHo Pride will kick-off WeHo Pride Weekend with a free-ticketed experience on Friday, June 2 with a lineup that includes headliners Idina Menzel, Jessie Ware, Shangela, and Tinashe, as well as additional performances by JORDY, Tolliver, and DJ Venessa Michaels. RSVP is required for Friday night free-ticketed entry. Saturday Night @OUTLOUD on June 3 features Grace Jones, and Sunday, June 4 features Carly Rae Jepsen. Both require paid-ticket purchases.

The full weekend lineup also includes performances by Passion Pit, Orville Peck, Santigold, Princess Nokia, Yung Bae, DRAMA, Meet Me @ The Altar, Kat Cunning, Rubio, Cub Sport, and Black Belt Eagle Scout. Register or get tickets at

Which diva should the community support? The legend or the lover? Our legacy, or validation of our emotions? The ying or the yang of queer musical culture? 

Looking to the deeper meaning of Yin/Yang holds the answer. 

It is the Chinese cultural principle that the universe is governed by a cosmic duality, sets of two opposing and complementing principles and cosmic energies. 

We need them both.

Therefore, get multiple sets of tickets. Both your soul, and your heart, need the nourishment and will thank you. And you will have a damned good time.


Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Music & Concerts

Bowie-inspired Tripping Jupiter elevates both music & gender

The personal and the cosmic collide in beautiful paradoxes elevating both music and gender out of this world



Tripping Jupiter aka Madstone Rowan (Photo by Andrey Strekoza)

HOLLYWOOD – Revolutionary new musical artist Tripping Jupiter is not looking to be defined by you. They are not interested in fitting into a binary gender picture.  They are, by their own definition, “beyond the binary.”

Likewise, they are not looking to be neatly defined by a musical style either. They create a ”transcendent view of art and of music and presents it without societal restrictions or self-imposed limits. The result is barrier-free freedom presented within the sonics and visuals of modern rock and retro-pop sensibilities.”

The face of Tripping Jupiter is that of Madstone Rowan (they/them, he/them), a vocalist, keyboardist, and songwriter based in New York City. They are “two parts groove, one part empowerment, plus just a spritz of glitter.” 

Their latest album, Lipstick of the Brave, boasts contributors with a rich music heritage of having worked with legends from David Bowie, Rufus Wainwright to Blondie. 

Tripping Jupiter’s most recent release from Lipstick is a song, with very Bowie-like vocals, and a video called Torn America. The video presents footage of recent protests of movements from Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ marches to global climate change. The song itself is somewhat of a paradox. It promotes change that happens when groups all moved together. It states “From our slumber, we will rise,” which alludes to a quote from Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Rise like lions after slumber in an unvanquishable number.” At the same time, the song does not push change, but as Madstone describes it, its goal was “not to be preachy or tell anyone what to think or to believe.” 

Paradox is consistent with the Tripping Jupiter brand. It is described as “a transcendent view of art and music created and presented without social restrictions or self-imposed limits.” 

That is not to say that Madstone is without opinions or passion. In a conversation we had on Rated LGBT Radio, Madstone was just coming off an encounter with law enforcement. (The cop chose not to give input to our conversation however.) We launched into a discussion on the current persecution of drag expression. “The recent attacks on Drag have hit me on a personal level, I have friends who are amazing drag queens, they have brought so much love and beauty to this world, their presence should be celebrated, not vilified, “ Madstone said. “I feel like we are in the Upside Down. It is 2023. We are supposed to all have jet packs and life is supposed to be wonderful, yet here we are—we fought this oppression 50 years ago. This is one massive distraction from having to come up with solutions to our real problems. It is so frustrating.”

The issue is reminiscent of Tripping Jupiter’s award-winning song and animated film Lipstick of the Brave. “That was inspired by the glam rock of the seventies and eighties and Bowie. That music told me it was ok to be ‘weird’. That was my story. There was something in me to be ‘weird’ and I did not want to NOT do it, but I did not know how to connect with other people.  What inspired me was artists that pushed gender boundaries. That is where Lipstick of the Brave came from.  It was a personal little song, but I am so glad it connected with many other people and inspired them as well.”

Madstone acknowledges the enormous influence of Bowie—not just on their music creations, the similarities in their singing voices, but in the total art of Tripping Jupiter.  “He sang about stuff they did not even have a name for back then. He was phenomenally talented. You are right, he is an influence on my music, but more so on my art . He was — Honor yourself. Speak your truth. — There is something about being authentic. This project is my authenticity.  It is not gee, what is the next ‘big thing’ people want to hear, just honor the authenticity. My muse is definitely connected to Bowie somewhere out there in the ether, but when songs come to me, I write them and I don’t ask questions.”

Many of the songs on the Lipstick album speak directly to the nonbinary identity.  “I see my identity as ever-evolving. I am not a person who likes to get stuck into little boxes. Society tends to want to do that. If the labels we had for ourselves up to now worked, we would be fine with them fight now. We clearly are not. My art is therapy for me. I am coming to terms with ‘who am I?’  When we push past the societal expectations of gender, there is a certain sense of liberation that it can bring anyone regardless of how they identify. Racial equality and liberation will lift everyone, likewise gender identity and queer liberation will lift everyone as well. So, I do ask people to question themselves on whether they are really a woman or a man. How you see yourself.”

We ended our conversation discussing more paradoxes of the principles behind Tripping Jupiter. We as individuals are very unique, and yet we are also very similar to each other. The album’s song Starlight alludes to our self-ownership and the paradox that we are made up of shared atoms from the universe’s supernova explosion years ago. The iron in our blood belongs to the stars that preceded us and is so much bigger than our sole personages.

Yet we all bleed the same.

Thus is the magic of Tripping Jupiter. It is the soul of earth-bound Bowie of the past, yet it is the mind-expanding out-of-our-current-world thinking of the future. It is you. It is me. Yet it is beyond all of us.

It is something you can just imagine, or it is the reality you can have when you go download the album.

Do that. David Bowie would approve.



Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Music & Concerts

Don we now our gay apparel: Bryan Ruby’s new Country Christmas

From a gay man in love, comes a country Christmas carol – no longer just in him, but out, ready for us to use it however we want to



Bryan Ruby - Christmas With You (Screenshot/YouTube)

HOLLYWOOD – Ever since Gene Autry warbled “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” in 1949, country music artists have tried to lay claim to the Christmas carol. Of the various musical genres, country artists seem to be the ones that want to show that they “get” Christmas the most. They can make a case for it right from that very first hit, thanks to Gene Autry’s country song, Rudolph DID become the most famous reindeer, after all. 

Country music exudes down home feels, some melancholy and an achy breaky backstory. Perfect for a Christmas carol.

Recently, in losing her trademark bid to be named “Queen of Christmas”, Mariah Carey embraced the truth and called country diva of all divas,Dolly Parton, “The Queen of the World, the Queen of Christmas, The Queen of Mine.”

So, when one queen names you the real Queen of Christmas, you win. Long reign Dolly Parton… and with her, country music Christmas.

Enter gay singer, and professional baseball player, Bryan Ruby. He has just thrown his cowboy hat into the country Christmas ring. Bryan just released a new Christmas song called Christmas With You dedicated to his boyfriend.

Let that sink in. A male Country Music artist released a Christmas love song dedicated to his boyfriend. Move over Gene Autry, some new trails are being blazed.

This is not his first ride in the rodeo, either. Bryan Ruby is a trailblazing professional baseball player and rising Country music artist. In 2021, he became the only active professional baseball player to come out as gay, and his story was featured on the front page of USA Today, in The Los Angeles Blade & in hundreds of other media outlets around the world. 

 He is an avid songwriter, and a success in a genre that historically has not been LGBTQ friendly. His first single, Left Field, was featured on The TODAY Show and added to rotation on SiriusXM Country Pride, as well as the Academy of Country Music’s Ultimate Pride Playlist.

The song Christmas With You would fit nicely in a playlist that features Carey’s All I Want for Christmas and the classic Carpenter’s hit Merry Christmas Darling.  All three focus on a missing very special someone. That absent person is more important than any material Christmas trapping, and is yearned to be present for cuddling in front of a romantic fire.

For Bryan, that someone is Max, his love of three years. They met while Bryan was recording a commercial in a nearby studio. Their best times have been the times together alone. A while back, they took a road trip from Portland to LA. Bryan was on his way to sing the national anthem for the Dodgers. They sailed down Pacific Coast highway, the wind in their hair and deep affection in their hearts. They stopped at all the sights—the Castro, through the redwoods, strolling romantic Santa Barbara. “I’d just come out publicly,” Bryan shared. “It was great to get some time together and ground ourselves before we got to LA and my life started to change.”

This year, Bryan has been on the road a lot. He had clocked 75,000 miles doing music gigs, playing baseball, promoting LGBTQ acceptance in sports and representing his non-profit  Proud To Be In Baseball

While on the road, he thought of Max and it inspired a song.  “It was written over the summer on a day where I was several time zones away from him, alone in a hotel room, and truly just missing him. For some reason I thought ‘Christmas, that’s our moment’. It’s a moment we’ve shared in years past and we’re slated to have a very low-key Christmas again this year,” Bryan remembers. “They say the best songs come from true lived experiences and this is as true as you can get. I have always dreamed about writing country music that is real and authentic to my life, and I’m proud to be someone in the LGBTQ+ community who can do that.”     

When he got home, he sat quietly in front of the fire and played it for Max. “It was a nice moment for us.”

Songwriters give us their private moments. As singer/songwriter Anna Nalick shared eloquently in the song “Breathe”: 

“Two am, and I’m still awake, writing a song
If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer
Inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to
And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd
‘Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you’ll use them, however you want to”

So, from a gay man in love, comes a country Christmas carol, all down on paper, and into the air, no longer just in him, but out, ready for us to use it however we want to. 

LGBTQ+ lovers out there, in front of your own fires, with your own Christmas romances, this one’s for you.

Bryan Ruby – Christmas With You:

Country Songwriter By Day & Professional Baseball Player By Night

Keep up with Bryan on Facebook, Instagram & YouTube or visit his Website


Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Music & Concerts

Streisand’s ‘Live at the Bon Soir’: Birth of a diva

Album finally released 50 years after being recorded



Album cover for 'Barbara Sreisand: Live at the Bon Soir.'

Happy days are here again!

Sixty years ago, for three nights in November 1962, Columbia Records recorded a young (20-year-old) singer as she performed at the Bon Soir, a small nightclub in Greenwich Village. The singer’s name was Barbra Streisand, and the recording was slated to be her debut album. Streisand wasn’t that widely known then. But as (the character) Miss Marmelstein, Streisand was stopping the show nightly in the Broadway production “I Can Get It for You Wholesale.” After the show’s curtain call, she took a cab to perform at the Bon Soir club, according to the website

But though the recording of Streisand live at the Village club was talked about the way you’d chat about an awesome legend, the album was shelved for more than half a century. Instead of releasing the “Live at the Bon Soir,” Columbia in 1963 released “The Barbra Streisand Album” (which was recorded in a studio) as Streisand’s debut album.

If you’re queer, you know Streisand rules! To the delight of critics, fans and mid-century history aficionados, on Nov. 4, six decades after it was recorded, “Live at the Bon Soir,” wonderfully remastered, was released on vinyl and SACD. It is also available on streaming services.

If you’ve fantasized about spending an intimate evening with Streisand (Barbra singing and engaging in witty repartee for just you and your intimates), “Live at the Bon Soir” is a dream come true. When Streisand says, “I wish there were another word for thank you…I mean, like, anything, you know” and introduces the club audience to her “boyfriend’s suit,” you feel that she’s talking directly to you.

Streisand’s voice is at its youthful, gorgeous best and her one-of-a-spectacular-kind personality comes through in her banter between songs. Listening to the album is an immersive experience. You’re witnessing the birth of a diva.

The album’s 24 tracks range from an indelible version of the torch song “Cry Me a River” to a playful rendition of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”

One of the best things about “Live at the Bon Soir” is its comprehensive, illuminating liner notes. Produced by Streisand, Martin Erlichman and Jay Landers, the CD of the album is packaged in a hardcover book with 32 pages of historical notes, photos and a message from Streisand. The vinyl version comes with a 12-page booklet. The notes provide insight into not only the making of the album, but of most interest to Streisand devotees, what it was like to perform live at the beginning of her career.

“I had never even been in a nightclub until I sang in one,” Streisand writes in the album’s liner notes about performing at and recording “Live at the Bon Soir.”

“I sang two songs in a talent contest at a little club called the Lion and won,” Streisand adds, “which led to being hired at a more sophisticated supper club around the corner called the Bon Soir, with an actual stage and a spotlight.”

The sound on the restored version of “Live at the Bon Soir” is much better than it was on the original recording.

“The science of recording has made quantum leaps since 1962,” writes Landers on the album’s liner notes, “Grammy Award winning engineer, Jochem van der Saag, has subtly solved audio issues in ways his predecessors could hardly have fathomed.”

Streisand has recorded albums with political and contemporary songs. These recordings are often superb. (Is anything by Streisand ever remotely bad?)

But “Live at the Bon Soir” is a gift to anyone who loves standards from the American song-book – from “I Hate Music” (Leonard Bernstein) to “Right as the Rain” (Harold Arlen/E.Y. Harburg) to “Come To The Supermarket (in Old Peking)” (Cole Porter) to “Happy Days Are Here Again” (Jack Yellen/Milton Ager).

Even if you’re allergic to show tunes, you’ll be entranced by “Live at the Bon Soir.”

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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Music & Concerts

From Gay Old Time to Proudly Queer: the Grammy Noms Deliver

The short list contains two major LGBTQ icons Beyonce and Adele, plus queer artist superstar Brandi Carlile & Kendrick Lamar



Los Angeles Blade graphic

HOLLYWOOD – The 2023 Grammy Award nominee list is here!  As it unfurled, so apparently did a broad swiping rainbow flag of love. One thing is for sure, this list represents.

It has someone for everyone with a queer interest. It has new queer icons, and old gay icons. It has the sexually fluid, the queer, the mysterious and the allies. Queer newbies will see, and hear, the artists that sing for them, and amazingly, so will the LGBTQ seniors. The queer music vibes range from the camp, to the rocking, the sultry, to rap.

Going right to the top four nominated acts, that short list contains two major LGBTQ icons (Beyonce,9, and Adele,7), queer artist superstar Brandi Carlile ,7,and Kendrick Lamar,8. whose song “Auntie Diaries” was received as rap embrace of the trans community.

Fully out queer artists fanned out through the various genre categories. The aforementioned Brandi Carlie in rock, sweet-toned Sam Smith & Kim Petras in pop, Steve Lacy giving sultry in r&b, the brothers Osborne in country, Big Theif in alternative, and Randy Rainbow in comedy. 

That list doesn’t even count the artists who we might call “queer adjacent.” Lizzo, Harry Styles and Bad Bunny certainly have wrapped their talents in being culturally queer, even if their sexualities are not (that we know of anyway…)

For those who moved to the rhythm of the gay discos in the eighties and nineties, you may feel like time-travelers. Abba, Diana Ross, Ozzie Osborn, Mary K. Blige, Willie Nelson and Bonnie Raitt – all with serious LGBTQ icon or ally creds—are all nominated. Queer friendly, and nominated, Cold Play seem like the youngsters with that crowd.

Abba was nominated for the very first time ever last year for the first song off their album Voyager. This year, the album, and arguably the best song from it Don’t Shut Me Down, are nominated, showing that the original nomination was not a fluke or nostalgic gesture. No, Abba, the industry really, really likes you.

Similarly for the legendary Miss Ross. This nomination is her first in 40 years for a competitive grammy.

Whether she wins or not (and lets face it, wouldn’t it be cool if she does?), there is no doubt about it, this year’s Grammys are COMING OUT.

Here are the nominees:

Record Of The Year

 Don’t Shut Me Down …………………………ABBA

 Easy On Me ……………………………………….Adele

 BREAK MY SOUL…………………………………Beyoncé

 Good Morning Gorgeous ……………………Mary J. Blige

 You And Me On The Rock…………………….Brandi Carlile Featuring Lucius

Woman………………………………………………………Doja Cat

 Bad Habit………………………………………………… Steve Lacy

 The Heart Part 5 ……………………………………….Kendrick Lamar

 About Damn Time ……………………………………..Lizzo

 As It Was ……………………………………………………Harry Styles

Album Of The Year

Voyage                           ABBA

30                                   Adele

 Un Verano Sin Ti        Bad Bunny

 RENAISSANCE             Beyoncé

Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe)     Mary J. Blige

 In These Silent Days            Brandi Carlile

 Music Of The Spheres        Coldplay

 Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers          Kendrick Lamar

 Special                      Lizzo

 Harry’s House           Harry Styles

Song Of The Year

  • abcdefu
    Sara Davis, GAYLE & Dave Pittenger, songwriters (GAYLE)
  • About Damn Time
    Melissa “Lizzo” Jefferson, Eric Frederic, Blake Slatkin & Theron Makiel Thomas, songwriters (Lizzo)
  • All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (The Short Film)
    Liz Rose & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)
  • As It Was
    Tyler Johnson, Kid Harpoon & Harry Styles, songwriters (Harry Styles)
  • Bad Habit
    Matthew Castellanos, Brittany Fousheé, Diana Gordon, John Carroll Kirby & Steve Lacy, songwriters (Steve Lacy)
    Beyoncé, S. Carter, Terius “The-Dream” Gesteelde-Diamant & Christopher A. Stewart, songwriters (Beyoncé)
  • Easy On Me
    Adele Adkins & Greg Kurstin, songwriters (Adele)
    Tarik Azzouz, E. Blackmon, Khaled Khaled, F. LeBlanc, Shawn Carter, John Stephens, Dwayne Carter, William Roberts & Nicholas Warwar, songwriters (DJ Khaled Featuring Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, John Legend & Fridayy)
  • The Heart Part 5
    Jake Kosich, Johnny Kosich, Kendrick Lamar & Matt Schaeffer, songwriters (Kendrick Lamar)

Just Like That
Bonnie Raitt, songwriter (Bonnie Raitt)


Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Music & Concerts

Riding the joy train with Amy Ray

New solo project ‘If It All Goes South’ focuses on healing



Amy Ray’s new solo album ‘If It All Goes South’ is out now. (Photo by Sandlin Gaither)

Whether out singer/songwriter Amy Ray is performing with longtime musical partner Emily Saliers as one half of the Indigo Girls, as she has since the mid-1980s, or going solo as she did with her solo debut “Stag” in 2001, you recognize her instantly. Her distinctive vocal style, which suits whatever genre she’s performing – folk, punk, Americana, or gospel – has become as much her trademark as the outspokenness of her lyrics. 

“If It All Goes South” (Daemon), Ray’s exceptional seventh solo album is a welcome addition to her singular output, touching on themes of queerness and social issues, all performed in her warm and welcoming manner. Amy was gracious enough to make time to talk about the new album around the time of its release. 

BLADE: Before we get to your new album “If It All Goes South,” I wanted to go back in time a little bit. Your 2001 solo debut album “Stag” and its 2005 follow-up “Prom” are firmly rooted in a punk rock/riot grrrl aesthetic. While the Indigo Girls are more than capable of rocking out, did you feel that the songs on those albums wouldn’t have been a good fit for what you do with Emily (Saliers)?

AMY RAY: Yes. I think it was because of two things. One was the collaborators. Those were people I’m a fan of, most of them are people that Daemon Records (Ray’s record label) had an association with, in some way or another. It was kind of like this other camp of people that were different from the collaborators that the Indigos would typically play with. It tended to be more studio accurate, in some ways. As opposed to that punk rock ethic which is music being from a different place, and accuracy maybe being less important than technical prowess.

BLADE: A little more DIY.

RAY: Yeah! And I also think the subject matter, the songs were just a little more singular in a way that was hard to do them as the Indigo Girls and not dilute the message. As soon as you get us together, we really shift the other person’s song, it becomes a duet. The subject matter to me was so specific and gender queer and punk rock edge that it didn’t feel like it would work. At that time, when I wrote (the song) “Lucy Stoners,” Emily wasn’t interested in doing some of those songs. She wasn’t down with the attitude. Now, she would say, I’m sure just knowing her, that [laughs] she’d do it now. Because her attitude has changed. I was hanging out with and influenced by people that were from that DIY movement, and there was lots of gender queer conversation. It was a different place than Emily was in as a gay person. Now, I look back on all of it and I think I was, all the time, reaching around to different collaborations because I love collaborating with different kinds of people. It always teaches me something. It’s also a different itch that I get scratch.

BLADE: In terms of trajectory, to my ear, your most recent three solo albums – 2014’s “Goodnight Tender,” 2018’s “Holler,” and the new one, “If It All Goes South” (Daemon) – in addition to being alphabetically titled, feel like an Americana trilogy. Do you consider them to be linked?

RAY: Yeah. I mean I didn’t say to myself, “This is the third one and then I’ll stop.” But “If It All Goes South” was definitely a record where there was a thread from the other ones and some things that I wanted to achieve that I didn’t feel like I was able to do on the other ones. I think I didn’t even know that until we started making this one. This is more successful at combining a few of my punk-abilly influences into an Americana world. Also, some of that spontaneity we were starting to get on “Holler.” Now that we’ve played together as long as we have as a band, it was at its peak on this record. I think we just needed to make a couple of records to get to that place. I like them all, but for different reasons. They do different things for me. This one gathers up all the loose ends of “Holler” and “Goodnight Tender” musically and ties them up and puts them in a different context, and almost raises the bar. Lyrically, I wanted to have songs that were about healing, a “you’re not alone” kind of vibe, because of the time period that we had just been through. It’s also the same producer (Brian Speiser) on all three, and we’ve worked together on projects. It started off casually – “Hey, I’ve been wanting to do this country record with these songs. Let’s do this together.”

BLADE: Am I reading too much into the album’s title “If It All Goes South,” or is it a play on words, as in “goes south” as a direction and as deterioration?

RAY: You’re not reading too much into it. There’s even more you can read into it, politically. When I was writing (the song) “Chuck Will’s Widow,” Georgia was the epicenter of some big political movement. When Warnock got elected and Abrams declared running for governor again, I was like, “Oh man, I’m in the right place for once.” But we knew it wasn’t always going to be easy. My perspective in that song was a couple things. “If it all goes South, count it as a blessing, that’s where you are.” Yes, it’s directional, and also like, if things get really shitty, try to make the best of it, of course, it’s what you tell your kids all the time.

BLADE: As any Indigo Girls fan or follower of your solo output knows, you have a history of playing well with others, in addition to Emily (Saliers), “If It All Goes South” is no exception with guest vocalists including Brandi Carlile (“Subway”), H.C. McEntire (“Muscadine),” Allison Russell (“Tear It Down”), Natalie Hemby (“From This Room”), and the trio I’m With Her (“Chuck Witt’s Widow”). When you begin the recording process for an album do you have a wish list of musical guests or how does that work?

RAY: I usually have a wish list when I’m writing the song. Alison Brown, she’s part of the band, so I always think about her banjo playing when I’m writing. She doesn’t tour with us, but she’s in the band. I started writing “From This Room” a long time ago, and I started writing it as a duet. I didn’t have anybody in mind at that point, but I hadn’t finished it yet. When I was finishing it for the record, I had just seen Natalie Hemby with The Highwomen and had also just had met her and Emily writes with her sometimes. So, I knew her and I was thinking about her voice. When I wrote “Subway,” in part, in tribute to (the late DJ) Rita Houston, who had been so crucial. She and Brandi Carlile were super close. She really helped develop Brandi’s career in being such an indicator station, getting other people on board. So, I was thinking about Brandi and the chorus vocals that would be there because I was writing kind of an ambitious chorus for me [laughs]. I’m like, “I’m gonna have to have Brandi in here!” For “North Star,” that kind of gospel song at the end, when I wrote it and Jeff Fielder, the guitar player, and I were demoing it, I was like, “This is not right. There’s another ingredient. I don’t know enough about the kind of music I’m trying to write to do it.” I got Phil Cook to come in, as a co-writer really, to finish the song musically. Fill out the chords and make it the gospel song I was trying to write. The only person I wanted to do this was Phil Cook. I am just very specific. Like Sarah Jarosz, on this record in particular I wanted to get a mandolin player and I wanted Sarah to play mandolin. We’re always covering the parts ourselves. Jeff’s a great mandolin player, but Sarah Jarosz is a fucking prodigy [laughs]. … It’s never like a wish list of, “Who’s famous? Who can we get?” It’s more a case of who are these songs geared towards, so that when they come into the studio, you don’t tell them anything, really. They just do what they do great, and it works.

BLADE: You mentioned the late, queer, influential WFUV DJ Rita Houston, and I was wondering what you think the loss of Houston means for new artists?

RAY: It’s a huge hole in the universe of people that would take a new artist and sort of help develop them, take chances at radio, and give people that space. She also was a mentor to artists. She wasn’t ever judging your art by whether you were gay or not, or what color your skin was. … She was a mentor in shared musicality. Being able to trust her and understanding how that taught you about the terrain that you’re in and who you can and can’t trust in that way. 

BLADE: “Subway” ends with the line “This Georgia girl has got it bad for New York.” With that in mind, could there be an Amy Ray or Indigo Girls musical on Broadway at some point in the future?

RAY: [Big laugh] That’s Emily’s territory. She’s working on some things. A couple of different musicals, and I’m not working on them with her. She’s developing two different ones, and I think one of them has actually gotten some traction and some workshopping that’s pretty important. There is a musical that a friend of mine from high school has been writing that’s really interesting and it’s gotten a lot of workshops. It’s still in the early stages. It uses Michelle Malone’s music and my solo music. Then there’s a movie coming out called “Glitter and Doom” which is a movie musical that’s just Indigo Girls music. It’s coming out next year, I think. We’re still working on the final credits song.

BLADE: After the current Indigo Girls tour wraps up, is there a possibility of an Amy Ray solo tour?

RAY: Yeah. We’re booking dates in February for the South. I’ve tried touring in cold places in February, and it’s hard [laughs]. We’ll head up to the North in May.

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Music & Concerts

Sammy Rae & The Friends bring musical effervescence to LA

Sammy Rae & The Friends are bringing their undefinable act to an evening of queer musical delight at The Fonda Theater on November 12th-13th 



Sammy Rae (Photo Courtesy of Stunt Company Media)

HOLLYWOOD -Is it jazz, is it classic rock or is it a raucous evening of world-music tinged excitement? And whose is the angelic voice tying it all together?

That would be Sammy Rae and Friends. They just released their new single If it All Goes South and are bringing their undefinable act to an evening of queer musical delight at The Fonda Theater on November 12th – 13th

Lead singer/songwriter Sammy Rae never intended to be a solo artist, but rather was more inspired by huge talents like Springsteen who shook up the music world by fronting the E Street Band. Sammy Rae is no Springsteen in style, but stuns as much in her own way.

She is unabashedly queer.  She paid homage to her sexuality and the pride in her gender a few years ago in a song called Jacqueline Onassis. She shared on my Rated LGBT Radio show recently, “I was a young queer teen trying to figure out what does my Womanhood look like? What does my queerness look like?  … Nobody has to be the same. Anything, you can be authentically yourself and you can still honor your femininity in that. The Jackie O is a love song to my first crushes and it’s also a love song to all young women.  It was my embrace of my Womanhood in the context of my queerness and not feel like either of them had to be muted to help the other one make sense.  I love seeing the way that song has been received as a queer anthem and a women’s empowerment anthem.”

The music of Sammy Rae and Friends is addictively effervescent and builds in momentum. Just as their new song pulls at the theme to have raucous fun even “if it all goes south,” Their music reflects that sentiment. While the lyrics display some heart break and a little darkness, the infectious thrill of the music just wants to make you dance your heart out. “A big theme in our music is there’s always something to be learned, right? Doesn’t even matter if it hurts, there is something to be learned.  If it works out the right way, there’s something to be learned, that’s a huge theme,” Sammy Rae explains.

Inspired by Paul McCartney and Wings, and Freddie Mercury and Queen, Friends weaves their multiple musical influences into boundary breaking compositions that swing, rock and drive to a satisfying crescendo.  “We put a couple different sounds into one song and chaos just seems to be overarching and then we bring it back with that grand piano moment and kind of calm things down. It all comes down to, we are more concerned about being our authentic, selves and making music, which feels authentic to us,” Sammy Rae says.

“The Friends” describe themselves as “flourishing in any spotlight with a combination of all-for-one and one-for-all camaraderie, palpable chemistry, deft virtuosity, and vocal fireworks.” Sammy describes them this way, ”We’re seven people who come from different states, different countries and all different studies of music …and somehow we figured out how to collaborate and create one cohesive sound The thrill is not just the combined talent, but even as much as the talent, we became a long-term thing that could grow.”

Sammy Rae & The Friends (Photo Courtesy of Stunt Company Media)

“Friends” does not stop at the name of the band. True, they are the “7 faces of The Friends,” but their friendship aura is extended to their fans and their audience as well. They advocate for the importance of community. 

Their fan base has been built by grass-roots word-of-mouth. “Friends” to the group, are all who share their vision of love and acceptance. The shows are like a shot in the arm of affirmation of individuality. They are safe spaces to feel overwhelmed. 

So come. Dress as you like, be who you are, and let your spirit dance on the musical bubbles of freedom. While Sammy Rae gives it her all the Friends will leave it all on the dance floor, and in the end, will be very glad you came.

As will you.


Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Music & Concerts

Celebrating Harryween in ‘Styles’

It’s like leaving home. When one leaves Harry’s (Haunted) House, they know their life won’t be the same “as it was”



Photo by Noah Christiansen

LOS ANGELES – Starring as a lead actor in two recent movies, releasing the critically acclaimed album “Harry’s House”, and breaking records with his longest running no. 1 hit “As It Was”, British pop-artist Harry Styles is the pinnacle of musical pop-stardom.

Although Styles might not recommend this lifestyle to anybody, he is performing 15 nights in L.A.’s Kia Forum – just after performing a run of 15 nights at New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden. Styles’ love for L.A. however is very much evident with his lyrics from his latest album: “I’m in an L.A. mood // Don’t wanna talk to you” – Satellite;  “If it’s Hollywood or Bishopsgate // I’m coming too” – Late Night Talking

Though one may be led to believe that the shows are repetitive, with the same one-liners and kitschy songs about sushi restaurants, grapejuice (a euphemism for wine, obviously), and “pancakes for two”, each show is unique from Styles’ interaction with fans to whatever outfit that comes out of his Gucci wardrobe. 

The LA Blade had the pleasure of attending ‘Harry’s Haunted House’ on Halloween night marking night six of his 15 night (mock) residency. For many Styles’ fans, Halloween is a special holiday as Styles goes all out with his costumes. Last year, on Oct. 30th, Styles dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and did a fantastic rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. On Halloween night, he dressed as a clown and covered Toxic by Brittney Spears. 

Photo Credit: Anthony Pham Instagram

One could argue that it’s difficult to top his Dorothy costume (or his 2018 Elton John costume), or even his audacious clown fit, but Harry surprised his fans with his Danny Zuko costume from the movie Grease. With his hair slicked back, tight black pants, and a leather jacket/vest, Styles looked like a greaser. Styles and his band covered Hopelessly Devoted to You by Olivia Newton John with photos of the former star appearing on the arena’s screen.

As Styles shouted “Harryween”, the word “Harryween” was stitched on the back of his leather vest in a cryptic font.

The wonderful thing about Halloween is the ability to dress up as someone that you aren’t – for the LGBTQ+ community, this is especially true as individuals who aren’t out or don’t usually dress in drag have the ability to have fun with their expression.

In terms of expression, many have brought up the notion of “queerbaiting” in relation to Styles.  Queerbaiting is when a straight individual commodifies the LGBTQ+ community for personal gain. Some have claimed that because Styles waves around pride flags, wears drag, and plays the role of a gay man in his recent movie My Policeman, while not establishing a label, he could theoretically be straight while utilizing the LGBTQ+ community for fame.

Photo by Noah Christiansen

However, in the age of many discarding rigid identity categories, others have argued that refusing to label yourself doesn’t confine one to strict identity tropes. Fluid identity categories – where people claim to have no label – seem to be the new norm.

Regardless of one’s opinion on Styles’ label, Styles helping individuals ‘come out’ at his shows is very common. On the first and second nights of the tour, people held signs asking Styles to help them come out to which Styles happily obliged.

Photo by Noah Christiansen

At the Harryween show, people held up signs asking Harry to help them come out – Styles grouped the individuals and stated that when the pride flag he’s holding goes above his head then they are out. He teased the crowd and asked for music from his band during this pivotal moment. The second the flag was over his head, he shouted, “You’re out!”

Photo by Noah Christiansen

“I want each and every single one of you to have as much fun as you possibly can.” – he shouted at the Forum’s enthusiastic audience.

Surely, there were elements of horror during Styles’ halloween show, but Harry’s House offers comforting lyrics to audience members in various costumes. Harry’s House is an album with themes of nostalgia and homeliness: Styles is attempting to bring home to the arenas he performs in.

Earlier this year, in Better Homes and Garden, Styles said, “I realized that that home feeling isn’t something you get from a house; it’s more of an internal thing. You realize that when you stop for a minute.”

The crowd-stopping moment was when the crowd collectively screamed the lyric “Did you dress up for Halloween? // I spilled beer on your friend, I’m not sorry” from Styles’ song Little Freak.

After the show, with the ground full of boa feathers and spilled “Fruit Man” drinks (yes, the Forum named an alcoholic beverage after the pop stars’ references to strawberries, watermelons, kiwis, and grapes), there was a somber feeling among everyone leaving the arena. It’s like leaving home. When one leaves Harry’s (Haunted) House, they know their life won’t be the same “as it was”

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Music & Concerts

Introducing Estelle Fox, but don’t call her the next Billie Eilish

She is unique, haunting, empathetic and artistically human. Her debut EP is currently being made available one song at a time



Courtesy of Estelle Fox

HOLLYWOOD – Blame it on Billie Eilish. Certainly, we adults have been telling young girls to believe in themselves, to express themselves and to strive for greatness.

At age 14, Billie Eilish, with the help of her brother had the gall to actually go and do it, from their bedroom studios no less.

Her success, of course, is huge and amazing. Besides her musical talent accomplishment, she has laid the gauntlet for other ambitious teen singer songwriters to sail into her wake.

Now, one has. I won’t call her the “new Billie Eilish” because she is not the “new” anyone else.

She is Estelle Fox. She is unique, haunting, empathetic and artistically human. Her debut EP is currently being made available one song at a time. The EP’s title Prettiest Parts of Me is ironic. The two songs that have been released so far, Crazy and I Always Do This, are self-effacing and at times brutally honest self-portrayals of insecurity and obsession. Fox’s voice is lovely and alluring, while delivering a confessional that most people save for their therapist.

Her next single, Losing a Friend, drops at the end of September, and I can’t wait.

I sat down with Estelle on the podcast RATED LGBT RADIO. We talked about her influences that includes musical artists Clairo and Beach Bunny. “Clairo is one of my all-time favorite artists. Her older stuff is soft pop and I was drawn to the queer music and women voice aspect of her work. My generation has had it easier growing up than those before us, but even we are built to have internalized homophobia. She gave us great representation in music, which I really enjoyed obviously. She has this incredible and really really beautiful sound. She has a soft calming voice and her instrumentals are so moving. She is very connected to lyrics which is what I like to look for in songs,” she tells me. 

It is clear how her appreciation of Clairo is a clear path to her own work. “I always knew music was what I was going to do, particularly writing… I’m always looking to connect with new people and tons of people. So, being able to write songs that people can relate to, and listen to, and be seen by, it’s just been so good to have that opportunity now and be able to reach people with my music, definitely always something that I’ve wanted to do since I was very little.“

The song Crazy , and the accompanying video, shows the internal emotions behind a dysfunctional relationship. It reflects a truth Estelle does not attempt to hide. “When the people you are involved with are incapable of feeling the same amount of love that you can, because obviously that’s your own perception…it’s hard to comprehend. My songs deal with the fact that I feel so deeply. Some people, some people just don’t. That crazy goes through you. There’s a calm-like verse where I’m talking about my feelings in a chaotic and intense chorus where I am having a full on break down,” she says.

Being emotionally real is part of Estelle’s true mission.  She is driven by the need to empower young women in a world of excessive social media, stereotyping, and unrealistic expectations stamped upon them in teen culture. “A lot of my songs are about women. Some of them are about non-binary people and some of them are about trans men. It just comes down to love and loving people. Whether it’s platonic or romantic, we should never be ashamed of it,” she states.

Estelle has the attention of the industry’s top creatives. She took her songs to the top 5 Billboard chart-topping and Platinum record producer Barb Morrison (Blondie, Rufus Wainwright, Franz Ferdinand). Morrison fell in love with the voice immediately and got her into the studio. There, they gave Estelle’s songs “the love and attention” that her songs so rightly commanded.  

While Estelle’s songs are deeply personal, her message behind them is not, it is a message in which she wants to speak for her entire generation. When she looks at the public oppression that teens are under from intolerance, to gun violence, to anti-lgbtq animus , she says her generation is “heartbroken.” 

“The younger generation has always had so much more influence and impact than people could imagine. And I think that that’s going to be true for our generation. Definitely, I think that we have we have a new perspective and we’re able to see beyond the binaries… our generation is definitely one that’s going to be more unified, and more loving, and more accepting…I think that we’re going to be able to step in and make our messages known and be able to change things for the better. We still need to keep fighting and we can’t just wait it out. Kids growing up, being told that gay is a bad thing. Being trans is a bad thing or something that we can’t speak about. Those identities are a very real reality of so many people and they need to be celebrated because we can’t be going backwards,” she asserts. 

So that is what happens when you let teen girls follow their passion, They not only make incredible cutting edge music, they also dream big about changing the world.

We need to let them.


Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more. He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine. He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .


RATED LGBT RADIO with Rob Watson:

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Music & Concerts

Trail-Blazing trans artist Gio Bravo, brings hot fun erotic masculinity

“I didn’t start doing music officially until I started transitioning, realizing these changes in my voice, my face- it was something”



Photo of Gio Bravo courtesy of Marco Gonzalez

HOLLYWOOD – There are four new great reggaeton anthems in the world, and dance floors have just gotten more erotically rhythmic than ever. Reggaeton is best when it is loud, fun, infectious, sexy as hell and free-spirited, weaving its strong Latin America and hip hop influences. 

For those who groove into its sensual hip moving poses, recording artist Gio Bravo has released a hot four-some of songs with which to move, grind, love and sweat with in the most steamily stimulating way.  At the beginning of August 2022, Gio dropped the first single titled “Esta Noche,” followed by three additional tracks: “Tiene Ganas,” “Lo Que Ella Quiere” and “Eres Fuego.”

The music is infectious, the lyrics are blatantly sexual and the arousal to dance them out is overwhelming.

The boldness of the music is representative of the man behind it. Its in-your-face masculinity is emblematic of the masculinity that Gio bravo has had to fight to embrace for himself. He was the first transgender artist to break barriers in the regional Mexican music genre. 

Self-discovery was a long path. Gio kissed a girl in kindergarten, and everyone laughed. A small red flag went up in his mind, but it wasn’t until middle school that he realized he was very different than his friends. The girls around him were crushing on boys, and not only did he have no interest, he instead was crushing on them. People would ask him if he wanted to get married when he grew up. He would say “yes”, but in his mind he could never see himself as a bride. Today, he wishes he could have seen a role model in his world, but there was no transgender men visible at all. “It would have helped me have a little bit more direction on what my path was,” he told me in our conversation on the podcast Rated LGBT Radio

Had he known of the science behind transitioning, he would have transitioned much sooner than he did. There are no regrets however. He states, “In my journey, I feel that when I started transitioning, it was the right time for me with everything I had lived up to, or I had lived through up to that moment. It really helped build that backbone that is truly needed to do something like transitioning. When you transition, it’s not just you, it’s your family, your friends. You have to know, that they’re going through this transition with you. You definitely have to have a lot of backbone to be the man you are and carry those around you with you on the journey.”

Gio dove into music as a safe haven from two traumatic events, the divorce of his parents, and the death of a close friend. It was through his music artistry that the true vision of his authentic self emerged in the most pronounced way. “When I started my journey of really exploring my sexuality, who I was,  I always found solace and my music. When I wrote music again there was no trans visibility out there. I always felt like I didn’t want to be a female artist singing songs directed at men, which is kind of  the standard For Mexican music. When you’re a guy you think heartbreak or romantic feelings for women and vice versa, the women to the men. I didn’t want to be that artist, all my songs that I wrote, they were always like in the perspective of a man singing into a woman.”

“I didn’t actually start doing music officially until I started transitioning. When I began my hormone replacement therapy, I started realizing like these changes in my voice, in my face and it was something. Something about seeing myself, becoming the person that I always wished. It made me remember when I was a kid, five or six years old, people would always tell me  ‘you are like the spitting image of your dad.’ I would feel so flattered. I liked the idea of looking like a boy and I looking like my dad. When I started seeing these changes with my hormone replacement therapy, it’s just like triggered the me from inside. It gave me a confidence that went through the roof. Without my transition I would have never taken the step to becoming a recording artist and go after that dream.”

Photo of Gio Bravo courtesy of Marco Gonzalez

Now Gio is transitioning again. This time within the genres of Mexican music. Just in time for some end-of-summer dance vibes, Gio announced this new transition.  Following the launch of his musical career in 2017 with Regional Mexican album “El Comienzo,” a Banda Sierreño style that was very personal to him reflecting memories with his dad, he is now ready to take on a new music genre with tracks penned by himself and produced by renowned Urban Latin Venezuelan music producer Rayyen.

Gio describes his artistic transition this way: “I’ve always been a Reggaeton fan, in fact, one of my all-time favorite albums is Daddy Yankee’s ‘Barrio Fino.’ My very first Project in this music genre was a very cool collaboration I did with the talented and well-known Mexican singer Helen Ochoa with the song “Diabla.” I think it was spot on because it was well received by my fans and at the same time, I truly felt this was the genre that resonated well with me. Reggaeton is a genre that allows me to express myself in a more authentic way and it allows me to be who I really am. I love Reggaeton music. It’s less judgmental, more open to accept new concepts. Now, I can honestly say that I feel like I can live my truth. These new tracks are a bit more erotic and sensual, and they make me feel more comfortable in my own skin.”

When listening to these new power-pumping tracks his fans can hear Gio embracing a higher level of raw confidence. He says the new songs are “very kind of sexually driven, which is another thing, you know. Now that I’m in this point of my life and in my transition, I feel very comfortable in my sexuality to make songs in reference to sexuality. It is the perfect timing. My life comes full circle. I’m pretty excited.  Honestly, I’m really happy with where I’m at with my music right now.”

Gio bravo is about renewal. He grew out of trauma and tragedy into a discovery of musical passion. That passion acted as a mirror into his soul and allowed him to address a self-knowledge he had hidden away.

With his music, he has renewed his passion and creativity to new levels for himself. He has refreshed his public persona for the world. He has created a role model that he himself never saw: the first trail blazing transgender recording artist of Regional and Reggaeton Mexican music.

 He is, as Norma Desmond, from a whole other cultural time and place, might say, ready for his close up.


Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more. He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine. He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .


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