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Taylor Dayne and Terri Nunn fully deserve the blowback after NYE concert at Mar-a-Lago

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Taylor Dayne (image via Instagram)

2020 is finally over, but any hope that a new year might bring a general lowering of the anger level in American public life had already been dashed long before the clock chimed midnight on January 1.

We knew better, of course; even if the country wasn’t still consumed in virulent debate over political ideologies and an election drama that feels like an assault on our very Constitution, there’s that whole Covid thing – or, more to the point, the fact that the pandemic is surging into an ever-deepening crisis even as an alarming number of Americans continue to deny, dispute, dismiss and defy public health guidelines without concern or regard for the danger to fellow citizens who might be infected as a result.

New Year’s Eve, of course, brought that festering cultural boil to a head, as the pull of tradition combined with “quarantine fatigue” to lure thousands of Americans to “super-spreader” events all across the country – and even some outside of it, like the instantly infamous White Party in Nuevo Vallarta, where a disappointingly large contingent of circuit partiers proved, in the eyes of many, that stereotypes about narcissistic gays who only care about sex and drugs are truer than the community would wish to believe.

While it’s regrettable that so many members of the LGBTQ population are willing to risk spreading disease just so they can dance in their underwear, at least these people (or most of them) are private individuals, who can pretend to themselves that their choices have no influence over anyone else. But there’s a special kind of betrayal involved when allies in the public eye – especially allies whose fame and success have been greatly bolstered by LGBTQ support – choose to participate in, and thereby endorse, similarly irresponsible events, particularly when they do it in the company of the kind of political Covid-deniers who are also known for their anti-LGBTQ agendas.

Those were exactly the kind of people who were in attendance on New Year’s Eve at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Palm Beach resort, where a crowded and mask-less party provided an employment opportunity for a whole string of “where are they now?” musicians willing to perform at a celebration that marked not just the holiday, but Donald Trump Jr’s 43rd birthday. Most of the lineup, which included such enduring-yet-long-irrelevant luminaries as Vanilla Ice and Mike Love of the Beach Boys, was unsurprising; but among the evening’s entertainment were also Taylor Dayne and Berlin’s Terri Nunn, two singers for whom the embrace of the gay community was instrumental in catapulting them to whatever stardom they once held – and their participation did not slip by without notice from their LGBTQ fans, who took to social media in droves to express their disappointment and outrage in no uncertain terms.

In a day and age when “cancel culture” has become an inescapable fact of life, it’s hard to imagine that anyone, let alone a celebrity, would be clueless enough not to understand the ramifications of choosing to perform for a crowd of virus deniers who are also serial homophobes. Yet, in their after-the-fact attempts at “damage control” when angry fans called them out for their tone deafness, both singers have latched onto exactly that excuse; worse still, in “apologizing” for their tone deaf decisions, they have even claimed ignorance of the fact those decisions might have even been problematic.

In a tweet that has since been deleted, former not-quite-superstar Dayne offered a not-quite-defense for her actions, writing, “I’m saddened by all this. I have a 30 year careers [sic] … [and] many diverse friendship[s] … I try to stay non political and non judgmental and not preach… I sing from my heart purely…. I wish for all to be who they need to be and find their way.” 

Among the hundreds of respondents who were quick to point out that Dayne being “saddened” was irrelevent as an answer to the criticisms being levied at her was author and memoirist Josh Sabarra, who responded, “You’ve no reps who suggested that this may alienate fans?”

“And saying ‘but I have friends who are diverse’ is perhaps the most offensive answer,” he continued. “Not to mention, attending a large, maskless event in these times is a slap to those doing their part to keep others safe.”

“I’m trying to protect my elderly parents while you’re being irresponsible,” said another commenter. “Decisions have consequences and she made a poor decision to play in a super spreader event.”

A third cut straight to the chase by saying, “If you’re singing for anti-LGBTQ people, maybe you need to rethink your life choices.” Yet another went further down that path, telling the 58-year-old has-been pop footnote, “Hope it was worth it. You betrayed us. Good luck booking Pride events after this!”

For those who may have forgotten (or never cared), Dayne has been vocal in the past about her gratitude to the LGBTQ fans that helped to buoy her career. In 2015, she gushed in an Advocate interview about watching the community grow into “families” over her years of performances at Pride events, and in 2017 she joined a number of other celebrities who contributed “Love Letters” to Billboard Magazine in honor of Pride. Apparently, the chance to earn a paycheck in Florida was a bigger priority than her supposed love for her gay fans.

For her part, Nunn – whose 80s hits with Berlin included “Sex,” “The Metro,” and “Take My Breath Away” – seemed to be willing to take on full responsibility for her actions and offered an actual apology instead of just trying to paint herself as a victim.

Terri Nunn (image via Instagram)

“I am truly sorry I performed at Mar-a-Lago and would not have done so if I’d known what I learned while I was there,” Nunn wrote in a statement she posted on Berlin’s Facebook page. “My goal in performing was not to support a political party. I see now that that’s not the way it appeared and I am apologetic for that as well.”

She might have stopped there, but she went on to offer some excuses that, to put it bluntly, called either her sincerity or her grasp of reality into question. “The contract stated it was a small Covid-safe event for the members of Mar-a-Lago,” she added. “Unfortunately it was not Covid-safe anywhere in Florida. I had no idea masks and social distancing were not required. I thought I was current on all Covid news everywhere, but clearly I was not. I was shocked by Florida and Mar-a-Lago’s lack of regard for the pandemic, and if I’d known I would never have gone. Once I fulfilled my contractual obligation, I left the event as quickly as I could. It is a mistake I regret. I took a Covid 19 test yesterday and tested negative.”

As the quote goes, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

As many disillusioned fans were quick to point out, Florida’s obstinate refusal to do anything to control the spread of Covid has been an oft-repeated theme in the headlines since almost the very beginning of the pandemic, so claims that she was unaware cannot help but strike most reasonable observers as disingenuous. It’s also worth noting that she left the event AFTER making sure she had done what she needed in order to get paid.

To underscore Nunn’s sole culpability for choosing to perform at the Mar-a-Lago super-spreader bash, her Berlin bandmate and cofounder, David Diamond, had previously posted to his own Twitter account to clear up any confusion that he might have been involved.

“A number of news outlets have reported that ‘Berlin’ played Mar-a-Lago for NYE,” Diamond wrote. “I want to make clear that I was not at this show, nor did I ever plan to attend. I spent the evening at my home in Truckee.”

It might seem harsh to lambast these two once-beloved musicians – or any of the many other celebrities who have made similar missteps – over an error in judgment. But these are not normal circumstances. The Covid crisis continues to devastate America, and the world, rendering literally millions of people vulnerable not only to severe sickness and death but to the economic devastation being ravaged by months of ongoing shutdowns; LGBTQ rights have been under assault for the last four years by a political faction that is, at the time of this writing, still actively trying to subvert the United States Constitution in order to keep its tenuous grip on power despite receiving a resounding repudiation from a majority of the American people. To pretend that it’s even possible to be apolitical when choosing who we align ourselves with, or that it’s “business as usual” when we decide to contract ourselves to people who support irresponsible and harmful policies, is delusional thinking at its most insidious, and we as a society can no longer give out passes to those who are willing to set aside ethical considerations in order to make a profit. We must struggle for unity – but not if it is based on a tacit understanding that we will look the other way when matters of personal gain are on the table. In truth, that is probably the one thing we must not be tempted to do; it might be an easier path, but it will only take us in an endless circle through an ever-worsening landscape of conflict and chaos.

It’s true that both Dayne and Nunn will continue to have fans and supporters; their music will keep getting played, and appreciated, and deservedly so – though they might have some difficulty securing new gigs for the foreseeable future.

Even so, their songs will now, forevermore, be colored by this defining moment in their careers, and we will never again be able to listen to them without feeling a twinge of distaste – like the one we experience when watching a movie by Roman Polanski or a performance by Kevin Spacey. The talent is unmistakable, the work worthy of praise, but the artist is irredeemably tainted.

More than the temporary discomfort of backlash from their fans, that is the true cost of Dayne’s and Nunn’s decision to perform at Mar-a-Lago. For their sakes, I hope whatever boost they may have gotten from it, whether to their egos or their bank accounts, was worth it.

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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

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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)
  • BREAK MY SOUL
    Beyoncé, S. Carter, Terius “The-Dream” Gesteelde-Diamant & Christopher A. Stewart, songwriters (Beyoncé)
  • Easy On Me
    Adele Adkins & Greg Kurstin, songwriters (Adele)
  • GOD DID
    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)

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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

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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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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 

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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.

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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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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”

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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

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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.

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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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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”

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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.

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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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