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This queer ‘Genera+ion’ doesn’t care what you think

HBO Max ‘dramedy’ follows the stories of a group of queer students

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pop culture, gay news, Washington Blade
Justice Smith stars in ‘Genera+ion.’ (Photo courtesy HBO Max)

If there’s anything pop culture has taught us, it’s that the future belongs to the young.

It’s a statement of the painfully obvious, of course; the patterns of our existence are shaped and defined by the repeating cycle of generations succeeding each other, to the point that we take it for granted. Yet for the same reason, it’s a fact that is easily forgotten – or, perhaps more accurately, ignored – when we are living in the present.

This is especially true if we belong to the generation that “owns” the present, who have suffered through the frustrations of coming of age under the thumb of our elders and are in no hurry to pass the baton to the kids who are next in line.

Pop culture, however, has a way of reminding us that our days are numbered. Driven by the fires of capitalism, which are in turn stoked by the tastes of the most lucrative demographic (and we all know which age bracket they belong to), it repeatedly confronts us with glimpses of our own inevitable irrelevance – and that’s terrifying.

Which is why the history of pop culture is also the history of youth rebelling against age, and while the individual skirmishes in that eternal battle might go either way, only the most delusional among us could doubt which side will always prevail in the end. Usually, these are the ones who respond with the most violent distaste when they see a vision of the world as imagined by young people; clinging to the hope they can hold fast against the winds of change, they dismiss, decry and disparage, attempting to exert control by invoking the same core beliefs and traditional values their own elders used to control them.

Today’s kids, however, will have none of it.

Consider, for instance, the case of gay singer/rapper/songwriter Lil Nas X, who just last week shoved aside the homophobic boundaries of the music industry – yet again – with the debut of the spectacularly subversive video for his newest single, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” in which the out Lil Nas appears first wearing a body-hugging sequined onesie, then sporting full Marie Antoinette drag, and finally clad in underwear and a pair of stiletto heels as he performs a lap dance for the Devil himself.

In an Instagram post marking the release, addressed to his own 14-year-old self, Nas fully acknowledged that he was “pushing an agenda… to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.” It was not an apology, nor an attempt at damage control over an inevitable backlash he already knew would be fierce. Nas was throwing down the gauntlet – it was a given there would be an outcry against the no-holds-barred queerness of the video, and he was sending a clear message that he was there to take on all challengers.

These included the predictable right-wing suspects, like “Blexit” founder Candace Owens and anti-trans South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, but also fellow musicians like rapper Joyner Douglas, who lamented in a pearl-clutching tweet that Nas had “dropped some left field ish & all our kids seen it” – joining many other homophobic commentators who trotted out the time-worn and long-discredited idea that any expression of queer sexuality is harmful to children. What’s telling is that while many of these attempts at “cancellation” come from younger voices (most, but not all of them, overtly right-leaning), the justifications behind them are based in ideologies that can safely be called ancient.

Needless to say, Nas has been more than up to the task of swatting aside all these objections in the still-ongoing social media fray, and it has been truly glorious to watch.

At 21, Lil Nas X is a voice that rises from a generation waiting in the wings, and it’s a generation that won’t wait quietly. They’ve caught on to their own inevitability, and they’ve decided they’re just going to go ahead and claim their time right now.

It’s that particularly “now” spirit of youthful rebellion that can be felt in “Genera+ion,” the HBO Max “dramedy” that premiered earlier this month and follows the interwoven stories of a group of queer students at an Orange County high school. Created by father-daughter team Daniel and Zelda Barnz, it depicts the struggles of teens as they try to make sense of their sexuality in a world defined by adults – and often, by the baggage those adults carry with them from their own struggles.

Widely compared to “Euphoria,” HBO’s other show about the severely dysfunctional hidden sex life of high schoolers, it’s a series that opts for a lighter spin. This manifests in the sure-fire humor to be found in typical comedic cliches of teen stories – awkward gaffes, clueless adults, “Mean Girl” style social politics, etc. – but can be found, albeit more subtly, in its handling of dramatic tropes, too. In its pilot episode, for instance, it introduces the relationship between defiantly queer star student Chester (Justice Smith), who has been slapped with his third violation of the school’s “dress code,” and new school counselor Sam (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) with a scene in which the assumptions of the older man color his perceptions of the younger, resulting in an attempt at guidance that – at least in the beginning – seems more a response to his own inner conflicts than anything being felt by his new charge.

The joke might not seem apparent to those conditioned to assume a power dynamic weighted on the side of an older-and-ostensibly-wiser authority figure, but for anyone who can remember being a kid forced to listen to advice from a grown-up who doesn’t even understand your problem, it’s unmistakable.

“Genera+ion” teases the possibility of an inappropriate relationship blossoming between Chance and Sam, and introduces similarly salacious storylines as it interconnects its young characters’ lives – we meet closeted bisexual Nathan (Uly Schlesinger), whose Grindr-esque hook-ups include his sister Naomi’s (Chloe East) boyfriend, as well as Greta (Haley Sanchez) a Latina with a deported mom and a lesbian crush on artsy and seemingly free-spirited Riley (Chase Sui Wonders), and all of that is just in the first episode – and in each case, our expectations are smashed in short order, along with any egoistic presumption that we know better than they do.

It probably goes without saying that “mainstream” reactions to the show have been mixed. Many critics, such as Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson, have resorted to snark as they attempt to characterize it, according to conventional notions of storytelling and aesthetics, as an angsty teen drama that tries too hard. But “Genera+ion” transcends these kinds of assessments. It may be messy, confusing, shallow, and even shocking – but that’s the world its teen ensemble (as well as their target audience) lives in.

They may make questionable choices, they may even suffer for those choices, but in the words of a pop culture boundary-pusher from another era, they are “quite aware what they’re going through.”

After all, the clueless adults have already proven they don’t know how to make it better. Why should they listen to anything we have to say?

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Music & Concerts

Rapper DaBaby pulled by Lollapalooza over homophobic comments

“Lollapalooza was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect, and love. With that in mind, DaBaby will no longer be performing.”

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Screenshot from Rolling Stone Magazine's YouTube Channel

CHICAGO – In an announcement Sunday morning, the organizers of Chicago’s Lollapalooza Music Festival said they had pulled artist DaBaby from tonight’s closing show after a series of public homophobic remarks by the rapper last weekend in Miami at the Rolling Loud music festival.

On Twitter Lollapalooza officials wrote; “Lollapalooza was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect, and love. With that in mind, DaBaby will no longer be performing at Grant Park tonight.  Young Thug will now perform at 9:00pm on the Bud Light Seltzer Stage, and G Herbo will perform at 4:00pm on the T-Mobile Stage.”

The Grammy-nominated rapper’s comments onstage at the Miami festival last weekend brought swift condemnation from other artists in the music industry including British Rockstar Elton John and Madonna among many others.

In the middle of his set last weekend in Miami the rapper told the crowd, “If you didn’t show up today with HIV/AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases, that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cellphone lighter up! Ladies, if your pussy smell like water, put your cellphone lighter up! Fellas, if you ain’t sucking dick in the parking lot, put your cellphone lighter up!”

DaBaby later issued an apology via Twitter that read, “Anybody who done ever been effected by AIDS/HIV y’all got the right to be upset, what I said was insensitive even though I have no intentions on offending anybody. So my apologies” However, the addendum in the same tweet of; “But the LGBT community… I ain’t trippin on y’all, do you. y’all business is y’all business.” was immediately decried as further proof of the rapper’s intolerance of the LGBTQ community.

Michael J. Stern, a Los Angeles attorney and a former federal prosecutor who is now a noted featured columnist for USA Today blasted DaBaby’s ‘apology;’

In his response to Dababy’s remarks Elton John, who founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992, a nonprofit organization which funds frontline partners to prevent infections, fight stigma and provide care for the most vulnerable groups affected by HIV, responded in a lengthy series of tweets:

Madonna took to her Instagram telling the rapper to “know your facts,” before spreading misinformation. 

“AIDs is not transmitted by standing next to someone in a crowd,” she wrote on Instagram. “I want to put my cellphone lighter up and pray for your ignorance, No one dies of AIDS in 2 or 3 weeks anymore. Thank God.”

This year’s Lollapalooza festival, which is one of the first major festivals to return in full force since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, concludes Sunday with headlining performances by musical acts Brockhampton, the Foo Fighters, and Modest Mouse.

Dua Lipa ‘Horrified’ at DaBaby’s Homophobic Remarks at Rolling Loud | RS News 7/28/21

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Greyson Chance releases ‘Trophies’ in time for Pride

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OKLAHOMA CITY – As the tall slender dark-haired young musician prepares for a sound check on stage Friday preparing for his Oklahoma City Pride debut, back in Los Angeles his team released his highly anticipated new album via all digital and streaming platforms.

Greyson Chance, a critically acclaimed, chart-topping and singer-songwriter, with this new album Trophies- a follow up to his 2019’s critically praised ‘portraits’ EP, continues to display sharp writing chops, as well as his ability to push the envelope on his own musical boundaries.

From his recently released, dance-inspired hit “Hellboy” to his latest uplifting anthem “Nobody,” to the beautifully arranged, emotion-provoking ballad “Violet,” the piano aficionado openly takes listeners on a tour of his life. 

Friday is also the day Chance gets back on the road for his Trophies World Tour, starting in his hometown with the headlining spot at Oklahoma City’s Pride Festival.  Additional summer dates include shows in major cities across North America, as well as, European and South American dates to follow in the fall and winter of this year.

Chance will also embark on a second round of North American dates set for January 2022; full tour schedule below for reference.

TROPHIES releases after a long-awaited break for Chance. He last released his current single and dance-inspired anthem “Hellboy” after a strong slate of single releases through the pandemic, including well-received titles “Boots,” “Dancing Next To Me,” the revealing “Bad to Myself,” in which Chance opened up about his battle with an eating disorder, and this past January’s “Holy Feeling.”  Chance’s last EP was 2019’s critically acclaimed portraits, which to date has accumulated over 40 million streams, and topped #5 on iTunes’ Pop Charts, #1 on Apple’s Music Breaking Pop Playlist, and #3 on Apple Music’s Best of the Week Playlist upon its release. A portraits Word Tour followed that included 50+ sold out dates in North America, Europe, SE Asia, and China.

Greyson Chance (Photo Credit: Broderick Bauman)

TROPHIES is available now on all streaming platforms. Listen to the album HERE.

TROPHIES Track Listing:

  1. “Holy Feeling”
  2. “Nobody”
  3. “Hands”
  4. “Same People”
  5. “High-Waisted”
  6. “Violet”
  7. “Hellboy”
  8. “Clothes”

TROPHIES WORLD TOUR DATES 2021:

North America

June 25 – Oklahoma City – Headlining OKC PRIDE

July 07 – Tampa – Crowbar

July 08 – Orlando – The Social

July 09 – Atlanta-  Masquerade

July 10 – Charlotte – Neighborhood Theatre

July 15 – Richmond – Canal Club

July 16 – Washington DC – Union Stage

July 17 – Nashville – The High Watt

July 23 – Indianapolis  – The Irving Theatre 

July 24 – Detroit – Magic Stick

July 25 – Grand Rapids – The Stache at Intersection 

July 29 – Des Moines – xBK Live

July 30 – Milwaukee – Miramar Theatre

July 31 – Minneapolis – Studio B – Skyway Theatre

August 4 – Chicago – Lincoln Hall

August 5 – Lawrence – The Bottleneck 

August 6 – Austin – The Parish

August 7 – Dallas – Trees

August 11 – El Paso – Ricky D’s

August 12 – Phoenix – Crescent Ballroom

August 13 – Salt Lake City – The Complex

August 14 – Denver – The Bluebird

Europe

October 28 – Manchester – Night People

October 29 – London – Heaven

October 30 – Madrid – Capernico

November 3 – Stockholm – Klubben

November 4 – Berlin – Frannz

November 5 – Paris – Backstage

November 6 – Amsterdam – Melkweg 

South America

December 12 – Sao Paulo – Sao Paulo Pride

December 16 – Mexico City – For Indie Rocks!

TROPHIES WORLD TOUR DATES 2022

North America

January 13 – San Diego – Soma Sidestage

January 14 – Seattle – Neumos

January 15 – Los Angeles – The Fonda

January 21 – Portland – Hawthorne Theatre

January 22 – San Francisco –  August Hall

January 26 – Philadelphia – The Foundary at Fillmore

January 27 – Boston – Paradise Rock Club

January 28 – Hamden – Space Ballroom

January 29 – New York – Webster Hall

January 30 – Toronto – Axis Club

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Music & Concerts

Adam Lambert closes out Pride Month kickoff concert

The Pride Month kick-off concert ran for three days at the LA Memorial Coliseum, and was the first live event of the season

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Adam Lambert on stage at OUTLOUD: Raising Voices June 6, 2021

LOS ANGELES – Queen frontman and vocal powerhouse Adam Lambert hit the stage Sunday, belting ‘I Want to Break Free’ with trans German pop star Kim Petras, closing out a whirlwind weekend at the OUTLOUD: RAISING VOICES concert. The Pride Month kick-off concert ran for three days at the LA Memorial Coliseum, and is the first live event of the season – generating an unforgettable energy in the crowd and from the performers on stage. 

The Sunday concert featured a star-studded lineup, including ‘Black and Gold’ singer Sam Sparro, the electrifying VINCINT and a surprise performance from Pose star MJ Rodriguez. Additional performers included country star Chely Wright, R&B singer Zhavia Ward and The Voice contestant Angel Bonilla. The evening concert was peppered with video messages from LGBT+ icons and allies including Demi Lovato, Conchita Wurst and Yungblud. It was as a Pride concert should be, filled with dazzling vocals, flashy choreography and plenty of sparkle. 

Adam Lambert was at his usual best, decked out in a bedazzled kilt ensemble and belting notes from high heaven. However, the two standouts were MJ Rodriguez and VINCINT. MJ skipped out on stage accompanied by a group of dancers with the charisma and stage presence of a super bowl headliner. Effervescent and energetic, she set the tone for the evening and brought the daytime crowd to its feet.

As the sun went down, VINCINT strutted out on stage – also accompanied by two denim-clad dancers. With his signature riffs and flawless vocals, he was joined by Parson James, Qveen Herby and Ty Sunderland for an unforgettable set. After his group number, and a stunning dance break to Rihanna, VINCINT dedicated one of his last songs to his father who recently passed away. It was an incredibly moving moment – a reminder of the tremendous loss so many suffered in the past year, and of the gratitude felt by all those attending that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

The event was produced by LA events organization, JJLA, who partnered with Pride Live’s Stonewall Day on behalf of the Feel Something Foundation. To reach audiences worldwide, JJLA added an exclusive streaming partnership with Twitch – and connected with over 3 million viewers over the weekend. It was the perfect beginning to an incredible Pride Month.

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