Connect with us

Music & Concerts

Alis Vibe delivers self-enlightenment with an infectious pop beat

Your newest pop princess has arrived with a message infused inside an infectious pop beat and her new EP is called Reborn



ALIS VIBE - REBORN (Screenshot/YouTube)

HOLLYWOOD – Your newest pop princess has arrived with a message infused inside an infectious pop beat. Her name is Alis Vibe and her new EP is called Reborn.

Vibe’s work is exciting. She originally hails from a small village outside of Milan, Italy. After getting some recognition in her native Italy, she made a spontaneous move to American music hub, Nashville.

Do not look for her to be channeling any country music queens, however. That is not Vibe’s vibe. Her music is decidedly danceable pop with folk, soul and blues undertones. She claims as her influences artists ranging from Etta James, to Freddie Mercury, to Lady Gaga to Dua Lipa. Still, her anthems would be right at home in a Kylie Minogue playlist.

“I would do an album tomorrow with Etta James, if she were alive,” Alis confides.

While her pop music layers are seductive and full of pulse-pounding rhythm, her lyrics weave in non-specific eastern spiritual traditional concepts. She projects a theme of reincarnation, even as she launches debuts into the public mainstream. “All the songs in this project are reflections of what I went through in this past year when I wrote these songs. I literally feel ‘reborn’ after pouring all my emotions into this. I feel reborn, and that is why this is the name for my first EP project,” she says.

While many in the pop sphere sing of current and past romantic entanglements, Alis’s music is more about her beliefs and life perspective. She feels the way trans and non-binary teens are treated is horrible and is happy to provide spiritual guidance on paths of self-determination.  She highlights the idea of life’s preciousness. She wants to inspire freedom of expression, universal love, self-confidence, divine timing, and self-belief. Her songs are meant to speak to the hearts of those who respect and seek their own spiritual paths, promoting a sense of community and shared understanding.

Reborn, her first EP, introduces her music with an ethereal chant of self-empowerment, “Shakti the mother, universal power, prana, vital force, moon, planets, trees and flowers, energy, divine guidance, embracing changes, manifesting deep dreams, attracting abundance… releasing fears and rising again, stronger and wiser” she intones before the song Surfing the Light invites us into spiritual expansion.

Vibe sat down with me on Rated LGBT Radio and talked about her journey. She credits a yoga discipline as waking an intentionality in her, that she then integrated into her music. “It is amazing to see the outcome after that,” she tells me. “I realized who I wanted to be in my life.’

Amongst the anthems on the album, the song Ecstasy stands out as a more introspective ballad. “It is a song about the purest love you can experience,” she tells me. The song pre-dates the others. “It was on my USB drive for three years,” she says, but felt it was a perfect companion to the new material.

The pop nature of Vibe’s music is familiar, and its message can be bold, inspiring and affirming. For a young audience craving self-love, acceptance and a spiritualty they can trust, Vibe offers escape and warmth. 

Vibe is assertive in her admiration for other pop stars. Gaga’s Joanne album is a favorite, and Miley Cyrus is a role model.

I asked her what it was about Miley that she admired, and Vibe told me it was because Cyrus “does what she wants when she wants to do it.” Vibe apparently reflects this herself and does what she wants, when she wants to do it. We are all the better for it.

Best of all, she wants you to do, and be, your unique you, and dance to her music while you are doing it.


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] 


Music & Concerts

Bold and beautiful, R&B’s Idman gives us a risk we want to take

Idman’s newest release, the EP Risk, and the extended Risk-Reloaded version, is about the complexities and codependence of relationships



Photo courtesy of IDMAN/Arista Records

HOLLYWOOD – Idman, the gorgeous R&B toned singer/songwriter from Toronto, knows that the ability to be a safely out LGBTQ person is a privilege. 

In a recent Los Angeles Blade opinion piece, they cautioned those progressives who are cavalier about the outing process. They became a spokesperson for those who are susceptible to its dangers.  “I wish we told queer and trans youth more often that there is no standard within which to measure the authenticity of one’s identity, and that they’re valid whether they decide to come out or not. That the world’s reactions to their truths are not their fault, and that they are no less valid in their identities for deciding to withhold it from those they believe cannot honor them,” they write, fully conscious that teens coming out can spark abuse, depression and in some cases homelessness. They observe, “Statistics show that LGBTQ+ youth, especially those of color, are disproportionately affected by homelessness… It’s crucial to challenge the idea that queer and trans people owe intimate details of their lives to others.”

The risk of coming out is one that they, themselves, have been willing to take however, and they do so in a new EP aptly titled “Risk.”

“I know that I get to live in a world and have an experience where I have the privilege of figuring that out for myself… I have the opportunity to explore.  I think I have more of a sadness now in me for my parents and for my relatives in the fact that I know that there are parts of them that they might not ever get to explore in this lifetime, and I know that it’s not their fault.” Idman tells me on the Rated LGBT Radio podcast

Born in Toronto within a very close-knit Somali immigrant community, Idman seems an unlikely candidate to stand courageously as a non-binary sexually fluid musician. They were raised fluent in their parents’ mother tongue . “They really instilled a love for my culture. I was really prideful for my heritage… we come from a religious Muslim community, but my parents were super unorthodox and open minded.” Their mother was a wedding planner and part of that gig was to have the house constantly filled with musicians, leaving an aesthetic impact on the talented Idman.

Even though musically, Idman was initially exposed to the “love is forever” style wedding music, their relationship-oriented songs exhibit a deeper complexity. The songs do not depict a heroine and a villain, but rather two humans trying to figure things out. “When I was challenged to write about love, I was confronted with the fact that the R&B space was really in this energy of toxicity, that we are in an era of ‘ghosting’ and that you need to leave before you are left. I found this genre could only be done through honesty and I wanted my music to be the place where people can tap into the depth where it is not always black and white, and the other person isn’t always in the wrong.”

Idman leapt into the music scene in 2020 with their debut single Down for It. Right from the get, they seemed to signal that they were prepared for the challenges, confrontations and potential fight for individuality that lay ahead. “Feel like I was born for this (this), feel like it was calling me
Never been down for the comfortable, that’s just impossible Never walked the road that was paved for Me,” they sing. The song also projects Idman’s attitude towards those who are trans- and homo- phobic. “Have you ever met a hater, If you know (one) play this loud as hell, I can not hate you for not seeing for me what you can not see for yourself And I cannot hate me,
blessed highly favored while you sit o’ there by ya self.”  It is an attitude that they also reflect in their Blade article when they say, “It’s a shame, it’s a stain and it should be the regret of a lifetime for someone to deny themselves the love of a queer or trans person because they can’t see beyond their own projection. What a flop. It is always their loss. I promise.”

Idman’s newest release, the EP Risk, and the extended Risk-Reloaded version, is about the complexities and codependence of relationships. From the prominent track Hate, which is an ode to hating one’s own feeling of longing for the object of one’s desire, to In My Feels, which laments the inability to let go, Idman examines the layers that could bring emotions in any Romeo and Juliet style romance gone afoul. 

It is in the songs and videos for the tracks Beach and Still where Idman takes their own “risk” by truly revealing themselves. The object of affection in Beach is spelled out in the first line of the song. “I know you’re somebody’s girlfriend but I know you ain’t innocent, I can tell by how you lookin’ That you’re likin’ what you’re seein’ I can show you something better baby all you gotta do is say when.” Idman realized that when that song came out, they had essentially outed themselves as being LGBTQ. Their article that appears in the Blade was meant to be a letter to accompany that event, and to fully underscore what she was saying, and why.

The video for Still took things to a whole new level of representation. The video and song depict a fighting couple who are clearly not straight cisgender. It could be, in fact, a musical video first, showing a song featuring two trans people in a relationship, fighting emotions and attachment just as any other couple might.

I asked Idman if they felt brave in making the video. “I was scared. I tried to back out of it a couple times like the week before I called the director and was like actually can we switch? If you switch the lead out with my trainer, he’s 6’4…”  but they did not switch. “I wanted to use it as an opportunity to show some love on the screen in a different way. I think it is often depicted in a really hyper sexualized way, and I wanted to show the romantic nature of this love, that there are arguments and break ups hurt as much as anyone else’s…I have this opportunity to show that we are here. I’ll take this shot for all the younger kids who need to see themselves in that.”

In 2022, Idman released the single Look at What I’m Doing to You, an ode to the heartbroken who turn tables and choose happiness instead. In it, she coyly teases us, “Look at what I’m doing to you. Told you that I’m trouble times two. It is what it is. So influential. It’s my effect on you.”

It is perfect instruction for those who are listening and vibing on all music Idman.  From the self-talking “Down for It” through to the going for it “Risk”, Idman dares us to look at what they are doing to us.

They are pushing our consciousness on gender identity, and releasing our need to label and judge. They bathe this principle in rich rhythmic music and Somali poetic cadence, which speaks to our hearts and our souls.They are indeed “trouble times two”. 

The effect, if you listen and absorb, is that Idman is “so influential.” We can only hope that influence explodes, and inspires strength for the vulnerable who need its confidence. 

If that happens, the Risk will have been worth it, and that will be Idman’s legacy:

The ultimate effect on us.


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] 

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

Tyler Childers’ sweet gay love story: 5+ GRAMMY nominations

“For all the ugliness that it’s going to bring out, that just can’t be helped. This is going to make real conversations possible”



Openly gay star James Scully, appears in a video for Tyler Childers - 'In Your Love' (Screenshot/YouTube-Vevo)

HOLLYWOOD – Tyler Childers has been at this rodeo before. He is not unaccustomed to receiving ire from the Bud Lite boycotting crowd. He caught hell in September 2020 with his album Long Violent History which revolved around the themes of racism, civil unrest and police brutality.

This time, the controversy is around a song on his hit album Rustin’ In The Rain. Rustin’ leads with a hit song titled In Your Love.  In should be safe from controversy on its face.  The lyrics, written by poet laureate Silas House, and are deeply romantic about a love both fought for, and lost, with no regrets.

Had the team of Childers and House stopped there, the cheap beer guzzling neanderthal crowd would have been happy.

They didn’t. Instead, they created a gorgeously acted, poignant music video about two gay miners in Kentucky. In the video, one of of the lovers is taken down with black lung disease, a common and undiscussed killer. The video was written by, and creatively directed by House. He stated bluntly about the project, “These are human stories, not political stories.”

The concept was Childers’s idea. He sought to tell the world about his LGBTQ family members’ life experiences. He had been particularly impacted by his gay cousin who fled Kentucky and never came back. Childers was particularly bothered that his cousin had never seen any kind of country music video that spoke to him. 

Now one does. The video stars openly gay stars Colton Haynes and James Scully. The couple fall in love in the coal mines and move on to become sustenance farmers. Along the way, they encounter violent homophobia, but stand strong and go to parties, host loved ones, and work their land to establish a simple life.  Their romance comes to a tragic end when one dies from coal miners’ pneumoconiosis, and his widower stays alone for the rest of his life.

“I wasn’t expecting to come here and bawl my eyes out but here we are. So beautiful and so sad all at the same time,” fan Trey Tackett writes on YouTube. Trey was not alone. The video has brought together many people from various walks of life who are reacting to the pure humanity of the story, and to the specifics of Appalachian life, rarely depicted.

From scared mothers like Monica Carmon, “I just heard this on the way home from work and immediately searched for it because of the way it touched me. Sitting outside in my car sobbing watching the video. This hits so close to home. My youngest son is openly gay and my greatest fear as a mother is that someone full of hate will harm him. Love is love. Please never forget that,” to another fan who has lived life without the inspiration that Childers has given, “I can’t properly quantify what a difference it would’ve made if people like you stood up for people like me when I was a kid. I’m so grateful younger people now have you. Thank you and the actors, team for a beautiful video,” he says.

Others have shared how the fight for love, even when ill-fated, is worth it. K C Geno stated, “This hits home. I lost my soulmate of 42 years to leukemia in November of 2019. Thank you so much for going out on a limb to recognize the beauty of love.”

The universality of the song even reached those who were not particularly moved by the fight against homophobia, “Dude I don’t care about the two men in love! This song is a beautiful testament of finding true love and the inevitability of having to watch it leave you! This life whether gay or straight we all face this! Beautiful song and video! Tyler thank you so much for this song! We all need this kind of love in our lives to prove it wasn’t all for nothing!” stated “Dark Fanged Sword”.  

Some shared how much this dramatic depiction has been lived by them in real life. Arnold Tucker related, “This is a great video, it shows what some of us have had to live daily… the hate and non acceptance. I am now a retired police officer and my Partner was a EMS Paramedic for the Texas County we lived in. My Jim died August 5th, 2000, and it still a hard thing to deal with. The Love we shared was wonderful, and I [will] probably never have that feeling again. Thank You Tyler for showing this side of life that most still hide and deal with.” 

Another man named Jeffrey found the song timely, as he was in the throws of losing his husband. Just after his husband died, Jeffrey posted, “My husband just passed and this song is my song to him. I put my phone to his ear so he could hear it. In my darkest time this young man’s music is getting me through it.”

No one seems to care much about the haters. Childers was ready for it at the outset. “For all the ugliness that it’s going to bring out, that just can’t be helped. This video is going to make real conversations possible.”

As for his fans, they welcome the adversity from the close minded. Their attitude is “Don’t let the concert venue doors slap you in the ass on the way out.” The new Childers’s fans are more than eager to buy up any concert tickets that haters want to leave behind.

The GRAMMY awards seem equally unfazed by the “anti-wokers.” They showered Childers with five 2024 nominations. He is up for Best Country Solo Performance for In Your Love, Best Country Song for In Your Love, Best Country Album for Rustin’ in the Rain, and Best Music Video for In Your Love. House is nominated for one, Best Music Video for In Your Love.

The fans agree.  Per “mmjsstav”, “Wow. Video had me absolutely in tears.  And what a terrific, incredibly well written and composed song. The Grammy nominations are so well deserved!! Hadn’t heard of you before this, but now I”m a huge fan and will be buying your records.”

Now, we have to wait until early next year to see if Childers and House win, as many think they should. Fan after fan declare the video not just to be great, but to be the “best video they have ever seen.”

It actually does not matter what happens for Childers and House February 4th at the Arena. 

For all the conversations they have started, the real life stories that they inspired to be told, for lovers motivated, and tears shed…. 

In the most consequential ways, they have already won.

Tyler Childers – In Your Love (Official Video):


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] 

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

Gay Country artist & sibling win Vocal Duo at 57th CMA awards

In addition to the Brothers Osborne winning Vocal Duo of the Year, Country singer Lainey Wilson took home 3 of the top awards of the night



John and TJ Osborne at the 57th annual Country Music Awards held in Nashville, November 8, 2023. (Photo Credit: Brothers Osbourne/CMA)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The biggest names in Country music gathered Wednesday evening at Music City’s Bridgestone Arena for the 57th Annual Country Music Association Awards, hosted again this year by Country star Luke Bryan alongside former NFL star Peyton Manning.

Walking away with Vocal Duo of the Year were sibling musicians John and TJ Osborne.

The Brothers Osborne as they are known by, in previous years have won in this category, this year making it their sixth win.

T.J. Osborne, lead singer of the country duo, came out as gay in an exclusive interview with Time Magazine, which was published February 3, 2021.

While other ostensibly country artists are openly LGBTQ (such as Orville Peck, Brandi Carlile, Lil Nas X, Chely Wright and Billy Gilman, Osborne’s revelation makes him the first – and so far, only – openly gay musical artist signed to a major country label.

John and TJ Osborne grew up in the small Chesapeake Bay bayside town of Deale, in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, writing and playing songs for friends and family in their father’s shed. T.J. with his brother John formed the Brothers Osborne duo in 2012. Signed with EMI Records Nashville, they’ve released seven country Top 40 singles and three studio albums, to date. Their platinum hit “Stay a Little Longer,” was a crossover to mainstream radio.

Photo Credit: CMA Awards

The siblings took home their first GRAMMY in 2022, winning Best Country Duo/Group Performance for their song “Younger Me,” inspired by TJ’s coming out. The band has been nominated for 10 GRAMMYs in total, standing as a now six-time CMA Vocal Duo of the Year, and are three-time ACM Duo of the Year.

Overall, they have collected six CMA awards, six ACM trophies and received the ASCAP Vanguard Award in 2019. Their critically acclaimed hit songs have tallied multiple RIAA Gold and Platinum certifications, while surpassing more than 2.5 Billion global streams. 

In addition to the Brothers Osborne winning Vocal Duo of the Year, Country singer-songwriter Lainey Wilson took home three of the top awards of the night, including the coveted entertainer of the year award, as well as female vocalist of the year and album of the year.

This is also the first time in CMA history that two women have been nominated for Entertainer of the Year in four consecutive years.

Complete list of winners and nominees:

Entertainer of the YearAlbum of the Year
Lainey Wilson (Winner)
Luke Combs
Chris Stapleton
Carrie Underwood
Morgan Wallen
Bell Bottom Country — Lainey Wilson (Winner)
Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville — Ashley McBryde
Gettin’ Old — Luke Combs
One Thing at a Time — Morgan Wallen
Rolling Up the Welcome Mat — Kelsea Ballerini
Male Vocalist of the YearFemale Vocalist of the Year
Chris Stapleton (Winner)
Luke Combs
Jelly Roll
Cody Johnson
Morgan Wallen
Lainey Wilson (Winner)
Kelsea Ballerini
Miranda Lambert
Ashley McBryde
Carly Pearce
Vocal Group of the YearVocal Duo of the Year
Old Dominion (Winner)
Lady A
Little Big Town
Zac Brown Band
Brothers Osborne (Winner)
Brooks & Dunn
Dan + Shay
Maddie & Tae
The War and Treaty
Single of the YearSong of the Year
“Fast Car” — Luke Combs (Winner)
“Heart Like a Truck” — Lainey Wilson
“Need a Favor” — Jelly Roll
“Next Thing You Know” — Jordan Davis
“Wait in the Truck” — HARDY (feat. Lainey Wilson) (Nominees)
“Fast Car” — Tracy Chapman (Winner)
“Heart Like a Truck” — Trannie Anderson, Dallas Wilson and Lainey Wilson
“Next Thing You Know” — Jordan Davis, Greylan James, Chase McGill and Josh Osborne
“Tennessee Orange” — David Fanning, Paul Jenkins, Megan Moroney and Ben Williams
“Wait in the Truck” — Renee Blair, Michael Hardy, Hunter Phelps and Jordan Schmidt
New Artist of the YearMusician of the Year
Jelly Roll (Winner)
Zach Bryan
Parker McCollum
Megan Moroney
Hailey Whitters
Jenee Fleenor (Winner)
Paul Franklin
Rob McNelley
Derek Wells
Charlie Worsham
Music Video of the YearMusical Event of the Year
“Wait in the Truck” — HARDY (feat. Lainey Wilson) (Winner)
“Light On in the Kitchen” — Ashley McBryde
“Memory Lane” — Old Dominion
“Need a Favor” — Jelly Roll
“Next Thing You Know” — Jordan Davis
“Wait in the Truck” — HARDY (feat. Lainey Wilson) (Winner)
“Save Me” — Jelly Roll and Lainey Wilson
“She Had Me at Heads Carolina (Remix)” —Cole Swindell and Jo Dee Messina
“Thank God” — Kane Brown and Katelyn Brown
“We Don’t Fight Anymore” (feat. Carly Pearce) (Nominees)
Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

Sophie B. Hawkins’ new anthems- exactly what LGBTQ youth need

The woman who stunned audiences in the 90’s with her fresh music & fresh take on sexuality, has released her first new music in a decade



Courtesy of Sophie B Hawkins

HOLLYWOOD – Sophie B. Hawkins is back. Renowned as a singer-songwriter, musician, painter and a unique voice of social consciousness, she achieved critical and commercial success with her first two albums, Tongues and Tails (1992) and Whaler (1994), producing a string of single hits including “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover“, “Right Beside You“, and “As I Lay Me Down“.

Her musical sound is unique with a blend of rock, pop, jazz and soul delivered with her distinctive vocal growl and heartfelt lyrics – ones that often herald a fluid sexuality.

Aside from GRAMMY award nominations, New York Music awards, the ASCAP award for longest running single, for starring on stage as Janis Joplin, paintings appearing in galleries around the world and her songs being featured on shows such as Stranger Things, Euphoria and Ozark, she is often thought of for her candid and outspoken take on sexuality and gender expression.

Queerness is awareness of all the things I can feel and express, and how unique each one of us are. I’ve always been at home with my Queerness, it opens doors inside that fuel untethered creativity.”
(Photo: Sophie B. Hawkins opposite the USS Intrepid (CV-11) in New York Harbor.)

Long before Ron DeSantis was whining about “wokeness” and mental health experts saw the importance to embrace the concepts of fluid identities, Sophie self-identified as an “omni-sexual” in the 90s. While others scratched their heads at the term, she embraced concepts that are just now being understood and lived. Her new album, Free Myself, underscores the theme of authenticity and taking the freedom to be yourself as you are, and want to be seen.

We talked about her coming out moment, the one she defines as “the most important one of her career.” “It always makes me laugh when you talk about it, and smile,” she commented to me on my Rated LGBT Radio podcast:

“It was a moment of enlightenment for me to be faced with John Pareles of the New York Times in this diner in downtown Manhattan … prefaced by Columbia (Sony) that this was the most important interview and you had to get everything right. They did trust me to give an intelligent interview and did not give me any media training whatsoever. So I showed up and he asked me a bunch of questions about my upbringing and my musical influences, and then he just said ‘Are you a lesbian?’ At that moment, I thought, well, I have to tell the truth.”

She continued, “For me, telling the truth is telling the accurate truth. I knew my history was sort of diverse. I had never had a moment where I said ‘I am a lesbian’ or ‘I am a heterosexual’, in fact, there were moments of growing awareness at 9 years old when I thought ‘I love Paul Anacomb’ who was on the beach in Long Island one summer, he was older than me, I love him so much and had a crush on him, and then I literally looked at his mother and went ‘but I love her too.’  Then I said to myself ‘I have the LIBERTY and the great pleasure to love anyone I want. I can love both of them, and I do not have to choose. It was a great feeling—I was so young.

“Years later, I had an amazing affair with a man who was my teacher, my mentor, that lasted ten years. Then at some point, a woman seduced me, and I thought that was the most amazing thing too. It opened me up a lot emotionally… it opened up my song writing intuition… took me deeper. But when I was looking at John Pareles, I could not tell him all of that. So I took the word “omni” which means all, also ‘one’ and sexual, and said ‘I’m omnisexual’. He said, ‘What does THAT mean??’, I said, well John, it means my sexuality is not limited by my gender, or your gender…my sexuality is my creativity, my spirituality, my consciousness –it’s tied to me, my soul.”

Sophie’s debut album, Tongues & Tails

Pareles had written a review of Sophie’s debut album, Tongues and Tails, in 1992, and the interview was a follow up in 1993. He said of her, “Sophie B. Hawkins is a pop singer with a rock-and-roll attitude, a jazz singer’s improvisational skills and a blues singer’s soul. She’s also a songwriter with a knack for melodies that are both catchy and complex.” Sophie was the first musician to come out as omnisexual in the mainstream media, and Pareles’ interview with her was groundbreaking for its time.

 Thirty years later, her son’s friends are freely identifying as “omnisexual” without an inkling that she was the one who first coined the term. 

“Don’t care what people think, You know you are on the brink, Of breaking the chain…baby love yourself, ain’t nobody else gonna carry your soul.”  Lyrics from Love Yourself, from the album Free Myself

Since the start of her musical journey, Sophie has shown an uncompromising devotion to her singular truth, endlessly transcending boundaries and offering up new ways of experiencing the world around us. Her truth is the roots of Free Myself and Sophie’s raw yet poetic lyrics as well as her captivatingly distinctive vocals.

Free Myself features some of her most emotionally powerful material to date and contains anthems that LGBTQ youth need especially now. Tapping into the same passion-filled storytelling and colorful eclecticism that inspired her previous work, Sophie embarks on a new creative chapter of independence and positivity in Free Myself.

Certainly, LGBTQ youth working to express their uniqueness and self-definition will hear themselves in the lyrics of the album’s title track and its nascent omnisexuality:

“I want to free myself with you. Let my soul fly. I can’t lift these feelings, too big for me to carry. Why does it matter what we’re born. Aren’t we supposed to become mind, soul and body, who we love and who we want to marry?”

As Sophie talks to television personalities, she gets reductive questions such as “how has your music evolved?” The truth is, her music has not been on a path of development, but rather, has entered a new era. It is an era where society has caught up with her. It is an era where she has lived life. It is an era where she folds in decades of life experience that includes motherhood, oppressive relationships, codependency, deconstruction of dreams to their experienced reality and the ability to be guided by and appreciate, a hero.

‘Love Yourself’ single release cover

“I wanted this to be a new beginning for me, for my family and my fans,” she says. The song Love Yourself is a confession. Sophie had been to a party and drank red wine and ate cake. Later as she lay in bed, she wanted to berate herself for such indulgences. She wanted to lament, “I hate myself for that.” But she didn’t. Instead the words to her incubating song filled her mind, “Baby, love yourself.” That had never happened, the allowance to love herself, before. Her unconscious mental health work had suddenly taken hold and was now carrying her.

For the Miley Cyrus Flowers generation, there is the Sophie B. Hawkins Better Off Without You. “You got what you planned for, but I got so much more,” she sings.

Of the song, she shared with me:

“When I perform that song, I tell the audience that there is nothing better than ‘breaking up’—it can be so freeing, that you can weather and endure, and that it makes you feel more alive. If you can relate to the story in this song, then you are going to have the triumph when I sing it, and if you can’t relate to it, you haven’t lived enough yet. It is release from the fear that you cannot survive without this relationship, or this person superstructure. Whether we are gas-lighted or whether we are in a position of unknowingly controlling someone, whatever your story is, when you are released from it … you can go, ‘wow, I have my whole life to begin again.’ The story behind the song was really painful, and I was trying to survive the lies and the way that it happened. However, if it had not happened that way, I don’t think I would have left it behind. It had to be that painful for me to really take a look.”

She adds, “Betrayal is common and human. This is actually the story of redemption.” Whether the listener is a person ending a toxic relationship, or whether it is a young LGBTQ person getting away from a toxic web of a hostile community or family relationships, the song speaks to self-actualizing introspection and hope.

Besides her fans, Sophie inspired and gave permission to a whole new generation of artists. On my last Rated LGBT Radio podcast, Andrea Walker from Glitterfox, the singer/song writer band from Portland that was recently named one of the Best New Bands of Oregon, commented about my conversation with Sophie, “You said Sophie B. Hawkins was your guest last week? I wish you could have seen my face when you said that. My jaw dropped to the floor. I was remembering being in the 90s listening to Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover. That song specifically was the one that helped me to come out as gay. Honestly, I owe such a huge debt to Sophie B. Hawkins. I really mean it.”

The Sophie B. Hawkins album Free Myself concludes with a song called You are My Balloon. It speaks to a spirit that is a “shoulder on a cloud, between the sun and moon, climbing very high, acting very proud.”

It turns quickly into a plea, “Above a sea of dreams, my lantern in the night, making up a tune, on your own jet stream, in and out of sight. And I love looking at you more than anything, I hope you’ll always stay my dancer on a string. I will hold your hand and carry you as far as I can. You won’t need me long but I’ll hold on ‘Cause you are my balloon.”

The song makes me think of Sophie B. Hawkins herself. The Lantern in the night who made up her tunes and created her own “omnisexual” jest stream definition. It was a definition that today’s LGBTQ youth have embraced, lived and given us all insight about, even as a conservative establishment attacks them. 

Sophie B. Hawkins has delivered to them a package of anthems, one to remind them that they carry their own definitions,  and they need no one else’s permission or approval. Just as a lone singer once carried the message to the biggest newspaper in the country as she sat in a New York diner, it has now grown to be the understanding of a generation.

So, with that message in hand, we carry Sophie as far as we can, and hope she always stays our personal dancer on a string.


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] 

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

Hip-Hop’s complicated history with queer representation

At 50, experts say the genre still doesn’t fully welcome LGBTQ inclusion



Rapper Lil Nas X faced backlash for his music video ‘Montero,’ but it debuted atop the Billboard 100.

I didn’t really start listening to rap until my college years. Like many queer Black children who grow up in the closet, shielded by puritanical Christianity from the beauty of a diverse world, I longed to be myself. But the affirming references I could pull from — in moments of solitude away from the wrath and disdain of family and friends — were in theater and pop music.

The soundtrack to my teenage years was an endless playlist of pop divas like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, whose lyrics encouraged me to sashay my hips anytime I strutted through a long stretch of corridor.

I was also obsessed with the consuming presence of powerful singers like Patti LaBelle, Whitney Houston, and the hypnosis that was Chaka Khan. My childhood, an extrapolation of Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays spent in church groups, choir practices, and worship services, necessitated that I be a fan of throaty, from-the-stomach singing. But something about the way these artists presented themselves warmed my queer little heart. LaBelle wore avant garde geometric hairdos paired with heavily shoulder-padded blazers. Houston loved an elegant slender gown. And Khan? It was the voluminous red mane that gently caressed her lower back for me. 

Listening to rap music in college was a political experience. My sociology classes politicized me and so it was only natural that I listened to rap music that expressed trauma, joy, and hope in the Black experience. However, I felt disconnected from the music because of a dearth of queer representation in the genre. 

Nevertheless, groups like Outkast felt nostalgic. While delivering hedonistic lyrics at lightning speed, André 3000 — one half of the rap duo — mesmerized with his sleek, shoulder-length silk pressed hair and colorful, flowing shirts and trousers — a style that could be translated as “gender-bending.” Despite the patriarchal presentation rampant in rap and Hip-Hop, Andr​​é 30000 represented to me, a kind of rebellious self-expression that I so badly wanted to emulate but couldn’t because of the psychological confines of my conservative upbringing. 

My discovery of Outkast was also sobering because it was a stark reminder of how queerness is also often used as an aesthetic in Hip-Hop while actual queer people are shunned, rebuked, and mocked. Queer people in Hip-Hop are like backstage wingmen, crucial to the development of the show but never important enough to make a curtain call. 

As Hip-Hop celebrates 50 years since its inception in New York City, I am filled with joy because it’s been half a century of Black people owning their narratives and driving the culture. But it’s fair to ask: At whose expense? 

A viral 2020 video shows rapper Boosie BadAzz, famed for hits like “Set It Off” and “Wipe Me Down,” rebuking NBA star Dwayne Wade and award-winning actress Gabrielle Union-Wade for publicly supporting their then-12-year-old daughter after she came out as transgender. 

“Don’t cut his dick off, bro,” said BadAzz with furrowed eyebrows and a gaze that kept turning away from the camera, revealing his tarnished diamond studs. “Don’t dress him as a woman dawg, he’s 12 years. He’s not up there yet.” 

The responses from both Wade and Union-Wade were a mixture of swift, sarcastically light-hearted, and hopeful.

“Sorry Boosie,” Union-Wade said to an audience during a live podcast appearance at Live Talks Los Angeles. “He’s so preoccupied, it’s almost like, ‘thou doth protest too much, Little Boos.’ You’ve got a lot of dick on your mind.”

Wade also appeared on an episode of podcast, “I AM ATHLETE,” and looked directly into the camera.

“Boosie, all the people who got something to say, J-Boogie who just came out with [something] recently, all the people who got something to say about my kids,” he said. “I thank you because you’re allowing the conversation to keep going forward because you know what? You might not have the answers today, I might not have the answers, but we’re growing from all these conversations.” 

This exchange between the Wades and BadAzz highlights the complicated relationship between Black LGBTQ individuals and allies and the greater Hip-Hop and rap genres and communities. While Black queer aesthetics have long informed self-expression in Hip-Hop, rappers have disparaged queerness through song lyrics and in interviews, or online rants like BadAzz, outside the recording studio. 

And despite LGBTQ rappers like Queen Latifah, Da Brat, Lil Nas X, and Saucy Santana achieving mainstream success, much work lies ahead to heal the trauma that persists from Hip-Hop’s history of  patriarchy and homophobia. 

“‘Progression’ will always be relative and subjective based on one’s positionality,” said Dr. Melvin Williams said in an email. Williams is an associate professor of communication and media studies at Pace University. “Hip-hop has traditionally been in conversation with queer and non-normative sexualities and included LGBTQ+ people in the shaping of its cultural signifiers behind the scenes as choreographers, songwriters, make-up artists, set designers, and other roles stereotypically attributed to queer culture.”

“Although Hip-Hop incorporates queerness in their ethos, ideas, and trends, it does not privilege the prospect of an out LGBTQ+ rapper. Such reservations position LGBTQ+ people as mere labor in Hip-Hop’s behind-the-scenes cultivation, but not as rap performers in its mainstream distribution,” he added. 

This is especially true for Queen Latifah and DaBrat who existed in the genre for decades but didn’t publicly come out until 2021. Still, both faced backlash from the Black community for daring to challenge gender roles and expectations. 

Queen Latifah dodged questions about her sexuality for years before acknowledging her partner and their son in 2021. (Photo by DFree via Bigstock)

Lil Nas X also faced backlash for his music video “Montero” with satanic references, including one in which he slides down a pole and gives a character representing the devil a lap dance. Conservatives such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem accused him of trying to scandalize children. 

“You see this is very scary for me, people will be angry, they will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am,” Nas X said in a note that accompanied “Montero.” The agenda to make people stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.”

Regardless, “Montero” debuted atop the Billboard 100. 

In an article published in “Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society,” scholar C. Riley Snorton posited that celebrating queer visibility in mainstream media could be a problem as this kind of praise relies on artists presenting in acceptable forms of gender and sexuality expression and encourages representation that is “read alongside…perceptions of Hip-Hop as a site of Black misogyny and homophobia.” 

In the case of Frank Ocean, who came out in 2012 prior to the release of his album “Channel Orange,” his reception was warmer than most queer Hip-Hop artists because his style of music is singing, as opposed to rapping. Because of this, his music was viewed more as R’n’B or pop. 

“Frank Ocean ain’t no rapper. He’s a singer. It’s acceptable in the singing world, but in the rap world I don’t know if it will ever be acceptable because rap is so masculine,” rapper Snoop Dogg told the Guardian in 2013. “It’s like a football team. You can’t be in a locker room full of motherfucking tough-ass dudes, then all of a sudden say, ‘Hey, man, I like you.’ You know, that’s going to be tough.”

So what’s the solution for queer people in Hip-Hop? Digital media.

Williams, the Pace University professor, says that being divorced from record labels allows queer artists to be independent and distribute their music globally on their own terms. 

“We witnessed this fact with artists such as Azealia Banks, Cakes Da Killa, Fly Young Red, Kevin Abstract, iLoveMakonnen, Lil Nas X, Mykki Blanco, and Saucy Santana, as well as legacy LGBTQ Hip-Hop acts like Big Freeda, DeepDickCollective, and Le1f,” he said. “The music industry has experienced an increasingly mobilized market due to the rise of digital media, social networking platforms, and streaming services.”

“More importantly, Black queer Hip-Hop artists are historicizing LGBTQ+ contributions and perspectives in documentaries, films, news specials, public forums, and podcasts. Ultimately, queer people engaging in Hip-Hop is a revolutionary act, and it remains vital for LGBTQ+ Hip-Hoppers to highlight their cultural contributions and share their histories,” he added. 

(Hip-Hop pioneers Public Enemy and Ice-T will headline The National Celebration of Hip-Hop, free concerts at the West Potomac Park on the National Mall in D.C. on Oct. 6 and 7.)

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

Taylor Swift’s Eras: Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium exuded excitement

As Swift effortlessly sings in her song ‘August’, “August slipped away into a moment in time’ – and she was right



Taylor Swift and her acclaimed Eras Tour performing at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. (Photo by Noah Christiansen)

LOS ANGELES – After six nights – and upwards of half a million people – fans can still not get enough of legendary pop icon, Taylor Swift, and her acclaimed Eras Tour.

Performing at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium, Swift’s six night mini-residency proved to not be enough for Swifties. With Taylor selling out stadiums nationwide within minutes, it comes as no surprise that people have paid thousands of dollars to attend this once in a lifetime experience. 

The openers for Swift were Gayle and HAIM. Gayle, a pop singer who released the hit song “ABCDEFU” in 2021, sang at the top of her lungs leaving those entering the stadium impressed with such a strong opening performance. HAIM, an alternative-indie-rock-band composed of three sisters – Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim – appeared comfortable opening for Taylor in their hometown of Los Angeles. HAIM’s band members appeared in Swift’s music video ‘Bejeweled’ and are featured on Swift’s song ‘no body, no crime’.

Photo by Noah Christiansen

Swifties (the colloquial term for Swift’s fanbase) erupted with roars, laughter, shock, and happy tears as Swift dramatically made her appearance on each night of the Eras Tour.

The Eras Tour is unlike any other concert you’ve ever been to. With dozens of outfit changes, set designs, and various props the Eras Tour is more than a concert – it’s a life experience… and it’s three and a half hours long. Usually when an artist performs, they mainly perform songs from a recent album. But, with Swift’s Eras Tour, Taylor performed songs from each of her albums.

As the stadium was filled with both nostalgia, expectation and desire, people of all ages gathered to see Swift’s various genres and styles of music. Regardless of whether one appreciates Swift’s country style, pop style, or acoustic singer-songwriter style, there was not one person in the stadium who was unhappy with the music.

During her performance, Taylor effortlessly incorporated politically charged messages through her music. As the crowd engaged in their usual endless scream, Swift stated that the crowd made her feel like ‘the man’ – a reference to her song ‘The Man’: “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can // Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man // And I’m so sick of them coming at me again // ‘Cause if I was a man // Then I’d be the man.” Per usual, irony prevails as Swift gets notorious amounts of criticism from the music industry whilst being one of the most successful artists.

In fact, the Federal Reserve of the United States commented on the amount of money brought in by the Eras Tour with some research firms estimating that this tour could add $5 billion dollars to the U.S. economy.

Photo by Noah Christiansen

Other examples of Swift’s activism – and on-stage advocacy – includes her pro-LGBTQ+ messaging. In her song, ‘You Need to Calm Down’, Taylor tells homophobic individuals to “calm down” and that they are being “too loud.”

This especially rings true with a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being forwarded in the United States. In the same song, she brings awareness to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation by singing, “Why are you mad? When you could be GLAAD?” 

Although Swift’s fanbase is welcoming and accepting of individuals of all kinds, that did not stop individuals from protesting Swift’s performance.

A protestor outside of the stadium holds a sign that says “CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE: Fornication = Prostitution, Abortion = Murder, Drug Use = Suicidal Minds, LGBTQ = Total Deprativation.” Thankfully, a counter-protest ensued directly next to those protesting the Eras Tour.

A Swifty used this opportunity in a creative manner: they used references to popular culture and Swift’s lyrics to contest the protestor’s message. In this case, a lyric from ‘You Need to Calm Down’ – which was screamed by everyone at the concert – rings true: “And control your urges to scream about all the people you hate ’cause shade never made anybody less gay.”

Regardless of the negative energy outside, the stadium exuded excitement as Swift presented each of her eras in a different manner. After each of her eras (defined as a set of songs performed from a single album), Swift changed outfits and changed set designs. When Swift began the Evermore Era, named after her Evermore album, she brought the Haim sisters out to perform ‘no body, no crime’ on stage. As Swift’s sound has evolved over time, some eras had complicated set designs and bright outfits while other eras appeared more simple. 

Although Taylor follows her setlist, at each show she carved out a small amount of time to perform two surprise songs, leaving everyone in the audience with feelings of anticipation regardless of whether or not one looked at the previous setlists.  

Photo by Noah Christiansen

With Swift’s shows drawing to a close, we can all agree that the month of August was one to remember. And although she performed for three and a half hours at each show, it was still a performance gone too soon. As Swift effortlessly sings in her song ‘August’, “August slipped away into a moment in time’ – and she was right.


During the singer’s final show at SoFi Stadium, she announced to fans she was re-releasing her popular album “1989,” as she wrapped her six-day Eras tour concert dates in Los Angeles.

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

Swedish indie-pop star on the rise, Oscar Stembridge debuts in LA

Stembridge is very much his authentic self. His intelligent but easy-going nature was natural & unrushed as he moved slowly through the crowd



Oscar Stembridge made his Los Angeles debut at the Hotel Café in Hollywood, August 2, 2023. (Photo by Simha Haddad)

HOLLYWOOD – Swedish indie-pop star on the rise, Oscar Stembridge, made his Los Angeles debut Wednesday at Hotel Café in Hollywood. 

An intimate crowd gathered in the cozy room, filling the dimly lit space with anticipatory buzz. A group of ladies ordered cocktails and wine at the full bar while chatting excitedly with the bartender about the 15-year-old indie-pop rocker. Audience members seated in the scattered chairs around the half-moon stage waited expectantly for the young winner of the Swedish pop awards to appear.

Promptly at 9:15, Stembridge stepped on stage, guitar slung over his shoulder, his signature floppy blond hair covering half of his boyish face. His demeanor was immediately likable, modest yet confident, and grateful for the chance to play for his first-ever Los Angeles audience. 

“Thank you all so much for being here,” said Stembridge, his smile a mix of young Harry Styles and his own unique brand of innocent teenager. 

While Oscar may look even younger than his fifteen years, his originally composed songs cover weighty adult topics like climate change and the Russian-Ukraine war. Topics that Oscar told The Blade were as close to his heart as his teenage woes, like breakups and being dumped. 

“With the Russian-Ukraine war starting and with the climate and food crisis getting worse, it all felt like too much for me,” Oscar told the crowd. “I thought, what if I wrote a song where the world didn’t have all these problems?” 

“If I’m a fool for dreaming, then what is left for me?” 

The song entitled “What If” resembles a modern-day “Imagine” by John Lennon and describes a similarly idealistic alternate reality followed by the particularly poignant question, “If I’m a fool for dreaming, then what is left for me?”  

The audience applauded heartily throughout the set that weaved between released and unreleased original songs and covers by well and lesser-known artists. The crowd was particularly moved by Oscar’s intermittent speech about “being your authentic self.”

“If anyone here feels like they have to put up a façade, you don’t have to do that,” Stembridge said before performing his song “Fake Front.” “People will like you if you are being authentic to yourself.”

True to his song, Stembridge is very much his authentic self. His intelligent but easy-going nature was natural and unrushed as he moved slowly through the crowd after his show, taking time to give each person a turn of his full attention, engaging every fan in easy and flowing conversation.

Oscar Stembridge performing at the Hotel Café. (Photo by Simha Haddad)

Hotel Café was a first stop on a long list of to-dos for Stembridge’s one week in the US. Between being featured in a documentary, an exciting new collab with YouTube violinist Karolina Protensko, and several other professional engagements, Stembridge’s short trip to the States is jam-packed with projects aimed at increasing his presence in the US. 

“I feel amazing,” Stembridge told The Blade after his performance. “As an indie artist, I was able to come here and do my first gig in Los Angeles. It’s a dream come true.”

After LA he travels to Austin, Texas where on August 9th, he’ll attend the world premiere screening of Primitive Planet Director Brian Gregory’s film, ‘Trust Your Wild Side with Oscar Stembridge,’ a captivating documentary that follows the incredible journey so far of Stembridge. 

After the screening, he will perform his first headlining concert in the USA, playing to thrill the audience with his catchy melodies and heartfelt lyrics.


Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

David Archuleta may have lost masked singer but he’s winning life

David may have come in second in the highest profile singing contests on the planet, but he refuses to come in second in his own life now



David Archuleta (Photo by Zach Schmitt)

HOLLYWOOD – David Archuleta is easily the sweetest of crooners. His warm romantic sweet voice has charmed a breadth of audiences for over a decade, first as a top contender on American Idol, and most recently with his boyish face completely hidden on the Masked Singer. In both competitions, he beat out dozens of massively talented singers to land in the #2 slot. 

When he came in second on Idol, he got lost within the sea of confetti heralding David Cook as the winner. On the Masked Singer, when he lost to Bishop Briggs, he was all anyone was talking about, including by the winner herself. 

When he was revealed as The Macaw, usually comedic judge Ken Jeong was brought to tears. David Archuleta’s voice was personal to Ken. His American Idol rendition of Imagine had gotten the Jeong family through tough times. Reminding the world that David’s was the voice of an “angel” Ken told him, “You are a ray of light to me, my wife and to my kids– thank God for you!”  In response, David shared his walk back from suicidal thoughts to coming out as queer. Then the rest of the audience, and winner Bishop Briggs, were also brought to tears. The Macaw may not have won the night, but David did.

David has always had his eye on love and compassion for all, even when he could not extend that courtesy to himself. His consideration came into play in his choices on how to present Imagine lo those many years ago. He had to decide which of the three verses of the song to perform.

He told me why he chose the third verse. “If I was only going to have one verse, and it was my last time being in front of an audience of that magnitude, I thought the song’s message was a lot bigger in that verse, avoiding lyrics where people usually get stuck on the words. I didn’t want them focusing on what the words were saying, I wanted them to see that the song talks about looking past differences, and just being one. Imagine a world of peace where there wasn’t fighting, there weren’t differences, there wasn’t division. That’s what I wanted to emphasize, and I felt the third verse did the best with that message, and was not going to turn people away, turn people’s hearts off, hearing trigger words like ‘Imagine there’s no Heaven’ it’s easy if you try.”

David is not about “no Heaven,” he is about bringing it to everyone.

Courtesy of David Archuleta

David may have come in second in the highest profile singing contests on the planet, but he refuses to come in second in his own life now. There, he is and will be, the hands-down winner. He makes that clear in his newest song release Up. Rising back into popular view from his period of darkness, the song declares that he is headed “Up, up, up up.”

David talked to me on a recent episode of Rated LGBT Radio.  We discussed the religious and mental health crisis from which he has emerged. He told me, “Religion gives you a very structured view of life and of purpose…why you are here, and where you are going to go, who God is, and what God expects of you. Being raised and being told ‘what God thinks of homosexuality and gay people’ and that if you succumb to it, you are distancing yourself from Him. I tried so hard to do what I was told I needed to do and growing up a Mormon, I was told to call it ‘same sex attraction’ acknowledging that I had a ‘weakness’ or ‘challenge’ that I needed to overcome, and if I did not give into it, I would be OK. 

When I realized that I was never going to ‘overcome this challenge of same sex attraction’ I looked at myself as not just inauthentic, but as a failure. Clearly, I thought if I was truly a righteous person, I would be able to change myself from this ‘wicked’ state. When I realized I couldn’t, I thought ‘I’m wicked’, and there was nothing I could do about that. It made me afraid of myself, and I did not want to be a ‘wicked’ person walking the earth. No matter how many times I tried, no matter how many times I tried dating a woman, I went to church and fasted, never looked at pornography, and despite that, I realized it was just my nature. It was not even that I was trying to have sex with anyone, I just felt a bond and attraction to other guys—falling love or having a crush on someone. It led me to wanting to terminate my life. That ideology came from the way I was raised, from my religion, my spirituality as I saw it at that time. “

During his time of struggle, he even hid himself musically – he put out several outstanding Christmas albums. He released an album called Therapy Sessions, which highlighted, albeit veiled, his thoughts and struggles trying to suppress his sexuality.

He finally ended up throwing himself to God in a final prayer of desperation. 

He recounted the experience, “When I tuned into that Higher Connection, I heard God say, “David, you need to stop asking me this, because you’ve been asking me this for over half your life and you can see, it’s not changing. You need to understand, I do not intend it to change. This is what I meant for you. You are supposed to be this way. You are meant to be happy the way you are. You are meant to connect with the people I designed you to connect with. It is not an error despite what well meaning religious people say, and understand.” 

David realized once and for all that he was not evil, that gay people were not evil. “There was an absolute clarity and assurance, absolute confidence, so loving support from a Higher Power greater than me, that showed me how to love greater. It taught me to love myself and allow myself to be loved.  It was pure, it was healing.”

The revelation gave him the confidence to confront Church leaders, to see through their “suggestions” and stand alone as his true authentic queer self.

David Archuleta, THE MASKED SINGER, courtesy of FOX Alternative Entertainment

While cloaked in the Macaw, he could demonstrate to himself that the talent that he was, he still is. He walked the stage clearer and truer than ever, and at the unmasking, the world was seeing not just David Archuleta, but a David Archuleta it had not known before.

Now he is singing a new song, literally. The song is an anthem that can speak to every trans, LGBTQ+ kid or adult in the community.

More, it is a declaration of who David Archuleta is, and what we can expect from him.

The only place I’m goin’ is up
Only make room for love
‘Cause my story’s far from over
It’s only begun
I’ma throw it all away
Every last piece of your hate
And though my story’s far from over
I’ve already won
I’m goin’ up, up, up, up, up, up, up

Yes. Archuleta is back, winning, and this time, he is taking us with him.


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] .


Part One:
Part Two:
Continue Reading

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] .

Continue Reading

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] .

Continue Reading