Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Queerlicue #7

Queerlicue* noun, kwir~li~kyoo
1. like a curlicue, but with a queer flourish
2. something amusingly odd, strikingly unconventional or accidentally fabulous

* Yeah, I made up that word.


De Staat. They're Dutch alternative rockers who make cool, vigorous music...

De Staat
... and memorable, quirky videos -- like this one for "Witch Doctor." It appears to be inspired by the whirling/spinning dance meditation of Sufism, the mystical Islamic belief system. And it's rather amazing. (I will not, however, attempt to make sense of the lyrics.)

Well-Strung. This NYC-based string quartet has considerable fun fusing classical and pop music.

Well-Strung, left to right:
Edmund Bagnell, Christopher Marchant, Trevor Wadleigh & Daniel Shevlin
They've fiddled around with everything from Kelly Clarkson to Frozen's "Let It Go," but surely no one was expecting them to reach all the way back to 1979 for "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" -- a country crossover hit recorded by The Charlie Daniels Band. Since it's release, Mr. Daniels has become more infamous for his racist and homophobic rants than his music, so it's a kick to see an all-gay band make a mashup of his song and Bach's "Double Violin Concerto."

You can find Well-Strung's music on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby.

Hard Ton. The Italian duo of DJ Wawashi and Max create some damn fine acid house disco.

Hard Ton: DJ Wawashi (left) and Max
Real names: Mauro Copeta and Massimo Bastasi
Great music would be enough, but these guys also enjoy making amusingly arty, over-the-top videos that feature plus-sized Max in all his uninhibited glory. And makeup. And costumes. Example: "Make Me Dance." What the guys had to say about it: "For this new video we wanted to add disturbing and obsessive elements to a hyper-candy-pop imaginary world, in order to create an acid hallucination, halfway between Mark Ryden's paintings and Alejandro Jodorowsky's celluloid visions, so that the hysterical mood of the track could be emphasized as much as possible."

Most of Hard Ton's music is available on iTunes. The rest of their videos are on their YouTube channel, here. And I'll just let Max have the final word:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Divas vs. Queers

What happens when queer musicians dare to cover songs made famous by divas?

Adele. The Londoner has six Grammys and an Oscar (for the Bond theme "Skyfall"). Her sophomore album, 21, broke the record for the longest run at number 1 by a female artist in Billboard chart history -- she topped Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard soundtrack from 1992. She breaks records, she's popular, she's critically-acclaimed and she doesn't give a fuck what you think about her weight. Quite a diverse assortment of artists have publicly admired her, too -- from Madonna, Patti LaBelle and Stevie Nicks (A duet, please!) to Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl and Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash.  

There's an argument to be made that the singer's biggest hit, "Someone Like You," is a future standard. It's just piano, voice and perfectly modulated woefulness. If you're not one of the half a billion people who've already watched the video on YouTube, have a look...

"Someone Like You" is the kind of song that's destined to be covered. It will be over-orchestrated and over-sung for decades to come. Occasionally someone will get it right, like Paul Middleton, a cubby ginger Londoner who channels the melancholy with restraint and dances with his own stoicism. It's a remarkably good fit for this newcomer. Have a look/listen...

Find out more about Paul on his website. Check out his YouTube page. His music is available on his website, iTunes and CD Baby. And here are a few photos of handsome Mr. Middleton...

Paul Middleton (photo via Facebook)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Queerlicue #6

Queerlicue* noun, kwir~li~kyoo

1. like a curlicue, but with a queer flourish
2. something amusingly odd, strikingly unconventional or accidentally fabulous

* Yeah, I made up that word.


Teletubbies Meet Die Antwoord. Las Vegas-based video editor Robert Jones makes mashup videos that are inventive and occasionally demented. He's taken the Teletubbies -- beloved by toddlers everywhere -- and put them together with South African rap-ravers Die Antwoord, a duo that's known for it's vaguely creepy lyrics and (sometimes deeply) unsettling videos. There's something admirably off and compelling about them.
Die Antwoord: Ninja (left) and Yolandi Visser
Now watch how Jones edits the Teletubbies to make it appear as if they're responsible for "I Fink U Freeky," Die Antwoord's 2012 hit. It's an insanely good match.

If you want to see Die Antwoord's original video for "I Fink U Freeky," go here. It's super-stylized and super creepy. Like rats and snakes and scary teeth creepy. And not safe for work. I warned you. Or you can check out the rest of Robert Jones' video mashups on his YouTube channel.

Levonia Jenkins. That's the drag persona created by Greg Scarnici, a NYC-based comedic artist, musician and author (I Hope My Mother Doesn't Read This). This is Greg...

Greg Scarnici
And this is Levonia Jenkins...

Scarnici's transformation into Levonia Jenkins is a smartly executed masculine/feminine mashup of kitschy glamour and good humor. And he's written a terrific little workplace anthem entitled "Werk and Serve and Face."

There's more from Greg (and Levonia) on his YouTube channel.

DaddyB. This Madrid-based fella describes himself as a "big, hairy, out, gay bear dance and pop artist."

DaddyB. Yeah, I could gnaw on that for a while.
His first single simultaneously educates anyone unfamiliar with the gay bear subculture and functions as a personal ad. DaddyB proudly proclaims, "I want a bear," to a retro '90s house beat. And mercifully, he has a sense of humor about his desire, because a straightforward take on this subject could have been deadly. Director Alvaro Pastor brings the right amount of whimsical exaggeration to the video, which also features irresistibly goofy choreography by DaddyB -- who's flanked by a pair of sexy bearded cubs. Warning: There's some explicit language and provocative devouring of Cornish game hens.

Want more Queerlicue? Follow the links for volumes #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Divas vs. Queers

What happens when queer musicians dare to cover songs made famous by divas?

If you're not familiar with the infectious, effervescent music of '70s Swedish supergroup ABBA, then I'm going to assume you just arrived here from another planet. Welcome, visitor! ABBA consisted of two men and two women -- Bjorn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida -- but the ladies contributed lead vocals to almost every one of their hits.

Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad & Agnetha Faltskog
My favorite ABBA song is "S.O.S." I'm not alone in my admiration: Pete Townsend, The Who guitarist, has said it's one of the best pop songs ever written, and John Lennon declared it a favorite, too. The arrangement is pure genius, beginning with a subdued D-minor key, shifting tempo and easing into major key electric rock. There's the right amount of emotional nuance in Agnetha's lead vocal; Frida's voice augments the chorus perfectly. ABBA was also at the forefront of the music video revolution. Watch their charming, low-budget little masterpiece...

Now, The Young Professionals, a popular Israeli electro pop band fronted by Johnny Goldstein and Ivri Lider, have reimagined "S.O.S." in an energetically alternative way.

The Young Professionals: Ivri Lider (left) & Johnny Goldstein
The assertive guitar work and drumming neatly amplifies the original's rock inclinations. Lider's vocal work is free of histrionics, but there's a hint of vulnerability around the edges. Watch and listen...

You can find this version of "S.O.S." on their latest -- and excellent -- album, Remixes & Covers.

For the record, the absolute worst version of "S.O.S" can be found in the film version of Mamma Mia. It's staged as a kind of clunky duet between Meryl Streep, who can sing, and Pierce Brosnan, who cannot. Brosnan's performance of the song is not simply lamentable, it's abominable and excruciating. It is, in fact, one of the worst things ever. Let me help you understand how bad it is:

The Top 5 Worst Things Ever, ranked...
1. The Holocaust
2. What we did to Native Americans and African Americans
3. Bubonic Plague -- "The Black Death" of the 14th Century
4. 9/11
5. Pierce Brosnan mangling "S.O.S." in the film version of Mamma Mia

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Sound of Queer Music, Vol. 10

Celebrating artists and bands that fuck with the heteronormative cultural bias...

Who Is Fancy. No typo -- there's not supposed to be a question mark. But to answer the question, Who Is Fancy happens to be twentysomething Arkansas native Jake Hagood. This cute cub released a break-up anthem in early 2015 along with three music videos, each featuring someone other than Hagood lip-syncing the song -- a Justin Bieber type, a full-figured black woman and a mixed race transgender model. In April, Who Is Fancy revealed his identity on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. It turned out to be a pretty successful strategy -- the song's a hit and the videos have accrued millions of YouTube views. Hagood plans to continue recording as Who Is Fancy. Want more? There's a good interview here.

Who is Fancy (photo: Stephen Schofield & Sarah Barlow)
Song & Video: "Goodbye." Gimmicks aside, Jake Hagood is a fine singer and this is expertly crafted pop reninforced by a simple but genuinely compelling video concept.

Want to see the alternate versions of this video? Version 2 is here and version 3 is here.

James Panther. This Portland-based musician (and astrologer) describes his sound as "a stylistic hybrid between soul and alternative rock, but in a piano singer-songwriter format." He's enthusiastically queer, anti-consumerism and pro-spirituality. It all comes together beautifully. Wanna know more? There's an interview with Panther here.

James Panther, taking tree-hugging to a new level
Song & Video: "Desirable." The song is about getting over that toxic personal relationship so many of us have with our own bodies. It's honest, empowering, enchanting pop. The video, funded by a Kickstarter campaign, is gorgeously shot and features Panther and what he calls "a gaggle of beautiful woodland creatures."

Panteros666 & Woodkid. That's multi-talented French producer Victor Watel and video director and singer-songwriter Yoann Lemoine. It's a collaboration made in electronic dance music heaven.

Woodkid AKA Yoann Lemoine (left) & Panteros666 AKA Victor Watel 
Song & Video: "Clear." Deep, atmospheric house featuring cool, confident vocals by Woodkid. The video finds a blue-haired Panteros666 serenely observing some developments in a futuristic alternate universe with amorous other-worldly beings, a big beating heart and some nifty unidentified flying objects. 

Did you miss any of the first nine volumes of queer music? Just follow the links below...
volume 1, volume 2, volume 3, volume 4, volume 5, volume 6, volume 7, volume 8 & volume 9

Or check out this quartet of 2014 year-end compilations: volume 1, volume 2, volume 3 & volume 4

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Queerlicue #5

Queerlicue* noun, kwir~li~kyoo

1. like a curlicue, but with a queer flourish
2. something amusingly odd, strikingly unconventional or accidentally fabulous

* Yeah, I made up that word.


Galantis. Among the many things I am grateful for in this life, Swedish pop music is right up there in the Top Ten. I can listen to ABBA or Robyn anytime. I'm currently crushing hard on Galantis,  two electronic dance music masters -- Christian "Bloodshy" Karlsson and Linus "Style of Eye" Eklow -- that united to produce an album together. The result, Pharmacy, is a throbbing, energetic breakout hit. For more, their website is here.

Galantis: Christian Karlsson (left) & Linus Eklow
If you're going to record an unapologetically nonsensical retro-disco song like "Peanut Butter Jelly," you better give it an amazing video. Like this:

DJ Rozroz. According to the description on his YouTube channel, he's a "filmmaker, editor, musician currently concentrating on making mashups to ease the late night blues." In other words, he takes two wildly disparate songs and turns them into one. He's done it over 90 times since 2013. My favorite? His mashup of Michael Jackson's "Bad" with "Mr. Sandman," the enduring tune recorded by The Chordettes in 1954.

The Chordettes, one of the most popular all-female vocal groups of the 1950s and early '60s
The mashup -- "Mr. Bad Sandman" -- is brilliant on it's own, but the accompanying video is equally sublime.  

You can listen to all the DJ Rozroz mashups here.

Traffic Signs & Jake the Rapper. They're actually German electronic producer Steve Bug and Bronx-born-but-Berlin-based rapper Jacob Dove Basker.

Jacob Dove Basker AKA Jake the Rapper
Collaborating for the first time, they've produced "Cookie Jar," an absurdly infectious electronic dance treat entirely suitable for a trippy, surreal video treatment. That's provided by multidisciplinary art and film director team Ben&Julia. I could describe this, but words would not do it justice. All you need to know is that Jake the Rapper dances while inviting you to "put your hand in the cookie jar." And there's 3D belly animation. 

You can find this version of "Cookie Jar," as well as several sweet remixes, on iTunes. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Sound of Queer Music, Vol. 9

Celebrating artists and bands that fuck with the heteronormative cultural bias...

PRAYERS. Formed in 2013, this San Diego cholo-goth duo is Leafar Seyer (backwards stage name for Rafael Reyes) and Dave Parley. What is cholo-goth? "Cholo" has various meanings, typically referring to Hispanic males. Embracing goth,  Seyer and Parley integrate the harsh realities of gang and street life with throbbing beats and swirling synthesizers. And it works. For more about this duo, there's a good LA Weekly article here. All their music is on iTunes.

PRAYERS: Leafar Seyer (left) & Dave Parley. Photo: Natasha Atfandilians
Song & Video: "West End Girls." In 1986, the Pet Shop Boys took "West End Girls" -- their hip hop influenced synthpop classic -- to the top of the charts in the U.S, Canada and all across Europe. Seyer and Parley have aggressively and impressively reimagined the song. Chances are you'll either love it or hate it. I love it, and that's saying a lot since the Pet Shop Boys are my all-time favorite band. What did the Pet Shop Boys think? See for yourself:

The video is a super-stylized, slo-mo black and white affair, filled with an eclectic cast of characters just chilling in a graveyard.

This Hamburg based duo consists of vocalist/producer Scott Huntington (from Australia) and producer/engineer Dustin Ibrahimoglu (from Germany). The sound is synth-pop with a nice little edge. Their 2015 EP -- Secret -- is available on iTunes.

Scott Huntington
Song & Video: "Secret." It's a groove that invites you to grind. The simple, engrossing video is a snapshot of infidelity that plays out in reverse and delivers an unexpected twist.

AB Soto.  He's a Mexican-American who grew up in East Los Angeles with colliding passions for music, fashion and dance. His sound -- an amalgam of rap, house and dance -- is frequently influenced by his Latin heritage, but he sums up his work as performance art. In May, 2015, he told The Huffington Post: "I'm playing around with costumes. I'm playing around with masculinity, femininity. I'm playing around with styles of music that, you know, in the past have only been for straight people or a specific race -- whether it's rap, whether it's house, whether it's salsa." You can read the entire profile/interview here. His music is available on iTunes. Check out his YouTube channel here.

AB Soto
AB Soto 
Song & Video: "Cha Cha Bitch." It's a boisterous dance floor invitation. And the video is a glittery little spectacle to behold.