Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2015 Eurovision Song Contest Sampler

Eurovision Song Contest. It's my pop culture guilty pleasure... that I don't feel remotely guilty about. Broadcast every year since 1956, it's one of the longest-running television programs in the world. In 2014, Eurovision drew an audience of nearly 200 million. All active members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) can take part -- 40 countries are sending artists to compete in Vienna, Austria this year. The 2015 winner, chosen via a combination of televoting and juries, will be announced May 23rd. It's all done live for the contest, but you can find performance clips or music videos for all the songs online. I can't show you all 40 acts, so I picked seven -- personal favorites, one surprising entry, real contenders and the odds-on favorite to win.

Australia: "Tonight Again" by Guy Sebastian. Eurovision has been broadcast in Australia for 30 years. It's wildly popular there even though they don't compete. This year, in honor of the 60th anniversary and in recognition of Australia's fandom, the country was invited to participate. Their choice is enormously popular Guy Sebastian, the first winner of Australian Idol in 2003. My prediction: The song is semi-funky dance pop that should easily propel Sebastian into the Top 5. Goodwill towards Australia will help. His website is here.



Russia: "A Million Voices" by Polina Gagarina. It was only a few years ago that Russia took second place with a gaggle of grandmothers in traditional garb singing "Party For Everybody." Last year they sent two wholesome blonde sisters who performed with their hair tied to together. I'm not making this up. This year's entry is a shameless, calculated feel-good anthem about the world's people believing in a dream because we all shine like stars and our hearts beats like drums. To be fair, Polina Gagarina sings the hell out of it. Won't win, but if someone ever imprisons Vladimir Putin for crimes against humanity or something, I hope they make him listen to this until he gets the dry heaves. (And the video is like the longest life insurance ad ever made.) My prediction: It will go -- bafflingly --Top 10.



Israel: "Golden Boy " by Nadav Guedj. This is a personal favorite that doesn't have the slightest chance of winning or even landing in the Top 10. But Nadav Guedj is having a blast as it coyly builds to an irresistibly goofball dance song. Also, he's adorable. My prediction: Might squeak into the Top 20.




Serbia: "Beauty Never Lies" by Bojana Stamenov. 

Bojana Stamenov
Another personal favorite. Basically, if you're going to write a dance-pop anthem, this is how you do it. Stamenov goes full diva before it's over and just owns this song. Lots of people can relate to these lyrics:

Finally I can say
Yes I'm different 
And it's okay
Here I am

This video was created by editing together footage of Stamenov and fan submissions recorded on cameras and smartphones. An alternate video, featuring her in a smashing red dress is here.  My prediction: Regrettably, it won't make the Top 10. But it will probably make some queer folk happy.




Finland: "Aina Mun Pitaa" by Pertti Kurikan Nimipaivat. I'll let bass player Sami Helle explain: "The members of our band are four middle-aged, mentally handicapped men. The music is, of course, Finnish punk." All they want to do, the band claims, it raise awareness of people with learning disabilities and "have a fucking good time along the way." Eurovision purists may be squirming, but I think it's pretty cool. English translation of the song's title: I always have to. It's assertive and brisk -- clocking in at about a minute and a half. I really want to see this done live. My prediction: Top 10.





Italy: "Grande Amore" by Il Volo.  They're an Italian pop opera trio consisting of Piero Barone, Ignazio Boschetto and Gianluca Ginoble. English translation for their name: The Flight.

Il Volo
One of only a handful of acts that will perform in their native language, these guys are becoming very popular outside Europe. "Grande Amore" (translation: great love) is one of those ballads that gradually and skillfully swells into an effusive track that sucks you right in, even if you can't understand a word they're singing. My prediction: This seductive blast of popera with go Top 5, maybe even Top 3. Their website is here.

The video essentially concedes that what we have here is a pop opera boy band, then brazenly riffs on a trio of famous Hollywood movie scenes. It's silly, gorgeous and, well, a little bit operatic.  




Sweden: "Heroes" by Mans Zelmerlow. He's a native Swede that the news/media website BuzzFeed described as, "so handsome it hurts."

Mans Zelmerlow
This one has winner written all over it. It pretty much defines the state of modern pop music. And it's got one of those killer hooks that lodges in your head and periodically demands to be sung out loud. My prediction: Barring an upset or surprise, here's your winner.



Examples of why BuzzFeed declared Mans so handsome it hurts...

Usually when I see a photo like this I think, "sunscreen." Not this time.

For a 2014 Swedish awards show, he did a playful parody of Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" video.



Thanks for indulging me with this one!
David

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Queer Cinephile(s) #34: Vertigo

I'm a gay dude who loves movies -- a queer cinephile. I studied film in college and once reviewed movies for a TV station (don't get excited; it was way back in the 20th century). For this blog series, I'm watching and reviewing 50 films I've never seen before -- Oscar bait, indie darlings, black & white classics, blockbusters, cult flicks and weird shit my friends keep recommending. Go on, say it: "I can't believe you've never seen..."

Vertigo
 (released May 1958)

James Stewart as John "Scottie" Ferguson in Vertigo.
This image is from a nightmare sequence in which he morphs into the Wizard of Oz for a second. 

Here's the original theatrical trailer...


What the Queer Cinephile Says: Vertigo's opening sequence -- lasting all of a minute and half -- plays like a bad dream. Police Detective John "Scottie" Ferguson" (James Stewart) and another cop are chasing a felon across some San Francisco rooftops at night. Scottie slips. As he dangles from a gutter about half a dozen stories above the street, the other cop attempts to rescue him. "Give me your hand!" he yells, just before plummeting to his own death. It doesn't feel real -- you expect Scottie to wake up from a nightmare, drenched in sweat. Nope, it happened. We never learn exactly how Scottie managed to survive the incident himself, but he tells his lovelorn college sweetheart Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) that the aftermath has left him with a fear of heights, known as acrophobia. And acrophobia can cause vertigo, a feeling of dizziness associated with being in a very high place. Vertigo is also a much better name for a movie than Acrophobia.

Scottie retires from the police force, but agrees to do some private detective work for Gavin Elster, another old college friend. Elster married well and became a shipping magnate, but now has a quandary about his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak). "Scottie, do you believe that someone out of the past, someone dead, can enter and take possession of a living being?" See, Gavin doesn't want Scottie to follow Madeleine around because he suspects she's an adulteress. He just thinks she's possessed by her own great grandmother, a woman that died in 1857. And so Scottie follows Madeleine to various locations -- her great grandmother's tombstone, a museum where a painting of the woman hangs, and even an old hotel that's only slightly less foreboding than the one in Psycho. Baffled, Scottie recruits Midge for some research and they visit a San Francisco historian who connects the dots: the old hotel had once been the great grandmother's home, she was abandoned by her wealthy husband, separated from her only child, went mad and committed suicide.

Fortunately, I'd never read a single review of Vertigo before I watched it, so nothing was spoiled for me. But this is an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The celebrated director didn't do ghosts or demons or possession. Everything about his film work suggests that he believed human beings are capable of sinister, monstrous things because of individual motivations or a personality disorder. So I was not remotely surprised that the eventual explanation for Madeleine's behavior doesn't involve anything supernatural. And, of course, Scottie falls in love with Madeleine -- the only way you wouldn't see that coming is if you'd never watched another movie in your entire life.

As Scottie, James Stewart gets to play a man with acrophobia and vertigo, then acute melancholia with a twist of guilt (yeah, that's a thing), and finally he's consumed by unrelenting obsession. I'm not a James (It's a Wonderful Life) Stewart fan at all, but Hitchcock pulled quite a performance out of him -- before it's over, he's a fervent, anguished mess. As Madeleine, a stunning and excellent Kim Novak is just the right combination of strange and alluring -- it's as if she's bathed in a mysterious dreamlike aura. In contrast, there's Scottie's down-to-earth college sweetheart Midge, played by Barbara Bel Geddes (known to '80s night time soap fans as Miss Ellie on Dallas). She's a nice lingerie designer with a funky cool little San Francisco apartment that would probably rent for $4,500 a month today. Midge has a bittersweet, unrequited crush on an oblivious Scottie, and there's nothing she can do as he becomes increasingly obsessed with the gorgeous, enigmatic Madeleine. Spoiler alert: It doesn't end well.

Vertigo received mixed reviews back in 1958 and only broke even at the box office. It was removed from circulation for a long time, but finally given another U.S. theatrical run in 1983 and released on home video in 1984. Proving commercially successful with '80s viewers, many contemporary critics reevaluated the movie. By 1989 it was recognized as "culturally, historically and aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 1996, Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert called it "one of the two or three best films Hitchcock ever made." Then something genuinely amazing happened to Vertigo: it was named the greatest film of all time by Sight & Sound,  the British Film Institute's film magazine. Every ten years since 1952, Sight & Sound has asked the world's leading film critics to compile a list of the 10 best films of all time. Vertigo entered their list at 7th in 1982, then placed 4th in 1992, jumped to second place in 2002, and took first place in 2012. Most astonishing, Vertigo bumped Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941) from the top spot, a position it had held since 1962!

Vertigo is a far-fetched but insanely compelling mashup of mystery, melodrama and romance. I can agree that it deserves preservation in the National Film Registry, but I'm going to have to disagree with Sight & Sound over that greatest-film-of-all-time acknowledgment. Vertigo is not a better film than Orson Welles' Citizen Kane. I studied Kane in college; it's a flat-out masterpiece that changed American filmmaking. In my opinion, Vertigo is not even Alfred Hitchcock's greatest film. I'd argue that Rebecca (1940) or Rear Window (1954) are superior works. And if you want to call any one of his films "culturally, historically and aesthetically significant," look no further than Psycho (1960).

Vertigo is the first film in this blog series that left me genuinely conflicted. I admired some of Hitchcock's choices, including long dialogue-free sequences, the use of San Francisco area locations and some splendid camerawork and cinematography (which would later be replicated by directors like Steven Spielberg and Brian DePalma). But a couple of things really bothered me. I was troubled by one nagging plot hole. Bernard Herrmann's score is frequently terrific, but there are moments when it sounds awfully similar to music he composed for Psycho two years later. There's a psychedelic nightmare sequence that looks like an experimental blooper. And it just feels too long. Then I watched it again. After a second viewing, my verdict on Vertigo: it's a great film.  The central performances are outstanding and the final thirty minutes are riveting. All the things that bothered me the first time I saw it were still there, and that led me to the obvious conclusion: even great films have flaws.

Stray Gay Observations:

Vertigo's main theme music is cleverly sampled for the opening sequence of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City mini-series that originally aired on PBS in 1993.

As far back as silent films, Hollywood has been obsessed with female eyebrows. Some of the earliest stars had their eyebrows completely shaved off, then drawn back on with a grease pencil. The desired arch and fullness have evolved over time, but the trend toward a more natural look didn't really arrive until the1960s. Below, Kim Novak has a common 1950s look. The arch is softer and her real hair is enhanced with a pencil to make it look darker and fuller. Vertigo was shot in color using the higher resolution wide-screen VistaVision format, so Novak's eyebrows didn't really have a chance at looking natural -- they look like they were painted on by someone in the makeup department.

Kim Novak
One of the original problems I had with Vertigo is the significant (and obvious) age difference between James Stewart and Kim Novak. He was 49 and she was 24 at the time the film was made. At first the disparity irritated me, but then I realized Vertigo is way more serious about obsession than love. As it progresses, that age difference adds an extra measure of creepiness to what's happening. Although Hitchcock deemed Vertigo one of his favorite films, he wasn't shy about blaming it's tepid box office and indifferent critical response on James Stewart. Stewart, he claimed, was too old to be a convincing love interest for Kim Novak. So here's what I'd say to Hitch if we could resurrect him for a chat: Oh, Alfred, please. You cast the man. You also cast Barbara Bel Geddes as his old college sweetheart. Bel Geddes was 35 when you made the movie. So she was roughly 15 years younger than Stewart. Was he her professor at this college? And incidentally, you also cast Tom Helmore as Novak's husband. He was even older than Stewart -- 54! Consider this: Maybe 1958 audiences didn't connect with your movie because it was an unexpected departure from the romantic thriller promised by the trailer. Your movie is dark. Very dark. Your leading man is an emotionally disturbed abject failure. Your ending is cruel and shocking; it offers no solace. In other words, your film was way ahead of its time. So let's just be thankful for all those people who rescued it from obscurity back in the 1980s.  

Should You See It? There are Hitchcock films I find a lot more satisfying, entertaining or disturbing than Vertigo -- RebeccaStrangers on a TrainRear Window and Psycho. And I definitely have some personal reservations about it, but that wouldn't stop me from recommending Vertigo. It may be flawed, but I can't deny that Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is also an audacious, twisted and risky motion picture that deserves to be seen and discussed .
  
Next Time: Cabaret (1972)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Queerlicue #2

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.

Examples...

Kazaky. They're a Ukrainian-based synthpop/dance boy band that's been around since 2010.

Kazaky (a current iteration; the lineup seems to change every year)
Although kazaky is Ukrainian for "Cossacks," the revolving members of this group claim their name has nothing to do with Russian history's self-governing military communities, but is rather a derivative form of the Japanese word Kazaki, a popular name for boys in Japan. Personally, I'd have gone with the Cossack thing. Anyway, they gained attention outside the Ukraine back in 2012 after appearing as backup dancers in Madonna's video for "Girls Gone Wild." They aren't just dancing. They're dancing in heels. Stiletto heels. In one of their more recent videos -- below -- they have some fun fusing hyper-masculine and feminine fashion together.




Ke$ha & The Veterans. Four men who served in the armed forces -- Mat, Jarred, Rocco and Derek -- were looking for a way to acknowledge Veteran's Day 2014 and promote their clothing line, Article 15. The solution? A lip dub video shot in a car. The twist? Rapper/singer/songwriter Ke$ha pops up from the back seat to pick the song -- "Your Love Is My Drug," her 2010 hit. And then they all make complete fools of themselves.



If you'd like to check out Article 15's irreverently butch t-shirts or beard care products, go here.


Deviant Otter & "All About That Bass." After shooting a handful of porn scenes, the tumblr sensation known as Deviant Otter became a do-it-yourself adult filmmaker himself. His videos have an uninhibited, unscripted style that the SexFlexible blog called "an unapologetic display of natural, organic, real sex." In other words, he's found a niche in the competitive world of amateur porn. I'm not going to show you one of his fuck scenes -- I'm certain you can figure out how to find those yourself. (Side note: If I was 20 years younger, I'd kidnap this man. Or, at the very least, I'd make porn with him.)

Deviant Otter (photo via his website)
Turns out he's pretty frisky and talented outside the bedroom as well. In his spare time, D.O. and some friends put together a funny, sexy parody of "All About That Bass," Meghan Trainor's 2014 funky pop hit. This is no lip dub -- it's a brand new recording of the song. I can probably get you to watch this just by letting you know he strips down to his underwear, but the whole endeavor is giddy indulgence. Deviant Otter has some moves. And he can twerk.




Wanna see Queerlicue #1? It's here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Beards of Modern Music, Vol. 3

There's a facial hair renaissance going on out there, folks. This series is all about the bearded men who make music. Check out the fuzz and stubble, but stick around for the sound.


The Timbers. They're four men from Down Under -- Simon Basey, Benjamin Roberts, Kyle Vause, Joe Murphy --  who describe their sound as "Raucous Alternative High Energy Modern Australian Folk." Find out more on their website, Facebook page or YouTube channel.

The Timbers, left to right: Joe Murphy, Kyle Vause, Simon Basey & Benjamin Roberts 

Song & Video: "Mean Streak." Catchy, rambunctious as hell, and I bet they have you singing the refrain before it's over. The video is a great example of what a good imagination can do with a low budget.




Synoptix. It's the musical project from a trio of dudes out of Yekaterinburg, Russia. The sound -- a satisfying evolution from their 2010 debut album -- is a blend of beatbox, electronics and electric guitar. Think rock infused with hip hop, funk and lounge. Disarming but gutsy -- and vocalist Alexey Bobylev is my current music man crush. They're recording new tracks as I write this, so -- fingers crossed -- there'll be a new album this year (or they'll release the singles, at least). For now, there's more music on their YouTube channel.

Synoptix, left to right: Alexey Bobylev, Vitaly Finsky & Denis Burhanov

Song & Video: "I Had a Soul." It's an impeccably arranged breakup tune that puts Bobylev's voice up front. Shot on a makeshift stage in an art gallery, the video is a live performance that captures the band's enthusiasm and skill, as well as Bobylev's impressive vocal range.




Carl Espen. At 17 he won a local singing competition and started to believe a career in music was possible. Sidetracked by military service and a day job in the glass business, it wasn't until he was 31 that he got an enormous break: Mr. Espen was Norway's 2014 Eurovision Song Contest entry with a genuinely intimate and evocative ballad called "Silent Storm." Written by his younger cousin, Espen took the song into the Top 10. Post-Eurovision, looks like he might get a shot at that career after all. Check out his website here.

Carl Espen

Song & Video: "Holding On." The tune feels personal, touching on a universal theme: knowing when it's time to let go in a relationship and move on. The lovely plaintive quality of Espen's voice suits it perfectly. Sounds like a downer, right? Nah, it's sneakily hopeful. The video was shot in Oslo, Norway, a city you rarely see represented in pop culture. But the real draw is Carl Espen. The man has a presence; he doesn't need to wave his arms or beat his chest to hold your attention.




Wanna see the first two volumes in this series? Click on either link below.

Volume 1
Volume 2

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Sound of Queer Music, Vol. 5

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

The Chew Toys. Formed in 2012, they're a California queercore duo who promise to "get you drunk, singing and deaf." Don't know what queercore means? Think homopunk garage rock 'n roll. In late 2014, drummer/vocalist Jay Tag told music website CMJ that he and bandmate Kevin Dickson bonded over "a silly idea to get drunk and write songs about our friends and take the piss out of stuff." Guitarist/vocalist Dickson adds, "However, as a gay dude, if I'm gonna write a song that's sexy, it's gonna be about a guy. We set out to have those same dumb sex songs like Kiss had on Rock & Roll Over, but about guys. It's not a gimmick, it's how I'd write about sex." Oh, and they're married. To each other. Bet you didn't see that coming. They're self-titled debut album was released in late 2014. You can hear the songs on Soundcloud and purchase the album (vinyl or digital) on their website. To read the entire CMJ interview, go here.

The Chew Toys are Kevin Dickson (left) & Jay Tag (photo: Dave Ehrlich)

Song & Video: "Leather Sweater." According these guys, the song "is about being so hot for a guy you want to basically tear him apart." The video is an endearingly low-budget psychedelic kick.





Brett Gleason. He was asked to describe himself in a 2012 interview with PopCultureZ: "I'm a solo artist from Brooklyn -- I play piano, manipulate electronics and take my shirt off." He's also gay and candidly open about being bi-polar. As his official bio suggests, "Gleason knows what it's like to live a life of intensity outside the mainstream and his music reflects this." The sound is raw and intimate with a palpable melancholy, but it's simultaneously vigorous, progressive and unabashedly theatrical. In other words, Gleason's work defies pop conventions and really challenges the listener. His self-produced, self-titled debut album was released mid-2014 and is available on his website or iTunes. (All the amazing lyrics are on his website, too.)

Brett Gleason (photo: Nicolas Smith)

Song & Video. "I Am Not." Gleason describes the song as a kind of mantra: "It started as something I'd repeat to myself when I felt overwhelmed or hopeless -- an assertion that reminded me I've been through worse and have proven stronger than I ever hoped." The video -- his first, filmed with friends in late 2009 -- is an eerie little murder mystery filmed in his grandmother's Connecticut backyard.




Top Less. This promising Canadian band released their debut album in 2013 -- and with a name like Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party it was bound to draw some attention. The sound is a brash amalgam of electro, dance and glam pop; their live shows are vibrant and theatrical, featuring props, costumes, video projections and -- shudder -- glitter. In a 2013 interview with The Lab Magazine, Top Less co-founder Mike Shindler said: "I would say our shows and music are an acknowledgment of the absurdity of many aspects of human life and then lighting the wick and hoping for an explosion." You can check out their website here.

Top Less (photo: Shea Pollard & Ola Cholewa)

Song & Video: "Danger Love." The song is about those early stages of love, when hearts are tender and vulnerable. Building to something almost anthemic, it soars and swirls and becomes unexpectedly exhilarating. For the video, Top Less essentially answers the question: What does an unabashedly theatrical band do in the woods? They become pixies or tree spirits or sprites... or something... and dance (well, it's actually a form of interpretive movement called Eurythmie). Oh, and they summon some kind of Christ-like figure. Honestly, I have no idea what they're doing here, but it's awesome. And so is the song.




Want to check out other volumes in this series? Just click on any link below.


2014 year-end compilations: Volume 1 -- Volume 2 -- Volume 3 -- Volume 4

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Queerlicue #1

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.

Examples...

Karl Wolf. This Lebanese-Canadian singer hit big in 2008 with a thumpy pop-rap-dance fusion of Toto's '80s classic "Africa." He's been roundly criticized for reinterpreting old songs, but remains undeterred.

Karl Wolf (from his Facebook page)
I just discovered this: Wolf gave Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" a makeover in 2013. He lifts the chorus, attaches new verses and teams up with award-winning filmmaker David Zennie for a video that can only be described as a glorious homosexual wet dream. You must see this. Seriously, I can't even be mad at the guy for mangling my favorite Fleetwood Mac song when he's so enthusiastic about it... and buff, tattooed, reeks of testosterone and should definitely have a side career in gay porn.


One more photo of Karl Wolf because, well...


Dover Police DashCam Lip Sync. Police officers in various parts of the United States made the news for some pretty heinous behavior in 2014. Is there any way to offset all the negative publicity? Master Cpl. Jeff Davis of the Dover (Delaware) Police Department thinks so. With the Department's encouragement and consent. the father of four performed a super-amusing lip-sync rendition of Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" from behind the wheel of his cruiser. "I'm kind of a crazy guy anyway," Davis says. Taylor Swift's Twitter response: "LOLOLOLOL THE SASS." Yup, he's sassy.



Nic Bello and Pancho. Born in Turin, Italy, filmmaker Nic Bello has become famous by co-starring in a series of YouTube videos with his pet Chihuahua, Pancho.

Nic and Pancho (from their Facebook page)
Chihuahuas don't seem to have such a great reputation -- they're often described as nervous, and considered easily provoked to attack. When I was a kid, my favorite aunt and uncle had one named Tissy. She would chase her own tail until she got dizzy and collapsed. True story. Anyway, Pancho is clearly not your typical Chihuahua, perhaps because he's devoted to his yoga and meditation practice with Nic. I'd like to do yoga with Nic, too.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Sound of Queer Music 2014, Vol. 4

In this four-part, end-of-the-year series, I'm featuring sixteen queer artists or bands that fucked with the heteronormative cultural bias in 2014.

Volume 4 is probably, mostly and sometimes totally NSFW (Not Safe For Work). Seriously.

Dominic Fournier (AKA Abeardedboy)
He's featured in Holopaw's video for "Dirty Boots" (below)


Queen Mimosa 3. That's the pseudonym chosen by French photographer and musician Jonathan Icher. No, I couldn't find an explanation for the number 3.  Beyond describing his gender as "neutral" on his Facebook page, there's not much information about him out there at all -- even though this persona has been around since 2009 (his first album, So Sexy, includes a song called "You Fuck Like a Dog"). However, if you speak/read French you can probably learn a little more from the handful of interviews he's given. If you'd like to see his amazing photography, go here. Nothing about this guy will leave you indifferent. Trust me.

Queen Mimosa 3 (photo: Jonathan Icher)
Song & Video: "Petit Chat." The name translates in English to small cat or kitten. It's a burst of electropop insanity -- sung in French. Lyrically, it appears to have something to do with how much easier it is to be feline. Directed by Icher himself, the video is a boisterous, demented parody of stuff that generates buzz on the net -- you know, cats or sexy men and women dancing. Lots of half-naked folks here, great beards, crazy costumes, some cats and -- trigger alert! -- a couple of big spiders. And twerking. Also, the lyrics are translated into Japanese at the bottom of the screen.




Cazwell. Real name: Luke Caswell. He's been making music since the late '90s, but probably made his first big impression about a decade ago with an explicit dance release entitled "All Over Your Face." A mashup of hip-hop, dance and electropop, some people have described what he does as "homo hop." Whatever it is, Cazwell does it with irreverence, defiant vulgarity and a wicked sense of humor. Visit his website here. His Facebook page is here.

Cazwell (photo: Athena Maroulis)
Song & Video: "Hot Homo" featuring Big Dipper (A Freestyle Parody of Bobby Shmurda's "Hot N*gga"). A little background: In 2014, rapper Bobby Shmurda released a popular debut single called "Hot Nigga." It's one of those aggressive rap songs about guns and drugs and murder that scares the shit out of white people... for some reason that's never been clear to me. Enter Cazwell and queer bear rapper Big Dipper. They've created a freestyle (and dirty) rap parody that hilariously subverts Shmurda's swagger. (If you want to see the inspiration for this parody, here's the video. Yeah, it's seriously not safe for work either.)




Adore Delano. That's the drag persona created by Danny Noriega, an American Idol semi-finalist (2008) and season 6 contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race. According to a recent Facebook post, she personally regards herself as "a musician in drag." Post Drag Race, she released an album, Till Death Do Us Party -- it peaked at number one on the Billboard Dance/Electronic music chart. So yeah, that musician-in-drag thing is working out pretty good for her so far.

Adore Delano (photo: Magnus Hastings)
Song & Video: "DTF." Just so you know, DTF Stands for "down to fuck. Here's what Delano told The Huffington Post upon the song's release last summer: "I always wanted to create a hoodrat raunchy song. 'DTF' is grimy, pop, hood shit. I'm really excited because the sound is unlike anything else out there." Well, okay. All I know is that it's hard to resist a song with lyrics like, "Everybody get some cherry candy yum yum." Simultaneously silly and provocative, the video is a gloriously garish and terrifically photographed blast. (BTW, the sweaty guy prominently featured here is model Max Emerson. You can follow him on Instagram here. You're welcome.)



Holopaw. Despite having been around since 1997, this is the year I finally (and thankfully) discovered this indie band from Gainesville, Florida. It's fronted by openly queer vocalist John Orth, the lineup has fluctuated over the years but currently consists of Orth, twin brothers Patrick and Ryan Quinney, Jeff McCullen and Matt Radick. Orth's sometimes tremulous voice and his unique approach to songwriting create a sound that doesn't fit easily into any musical category. It's genteel, but sometimes eerie... evocative, but also a little off-kilter. Holopaw's latest release -- Academy Songs, Part 1 -- is available on Amazon; their previous albums are on iTunes.

John Orth (via tumblr)

Song & Video: "Dirty Boots." Really, you should just read the lyrics yourself...

He don't hang around no more
He don't wear those dirty old black boots no more
He don't
He don't switchblade like he did before
He don't drift like the virgin snow
If I could be anything in this world that shines
I would be a switchblade pressed hotly against your thigh
At the top of the stairs like a pink kimono hanging over the rails
He didn't notice
He was taking in the smoke like a French inhaler with his headphones on
He had a beautiful tiger painted on his arm but he can't remember where it came from
No, he can't quite recall the other marks on his body, how they got there either
There were daggers drawn on his skin with a magic marking pen
Lines were bruisy, stance was woozy and his head hung low

Holopaw hired Brooklyn-based filmmaker Adam Baran to create a video. It opens with a short narration by legendary (and semi-reclusive) '70s gay porn star Peter Berlin (Nights in Black Leather), and it stars tumblr sensation Abeardedboy. According to director Baran, "the video follows a sexually-charged day in the life a a gay biker gang in Brooklyn. They awake in a tangle of leather, then suit up and ride to an underground sex club to initiate new members. Boundaries are pushed, but the boys find love, family and the unexpected." So, it's like the most adult Disney move ever made. (Let me remind you again: This is not safe for work or your conservative relatives that watch Fox News.)




BONUS VIDEO! 

Something sweet, sexy and sensual from Matt Alber... "Handsome Man." 

Matt Alber (left) and his beau
This cut from his 2014 release, Wind Sand Stars, is a gentle love song to an adored partner. Alber finds the right romantic notes and wears his gay heart on his sleeve here. The video: two men wake up together and spend their morning in a bubble of profound affection. It's photographed with a surprising intimacy that almost makes you feel like you're eavesdropping.



Wanna see the first three blogs in this series? Volume 1 is here, Volume 2 is here and Volume 3 is here. Enjoy!