|That's JbDubs. He raps and dances. I think he stole that heel from Beyonce.|
Here are ten artists or bands that fucked with the heteronormative cultural bias in a variety of enjoyable ways during 2013.
Matt Alber - "Tightrope"
I had the pleasure of seeing this guy perform live at a small venue in Portland, Oregon, last July. Just a guitar, a keyboard and his truly amazing voice. He's having some fun here with a splendid dance mix of a lovely, hopeful ballad. Also, he may be the most adorable man on Earth. Want more? Go here.
Pet Shop Boys - "Thursday"
Without question, they are my favorite duo of all time. It's hard to believe these guys have been queering up pop since the mid '80s. In 2013, they toured the world and gave us a savvy, often inspired and largely dancefloor-ready release entitled Electric. Here's one of the album's highlights, featuring a guest appearance by rapper Example.
Conquistador - "I'm Alive"
After the release of a brilliant single and experimental video in late 2012, I couldn't wait for more Conquistador. A confident and trippy four-song EP entitled IIWII eventually followed. Nylon magazine described it as "woozy psychedelic rock... roller skating past tech wreckage under the lights of a spinning disco ball." And I can't stop listening to it. Love. This. Man.
Mary Lambert - "She Keeps Me Warm"
She was the guest female vocalist on the unexpected Macklemore and Ryan Lewis marriage-equality anthem, Same Love. That collaboration led to this song, a beautifully intimate extension of the original composition. Her debut EP dropped in late 2013, too. Wanna know more? Go here.
Big Dipper - "Dick Hang Low"
As white queer bear rappers go... wait, Big Dipper is pretty much filling that particular musical cubbyhole all by himself right now. Anyway, his music is raunchy and in your face, so it's not for everybody, but dude can write a hook. Also, it's incredibly refreshing to witness how comfortable he is in his own body. And after you see this video, you'll probably accuse me of making the understatement of the year. (Do I really have to say it? This is so not safe for work.)
Boy George - "King of Everything"
After sporadically dropping singles for a while, the inimitable Boy George chose 2013 to release his first studio album in nearly 20 years. This Is What I Do is more than a comeback -- it's a damn good, highly personal record. His voice, deep and husky now, has the discernible gravitas of a man who's lived a tumultuous life and made a successful course correction. Check out the album's opening number below.
AVAN LAVA - "Feels Good"
They are TC Hennes, Le Chey, Ian Pai, Andrew Schneider, Drew Citron, and Jo Lampert. The goal of this band is simple: Get the audience dancing. And the consensus about their live shows is that they're over-the-top, energetic, celebratory dance parties. By the end of 2013, they'd released two EPs, played a string of sold-out shows in New York City and toured the U.S. with English disco diva Little Boots. "Feels Good" is a terrifically upbeat song; the video captures the essence of a live performance.
Eli Lieb - "Young Love"
This native Iowan became a YouTube sensation in 2013, astonishingly wracking up millions of views for videos of his original songs and covers of everybody from Imagine Dragons and Adele to Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus. In fact, his cover of the Cyrus hit, "Wrecking Ball," is strikingly excellent -- and he wisely chooses not to lick a sledgehammer in the video (through I suspect quite a few people would like to see him strip naked like Cyrus). You can check out his YouTube channel here, and his website here.
JbDubs - "Dirty Mouth"
JbDubs (born James Whiteside) became a viral sensation in 2011 with the video for his first song, "I Hate My Job," in which he put his background as a ballet dancer to good use and proved to have some extraordinary legs. And moves. Two albums of fierce pop/dance/rap followed and so did more videos. His latest, "Dirty Mouth," popped up on his YouTube channel in late December. The man knows how to put on a fiercely choreographed and comically perverse show.
John Grant - "GMF"
Back in 2010, Grant released a critically acclaimed album entitled, Queen of Denmark, which was named Best Album of 2010 by Mojo magazine. The following year he found out he was HIV+ and subsequently disclosed his status to an audience at London's Meltdown Festival. In the summer of 2013, he told HIV Plus magazine: "I talked about it because I was about to sing a song that I'd written about it, and I didn't know if I should say anything. And at that moment, I was like, you know what, it's no big deal. There's millions of people dealing with this... I don't feel like I should be ashamed of it." Next came his sophomore release, Pale Green Ghosts, a collection of gorgeous, folk/alternative/electronica songs that was easily one of the best albums of the year. It's an intoxicating mix of visceral truth, fascinating intimacy and devilish wit. "GMF" is a not-particularly-safe-for-work little masterpiece. (Hint: GMF stands for greatest mother fucker.)
Now, let's see what 2014 has in store for us. Happy Queer New Year!