Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Sound of Queer Music 2015, Vol. 3

Volume three in a five-part, end-of-year series celebrating artists and bands that fucked with the heteronormative cultural bias in 2015.

Russell Elliot. R&B is a musical genre without much queer representation, so Elliot -- who identifies as a pansexual feminist -- is engaged in some genuinely groundbreaking work. Bonus: he's an impressive vocalist with serious songwriting skills. You can find his debut EP, Russell Elliot, on iTunes or CD Baby.

Russell Elliot
Song & Video: "Around." Elliot told Huffington Post what inspired the tune: "I fell for a boy in college who wanted me behind closed doors and wanted the rest of his comfortable straight life on the other side of that door partying with the 'normal' kids." It's dusky, contemporary R&B from an unapologetically queer perspective. The video is beautifully directed by Zoe Rain, featuring choreography by the award-winning Kuperman Brothers.

Neon Trees. Here's a fascinating bit of info about this Utah-based quartet: all four members belong to The Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints. Yup, they're Mormons. Since 2010 they've been crafting a smart, catchy hybrid of dance/pop/rock that evokes the '80s but doesn't feel stuck there. In 2014, lead vocalist/keyboardist Tyler Glenn came out as gay in Rolling Stone, causing some controversy. But he addressed it with confident humor via Twitter: "Yes, I am a happy and healthy Mormon gay pop star. I don't know what it all means, but I'm okay with it." And his excellent band didn't skip a beat.

Neon Trees, left to right: Chris Allen, Branden Campbell, Tyler Glenn & Elaine Bradley 
Song & Video: "Songs I Can't Listen To." Don't most of us have at least one song we can't listen to anymore because of its association with someone who broke our heart? Neon Trees has a forceful take on that. And while the band's videos often include covet-worthy outfits and playfully kitschy visuals, this time they've dialed it back to something more reality-based. Glenn and Oscar-winning screenwriter (Milk) and LGBTQ activist Dustin Lance Black appear as a couple headed for a break up. Yes, the band of Mormons went there.

These Australian sisters are the world's biggest female DJ duo. And while they do not identify as L, G, B or T, they are aggressively queer-friendly, playing gay music events, collaborating with a diverse range of artists and featuring same-sex couples in their videos (like the gorgeous clip for "It Feels.").

NERVO: sisters Olivia (left) & Miriam
Song & Video: "The Other Boys." It's throbbing, unabashed 21st Century disco featuring vocals by the Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears and Aussie diva Kylie Minogue. Add legendary producer and guitarist Nile Rodgers to the mix and you get something lively and dazzling. (FYI, the original, extended album version features a lot more of Nile Rodgers' terrific guitar work.)  Campy good fun is the only way to describe the video.

Volume one in this series is here. Volume two is here.

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