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