An Honest Showing
Women traditionally dominate the queer rock and folk music genres. Many of them are also able to reach beyond a gay audience. The most successful gay male musicians tend to stick to pop and dance music.
But a generation of gay male folk and rock artists is emerging with break-out potential from their core gay fan base. Eric Himan is one of the best, gaining fans at festivals and coffee houses around the country.
Himan touches listeners with heartfelt melodies and earnest lyrics. Mainstream chart success might not be on the immediate horizon, but his talent is steadily attracting a diverse group of fans.
The folk crooner, 24, released his third album "All For Show" this month, following his debut self-titled record and 2002’s "I Go On." He continues his public soul-searching on the new disc with introspective songs that zoom in on love, personal strength and relationships.
Himan was born in South Carolina but moved a lot as the son of an Air Force officer. After losing his mother and sister in a car accident at the age of four, Himan used music to come to terms with his loss.
His father, an avid guitar player, encouraged his son to play, and he developed a passion for rock, blues and folk and started to create his own music.
Himan is a work in progress who is maturing as an artist with each new release. "All For Show" is far more personal than his previous work, Himan says.
"I wanted to create a CD that was a little bit more honest, a little more about myself," he says. "My debut was really about if I could do it, and my second record was mostly about experimenting with different genres of music."
No wonder the singer chose the flamenco-infused song "All For Show" as the disc’s title track.
"It sums up a lot of the issues on the CD," Himan says. "I sing about what’s true and honest, and when you put it all out there, it is all for show."
The song "Luxury’s Definition" explains that being able to speak out in honesty is his definition of luxury.
"For some, it is free speech; for others, money and for some it is equal rights," Himan says. "Luxury to me is the ability to tell the truth and not be sorry for it."
On the catchy "Kinda Hard," the crooner sings, "Kinda hard to be yourself when everyone has something to say."
Himan says the song is about his insecurity as an artist.
"As a singer, I take risks and take a path that is unpredictable," he says. "This automatically comes with some sense of insecurity."
One of the most poignant songs on the album is "My Decision," which deals with rape and its aftermath. The song was inspired by a real-life experience of a friend, Himan says.
"Every year, she is still confronted by the day of the rape," he says.
The well-toned, tattoed singer is a welcome fresh face in queer music. His unique appearance, musical talent and obvious sex appeal set him up for the big time.
Himan says that it will take honesty to achieve mainstream success.
"People can tell you to do certain things to please people, but you can’t fool the audience," he says. "It is like as with children. They know what is real and not."
But Himan doesn't worry if his sexual orientation works for or against his career.
"All that is important to me is to be honest," he says. "I can not be who I’m not, simply because somebody else doesn’t like it. I rather have people listen to my music and know everything about me to understand where I’m coming from."
A Family Affair
Capital Records has finally announced the official track listing for the "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy" soundtrack. This compilation, which will hit stores on February 10th, features a few interesting surprises such as the mash up of Fischerspooner and Billy Squier on "Everybody Wants You To Emerge" by gay superstar remixer Barry Harris (ex-Thunderpuss).
Safe bet inclusions are Kylie Minogue with the sultry "Slow," "Move Your Feet" from Danish gay/straight duo
The disc will also include the Wayne Isham video of the Widelife smash.
The entire line-up:
1. "All Things" (Just Keep Getting Better) by Widelife with Simone Denny
2. "Good Luck" by Basement Jaxx f/Lisa Kekaula
3. "Slow" (Chemical Brothers mix) by Kylie Minogue
4. "Move Your Feet" by Junior Senior"Junior Senior
5. "You Promised Me (Tu Es Foutu)" by In-grid
6. "Superstar" by Jamelia
7. "Everybody Wants You To Emerge" (Barry Harris Revamp) by Fischerspooner vs. Billy Squier
8. "Sunrise" (Jason Nevins Remix) by Duran Duran
9. "Never Coming Home" (Gonna Live My Life Remix) by Sting
10. "An Area Big Enough To Do It In" by Prophet Omega
11. "Extraordinary" by Liz Phair
12. "Are You Ready For Love" by Elton John
Interview with Dannii Minogue
Dannii Minogue has been dominating the Billboard dance charts for a number of weeks with her global smash “I Begin To Wonder” from her album "Neon Nights" Kylie’s younger sister is happy to finally step out of her sister’s shadow.
"Neon Nights" features a pulsating blend of sleek underground dance, pop and electronica that appears inspired by London nightlife and ‘80s pop music. “I was inspired by a lot of the music I grew up with – Madonna, Scritti Politi and Kraftwerk,” said Minogue in an exclusive interview with Arjan in a London airport lounge.
Minogue is not just a pop singer. She designs her own clothing line called DANNII and has continued to act throughout her singing career. Most notably, she joined the London cast of Macbeth in 1999 and played in the Vagina Monologues in 2001.
She also is a celebrated model and even posed nude for the international edition of Playboy in the mid-nineties.
Kylie Minogue’s younger sister admits there is no rivalry between the two. "I really respect what Kylie is doing at the moment,” said Minogue. “We were raised in a family of love and support and that has not changed."
However, Dannii agrees that it has been often hard to find the respect from critics, fans and the media who have always compared her to Kylie. "It is hard to be compared all the time to Kylie," said Minogue. "On the other hand, however, people will always try to compare you to somebody. Look at Britney and Christina."
The star feels that having a famous sister also works in her favor. "My last name is getting a lot of attention. It makes a great headline. It opens doors and provides a lot of opportunity and I’m very thankful for it. I wouldn’t want it any other way."
Kylie recently released her latest CD "Body Language" in Europe. “I have not listened to the entire album yet," said Minogue. "I went to her release party in London and I really enjoyed the whole French Brigitte Bardot vibe."
"She is obviously inspired by her love life," smirks Minogue, hinting at her sister’s relationship with French actor Olivier Martinez.
She is particularly thankful to her gay fans who she credits for much of her success.
"Gays have always been a part of my music," said the star. “I have never jumped on the pink bandwagon to increase my popularity. It just came naturally."
She explains that gays connect instantly with the spirit of her album. "'Neon Nights' is all about having fun and going out dancing,” said Minogue. "Gays love to have a good time and this is the perfect party record for them."
The singer feels strongly about social equality for gays, but believes that the struggle for equal right such as marriage is not a black and white issue. "Some kind of certificate of commitment is important. It doesn’t have to be a marriage," said Minogue. "Something official that is accepted by all government bodies would be sufficient. As long as you can have a special day together that is recognized by the government is what counts."
She smiles, "I have been married and divorced myself. So I know what it means."
The sleek "Neon Nights" features an eclectic group of producers and writers, such as Nemo, Jean Claude Ades, Korpi & Blackcell and Jewels & Stone.
The star explains that it was important for her to get away from the trends that were in the London club scene. “I wanted to come up with a sound that could be identified as mine.” said Minogue. "That's why I chose producers and writers that were young and fresh, and that were not necessarily from the UK."
"A fan once wrote me that my music really puts her in the mood to go dancing. I think that's what I wanted to achieve with this album with songs that make you feel sexy and great."
No Average Entity
If Boy George and Grace Jones had a baby his name could be Kevin Aviance. The androgynous Manhattan fashion diva is warming up audiences around the country with his extravagant live appearances and the release of his second album “Entity.”
The New York club scene has known about Aviance, a former D.C. resident, for years. Now the performance artist is ready to turn his act up a notch to cross over from established club maven to mainstream newcomer.
In a world of overproduced teen pop, punk rock and rap, Kevin Aviance adds new-millennium exuberance to the music scene with his eclectic shows and catchy dance tunes.
It’s not surprising that he says Boy George and Grace Jones are his primary sources of inspiration.
Born Eric Snead in Richmond, Va., Aviance took his name from the legendary House of Aviance in Washington D.C., where he started his career. The entertainer joined the hedonistic group of singers, dancers and others and became involved in a world of avant-garde fashion, art and theater.
After a stint in Miami, Aviance moved to New York City and launched a successful singing career that included multiple Billboard dance hits such as “Din Din Da,” “Rhythm Is A Bitch” and, more recently, “Alive,” which has become a gay circuit classic.
On “Entity,” Aviance continues his uplifting tribal house formula with the help of producers Tony Moran, Amy Chamos and Nick de Biase. The threesome previously collaborated on the soundtrack to the gay movie “Circuit.”
The album kicks off with a heavy dose of attitude on “Aviancetro,” a spoken track accompanied by a single handclap has Aviance rhythmically commanding “all the colors of the rainbow tribe” to “look up” and “feel the sun.”
This tribal tune is followed by “Alive,” the pumping house anthem with infectious string hooks and background vocals. The album also includes a bonus mix of the song by Victor Calderone and The Tribalist.
Tony Moran’s production skills are omnipresent on the album, with his polished dance arrangements. Tracks such as “Give It Up,” “Power” and “Ready To Go” are plain house songs that favor Moran’s fierce soundboard skills over Aviance’s vocal contributions.
Aviance is strong on the climactic ballad “Seattle,” which features some electrical guitar sections that are refreshingly unusual for the club singer.
Matthew Brookshire and Curtis Moore wrote the song, which exposes the performer’s dramatic side when he laments about a broken relationship.
Other highlights include the radio-friendly “Freak It (Live Out Loud)” with its playful ’80s-inspired synth loops and voice-alterations, and the up-tempo ballad “Fire,” which includes elements that are slightly reminiscent of Dirty Vegas’ alt-pop hit “Days Go By.”
Aviance’s most distinct contribution on this album is the persistent lyrics about self-confidence and determination. Each song along with the spoken interludes on the album capture his drive for tolerance and acceptance. But this powerful spirit is often diminished by the overabundant beats and baselines.
Pink Goes Punk
Pop-turned rock chick Pink released her third record "Try This" at the end of November. On the album singer makes another turn and introduces its listeners to a spunky punk vibe.
Pink, aka Alicia Moore, is steadily become a rainbow icon with both a growing queer and lesbian following. Not in the least for her unconventional way of thinking.
"I like licking people. But tongue action is also sexy, whether it's boys with boys, boys with girls, or girls with girls,” Pink told Avanova in September. “I believe there are no limits. And sex is fun, you know."
This carefree attitude is also reflected on “Try This.”
The singer collaborated once again with lesbian songwriter and producer Linda Perry, but also included Tim Armstrong of punk band Rancid behind the soundboards.
“Try This” is a departure from her lyrical catharsis on “Missundaztood.” After spilling her gut, the star decided to have some fun and experiment with edgier sounds.
The album kicks off with the poignant “Trouble,” which is the first single off the album.
The powerful “God Is A DJ,” easily sums up Pink’s creed when she sings, “You get what you’re given. It’s all how you use it.”
On “Last To Know,” the singer sheds her anger about a reluctant boyfriend. The track creates a fitting bridge to some of the punkier songs that follow.
The singer switches gears on the Armstrong-produced “Save My Life,” “Humble Neighborhoods,” and “Unwind” (an ode to rock diva Janis Joplin) that all pack a powerful punch and raise Pink to a new level of creativity.
Perry’s “Try Too Hard,” “Waiting For Love” and “Catch Me While I am Sleeping” prove that the two have found a durable chemistry that unites Perry’s skill with Pink’s spunk.
Pink demonstrates what can become of a young artist who is nurtured and allowed creative expression. Instead of being another flavor of the moment, Arista Records (and its president L.A. Reid in particular) gave the star the opportunity to find her voice and more importantly “the opportunity to fail,” as Pink writes in the album’s liner notes.
“Try This” is invigorating in style and substance and will easily pass for one of the most noteworthy releases of the year.