Pop singer Ari Gold is in a much better place than three year ago. After dealing with both personal and professional difficulties, he traded adversity for a new sense of optimism, reflected on his second album, "Space Under Sun."
Gold purposely took a lengthy break after his 2001 self-titled debut, which garnered him an Outmusic Award for Outstanding Debut Recording.
"Three years ago was the end of a lot of big stuff in my life," says Gold, 27. "My five-year relationship ended, I went through changes with my professional situation and there were a lot of things that were going on with my family."
The album’s title track, "Space Under Sun," appropriately sums up how the photogenic artist overcame this difficult time.
"That song provided a lyrical framework for the project. It is about finding a place in the world," Gold says. "I think it has become a very positive album. It is about overcoming some of my struggles and being a survivor."
Gold, who grew up in an orthodox Jewish family in the Bronx, admits that he has still not completely found his own "space under the sun."
"I’m definitely heading in the right direction, he says. "I know for sure that I’m most happy performing, writing and making music. That’s the one thing that remains constant in my life."
Gold describes "Space Under Sun" as "an intergalactic hybrid of ‘80s and contemporary R&B, spacey pop and funky smooth soul."
In other words, Gold’s music can be classified as catchy, middle of the road pop that features his light, soulful vocals and some techno production tricks that give the compositions a current flavor.
He wrote most of the lyrics on the CD, but received help from famed songwriters and producers such as Peter Amato (Leanne Rimes), Marsha Malamet (Luther Vandross, Chaka Kahn) and Steve Skinner (Rent, Bette Midler).
"During the creating of the album, I basically went wherever the music sent me," Gold says. "If there was a producer in Atlanta that was recommended to me, I flew out there to work on a song. In the end, I spent time in New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York and London to record."
Gold is a member of a select group — openly gay, male pop singers.
"If you’re measuring success by access to MTV or access to major record labels it is very possible that my sexuality has stopped me from being in those type of mainstream places," Gold says.
"Gays have more visibility on television, but music seems to be the last frontier. The most MTV will do is feature a Christina Aguilera video with two kissing men," he adds.
Initially, he was even advised not to disclose his sexual orientation.
"This was part of my struggle three years ago," he says. "These people did not understand my vision and wanted to keep my sexuality under wraps."
But for Gold, hiding his sexual orientation was never an option.
"As an artist you write about your life," Gold says. "How can I not include such an important part of my life in what I do?"
The song "Fan-tastic" is an ode to gay divas and Madonna in particular, he says. But Gold adds that gay men should not just look at women as role models.
"There is noting wrong with female role models, but we really need some gay men who can serve as an example," he says.
Part of a commercial pop image is a heavy dose of sex appeal. Gold is not afraid to take of his shirt and flaunt his toned torso. In fact, in conjunction with his new album, the singer also released a 2004 photo calendar.
"Even though I can be shy, I like to show off at times," he smirks. "I love fashion and style, and my music is sexy. Showing off and creating a fantasy is just part of the whole package.
"If Christina and Justin can do it, why can’t I?"