Then: Judy Garland Now: Troye Sivan
The gay pop icon hasn't just evolved, it has transgendered. Back then, when being 'musical' was a euphemism for gayness, our icons weren't 'out' gay men whose bravery or ambition we could admire. They were divas whose histrionic performances, soaring voices and sometimes tragic personal lives gave us reference points to hold onto and inspiration to carry on the good fight. Remember Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Shirley Bassey, Barbara Streisand, Dusty Springfield, Bette Midler, Cher and Mariah Carey? How times have changed.
And how important is it that the change has come. With LGB teens four times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual teens, music continues to play a crucial role in the fight against misconceptions that lead to bigotry and repression.
David Bowie, early inspiration.
For too many decades, then, the list of the world’s openly gay pop stars was depressingly short. So, it must fill veteran gay artists like Elton John, George Michael and the recently out super-veteran, Barry Manilow, with pride to see newer generations so unashamedly open about their sexual orientations. Of course, there were always a few individuals who prompted speculation, most probably inspired by the the legendary David Bowie back in the days of Ziggy Stardust. That roll of honour would embrace the likes of the PSbs, Boy George, Mark Almond, Michael Stipe, Jake Shears, George Michael, Freddy Mercury, Ricky Martin, and quite recently, Mika
But hearing your humanity openly represented and validated by pop culture is important, and recently many LGBT musicians have truly stepped up to share their experiences. Here's a list of our personal super seven favourites from the LGBT artists who have been shattering stereotypes in the last few years. Step forward: Troy Sivan, Olly Alexander, Adam Lambert, Sam Smith, Perfume Genius, Frank Ocean and Conchita Wurst. And for the unitiated, here's what to listen out for.
1. Troye Sivan – Wild
The creative prodigy that is Troye Sivan has swept the worldwide album charts with his critically-acclaimed debut Blue Neighborhood, an intense, beautifully crafted concept album about growing up gay in suburbia. Despite starting off a career as a child actor and YouTuber, Troye is now being taken seriously as a musician, and rightfully so. With a single from his first EP TRXYE appearing on the soundtrack for The Fault In Our Stars, Sivan’s music is best compared to fellow Oceanian Lorde. In “Happy Little Pill”, for example, alluring vocals paired perfectly with subdued hip-hop beats and ambient electronic instrumentation.
2. Years and Years (Olly Alexander) – King
Communion, this year’s debut album from British wunderkinds Years and Years, lead by youthful frontman Olly Alexander, is full of assertive synth pop. The tense, energetic 'King' is an insighful exploration of relationship power games and, as the band’s first single to go to number one on the UK singles charts, deserves special attention – not least for the video’s compellingly intricate dance routine.
3 Adam Lambert - Ghost Town
The current reigning champion of family friendly glam-rock, Adam Lambert is, apparently, our generation’s Freddie Mercury. He’s currently touring with the original members of Queen, picking up where the classic rock legends left off. Glambert’s never looked or sounded better than upon the release of Ghost Town. The lead single from the American Idol alumni’s third studio album The Original High, it’s part somber folk ballad, part brooding dance stomper. Adam bridges the disconnect with reliably powerful vocals.
4 Sam Smith - Stay with me
The ubiquitous soulful crooner Sam Smith is presently dominating radio-waves across the world. After winning armfuls of Grammys for his emotional album 'In The Lonely Hour,' Smith has become the de facto mainstream voice of millennial gays, despite or perhaps because of his sexual naivete and romantic inexperience.
5. Perfume Genius (Mike Hadreas) - Queen
It takes a lot of guts for a cisgender male to appear in all of his media with a full face of New Wave make-up, and Perfume Genius’ albums (which explore gender and sexuality with nuance and sensitivity) match his fashion statements with bravado. Equal parts 70’s rock and 80’s pop, Mike Hadreas’ work is both inspiring and catchy. In 2012, Perfume Genius received attention from the blogosphere, but not for his talent. The YouTube ad for his second album was banned and deemed not "family safe," since it showed two men in underwear hugging. The move was an outrageous double standard, considering the ubiquty of heterosexual videos with those images unmissable. More recently, 'Too Bright' has had a less controversial welcome, being honest, compassionate and dynamic, with standout songs like "Queen" dominating music's "best of" lists.
6 Frank Ocean - Nikes
Though Frank Ocean is bi, not gay, his presence as an LGBT artist is too important to ignore. As a member of Odd Future, his coming out was seen as a groundbreaking triumph for a mainstream artist. His stylish and honest solo music compliments his trailblazing persona. After many months of rampant speculation and self-styled intrigue, Frank has followed the release of the visual album 'Endless' and single "Nikes" with a second album, Blonde, though the project had long-gone by the moniker of Boys Don't Cry. The 17-track album features an impressive gallery of guest appearances: including Beyoncé, Kanye West, Pharrell, Andre 3000, Tyler The Creator, James Blake, Jamie xx, and Rick Rubin.
7.Thomas Neuwirth - Rise like a Phoenix
Better known by her drag persona Conchita Wurst, Thomas has had an amazing few years. After appearances on assorted Austrian TV programs, Wurst was selected as the nation's representative to the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, despite significant backlash against her gender nonconformity both within the country and throughout Europe. He/she has now gone global, unashamedly making the performance the hero, or heroine.
Lustralboy says: It's all just another symtom of the revolution that will, over time, sweep away the prejuduice we have suffered too long. Like a phoenix, we rise, never to return to the ashes.
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