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‘80s resurrection?

Kylie Minogue, music, gay news, Washington Blade

Kylie Minogue’s ‘Kiss Me Once’ is slated to drop March 18. (Image courtesy FlyLife)

Is your iPod ready for some major gay action? Before we get to the spring releases, though, a couple albums that dropped in February you might have missed.

Coinciding with the premiere of the latest season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the queen of all drag queens, RuPaul, released her sixth full-length studio effort, “Born Naked” on Feb. 24.  RuPaul enlists the help of who’s who of underground pop including Weather Girl/dance legend Martha Wash, Australian soul singer Clairy Browne and My Crazy Girlfriend vocalist Myah Marie. “Born Naked” also features a cover of “Let the Music Play” featuring Michelle Visage.

Catie Curtis released her 13th studio album “Flying Dream” on Feb. 25 which treats her fans to 10 new tracks which the out singer/songwriter describes as a “lustrous long player with subtle jazz, electronic and AM pop shadings.”

Hitmaker Pharrell Williams dropped his highly anticipated studio set “GIRL” this week. Packed with star-studded collaborations featuring Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, Miley Cyrus and Daft Punk, “GIRL” promises to take listeners on a pop-funk joy ride.

Gay pop legend George Michael is slated to release his first album in seven years, “Symphonica,” on March 18. Recorded during his Symphonica Tour in 2011 and 2012, Michael’s latest album will feature live classics and covers.  The first single is dramatic ballad “Let Her Down Easy.”

Sure to be on repeat into the summer is Kylie Minogue’s latest album “Kiss Me Once” scheduled for March 18. Lead single “Into the Blue” picks up where “Get Outta My Way” left off with dance-infused goodness. Minogue collaborated with pop hit-makers Sia and Pharell Williams this time around and features Enrique Iglesias on the duet, “Beautiful.”

Another gay pop legend, Boy George, makes his first return to the music scene since 1995’s “Cheapness & Beauty” with the March 25 release of “This Is What I Do.” George’s latest full-length LP features an eclectic sound with jazz, country and soft rock stylings accompanied by George’s signature soulful voice.

Cyndi Lauper celebrates the 30th anniversary of her hugely successful album “She’s So Unusual” with a re-release scheduled for April 1. The two-disc commemorative set features signature hits “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Time After Time” on disc one and a combination of remixes, demos and live recordings on disc two.

Speaking of Lauper, fresh off a Tony- and Grammy-winning turn in her hit “Kinky Boots,” out Broadway legend Billy Porter will release “Billy’s Back on Broadway” on April 15. Lauper guests on “Happy Days”/”Get Happy” on the standards-heavy set.

Ally Joan Osborne is back with her eighth studio album “Love and Hate” dropping April 8. The 12-song collection features an American roots music sound with poetic lyrics.  Osborne enlisted the help of producer Jack Petruzzelli.

Soulstress Kelis is hungry to get back into the music game with her latest LP “Food,” scheduled for an April 22 release. Departing from the EDM club sounds of 2010’s “Brave,” Kelis is venturing into a varied sound with “Food” complete with a full band that includes a horn section and string orchestra. Lead single is the raw and delicious “Jerk Ribs.”

Dolly Parton is a back with her years-in-the-making “Blue Smoke” on May 13. Parton promises a “little bit of something for everyone.” The 12-track release features the Grammy-nominated collaboration with Kenny Rogers, “You Can’t Make Old Friends.”

LGBT supporter Tori Amos returns with her 14th full-length effort, “Unrepentant Geraldlines” due May 13. The album sees Amos returning to her roots after a departure toward more classically inspired albums. “Unrepentant Geralines” combines Amos’ signature piano and  thoughtful contemporary pop sound with her appreciation for visual art.

Originally discovered by none other than Madonna, bi singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello, is preparing for the reveal of her 11th studio album, “Comet, Come to Me” slated for a June release. Ndegeocello’s latest offering features a groove-driven and infectiously melodic sound. Lead single is the laid-back soul number “Continuous Performance.”

Out Music Award winner Matt Zarley is gearing up for the release of his latest release, “Hopeful Romantic” also expected in June. Supporting the release is uplifting dance cut, “Somebody 4 Everybody” which saw a single release in early February.

Out organist Cameron Carpenter releases his Sony Masterworks debut “If You Could Read My Mind” on April 22.

07
Mar
2014

3 great albums you probably missed

(Courtesy Saguardo Road Records, 204 Records and Sophie B. Hawkins)

(Courtesy Saguardo Road Records, 204 Records and Sophie B. Hawkins)

How much grit and growl you like in your pop music is like creamer in coffee — it’s a personal thing, though most would agree there’s such a thing as overkill. Three great ‘90s singer/songwriters, who all deserve to be much higher on the cultural radar than they are but whom, for various and far-ranging reasons have become victims of zeitgeist nonchalance, released new albums this year that are sadly in serious danger of falling through the cracks.

What’s most surprising is that the two who’ve always been known for rough, sometimes aggressive vocals — Joan Osborne and Ashley Cleveland — have reined in the rougher edges while Sophie B. Hawkins, whose voice has always been a scion of crystalline clarity, sounds sandier and patchier than ever. But in a good way.

It’s a minor miracle that these albums were released at all considering the solid decade of record industry upheaval. There’s little cushion left to support veteran but not top-selling artists, so they’re left to their own devices. They each deserve kudos for soldiering on.

Joan Osborne had done a few indie projects but had — by galaxies — her biggest commercial season in 1995 and 1996 with the album “Relish,” buoyed by her monster hit “One of Us” (which only sounds like a novelty at first; it really has staying power).

Her follow-up, 2000’s “Righteous Love,” took forever to come out. “Bring it One Home,” which dropped in March, is the latest in a string of quasi-concept albums. It’s mostly covers and skews heavy in the blues/R&B vein and sizzles with classy takes on second-tier standards. Unless you’re a historian, there will be cuts here that are new to you as they were to me. Osborne skillfully finds material here that’s not too obscure but not super obvious either (joanosborne.com). Standouts are the fun Ray Charles cover “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” the hard-grooving “Shake Your Hips” and the raucously up tempo “Roll Like a Big Wheel.”

Sophie B. Hawkins managed massive hits on her first two albums — “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Love” from 1992’s “Tongues and Tails” and “As I Lay Me Down” from 1994’s masterpiece “Whaler,” but hit tougher times, at least commercially, by the end of the decade with 1999’s “Timbre.” Her new album, “The Crossing” dropped in June and is her first release since 2004’s uneven-but-still-worthy “Wilderness.”

“The Crossing” is a rich and subversive record that needs several listens to sink in. Initially it sounds pleasant enough but not earth shattering, but slowly its jazzy, wrenching torch songs sneak up on your consciousness and you realize it has several great moments — the bluesy “Heart & Soul of a Woman,” the climax-stoking “Gone Baby” and the deliciously melodic “The Land the Sea and the Sky.” Hawkins includes acoustic remakes of her two monster hits — “Damn” and “Lay” — as bonus cuts and they’re so raw and bare, it’s almost startling. Startlingly effective, too, and wondrous to hear in such unvarnished style (sophiebhawkins.com).

Ashley Cleveland may have the smallest sales of the three but she’s also got three Grammys, all in the rock/gospel category where she set up camp in the early ‘90s after a commercially unfruitful launch at Atlantic with 1991’s “Big Town,” a great and criminally overlooked album, by the way. Her later albums, like 2002’s “Second Skin” and “2006’s “Before the Daylight’s Shot” aren’t as solid as her earlier work, but records like 1993’s “Bus Named Desire” and 1995’s “Lesson of Love” are so masterful, it would be hard for anything to stand up against such classics. She rebounded on sure footing with 2009’s gospel standards project “God Don’t Never Change.” This year’s “Beauty in the Curve” is available but isn’t on iTunes and can only be ordered through her site (ashleycleveland.com).

It’s definitely worth the effort to get — her greasy, garage-y interpretations of gospel songs like “City On a Hill,” “Walk in Jerusalem” and “Thief at the Door,” are balms to an ear burned out on too much of the usual Nashville-santitized contemporary Christian music. Black gospel knows this and has managed to sidestep it for the most part, although that brings its own issues — another essay. But Cleveland brings just enough left-of-center sensibilities to her gospel music to remain peerless. She often succeeds with simplicity — closing cut “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind on Jesus” is just her vocal with electric guitar and she succeeds in convincing you that’s just as it should be. Anything else would have been clutter.

26
Dec
2012