Was k. d. lang’s newest album, Sing it Loud, released this April on your radar?
Perhaps I am not the singers’ target audience, because I learned of the album by complete chance rather than fandom. When I was picking up my Pike’s Place coffee at the Starbucks counter about a week ago, one of those free iTunes cards at was staring up at me. As a kid who heard “Constant Craving” on the airwaves during the era of candy-coated (and delicious!) soft rock and early hip-hop, I could not come to appreciate her. The lyrics were serious, the
music video black and white and tone frankly tragic!
Unfortunately, since then, I have only heard one other song in the mainstream- “Anywhere but here”. How strange for someone so critically acclaimed. I guess she’s big in Canada? I am finally coming to explore lang’s music and liking what I hear. Her voice is spectacular, strong yet velvety and her knack for a rich layering of alt-country, jazz, rock and a French bluesy sensuous chançon new to my ears. (Her uncanny resemblance to Patricia Kass anyone?) On Sing it Loud lang has also been compared to Roy Orbison- I’d say her vocal and lyrical style are a bit more of our times than good old Roy’s.
The album’s performers are not simply lang, please call them: k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang; the “Bang” a band lang put together to accompany her along for the album. With a mind tuned into lang’s gender and orientation, I presumed that “Siss” was shorthand for the black Second Wave Feminist address- “sista” only to find out that it is a band made up of five 30-something guys! To my ignorance, “siss” is the lesser known to “hiss”, seemingly evoking the sound of a snare drum. The band’s musical director Pisapia and lang collaborated on five of the songs. And, it is the second time since the very inception of her career that lang has a band entirely of her own.
k.d. lang is a Canadian, a guitar player, performer and song writer, and a Scorpio like myself. Her career has spanned an impressive oeuvre of 16 albums and 4 Grammys, including compilation and specialty albums such as the 1993 “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” and the 2002 collaborative “A Wonderful World (w/Tony Bennett)”.
For more of a critical review of the album I recommend reading either the NY Daily News review, or the one from the L.A. Times Music Blog however, my primary interest lies in the serendipities of cultural memories, lang’s open sexuality and the events of the 1990s.
After her successful 1992 cross-over album Ingenue, lang hit the mainstream and wasted no time in coming out in The Advocate that same year. I think that for many, what made her “hot” rather than her music, was that famous cover. The August Vanity Fair 1993 cover Crawford is shown stumbling back from excitement with her head thrown back holding a barber’s razor to an absolutely debonair lang. Under the supervision of photographer Herb Ritts, Crawford is straddling her in another photo. They say this cover took place during the height of the era of “lesbian chic” and even though it was sparked by the fashion industry, it wasn’t without its merits.
Cindy Crawford herself had been nicknamed “baby Gia” for her resemblance to the queer model Gia Carangi. Gia was a heroin addict who died at the age of 26 from complications of AIDS, later to be portrayed by Jolie in a 1998 biography. Unfortunately, a backlash came from the Baby Gia who could not handle the media’s teasing. On May 6, 1994 Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford spent $30,000 on a full-page ad in the London Times. “We are heterosexual and monogamous and take our commitment to each other very seriously. Reports of a divorce are totally false. We remain very married. We both look forward to having a family. Marriage is hard enough without all these negative speculations.” The couple separates six months later.
At the age of 46, Crawford flaunts her face, figure and name to sell merchandise and now as an icon and personality and no longer simply a model, she also gets interviews. I find her recent participation in the TSUM adds for one of Moscow’s most expensive and established malls curious, entertaining and intriguing. The line is Victoria Beckham’s.
I suppose it was her right to discourage those rumors, and yet there’s something ugly about such adamant “I am straight” chest-beating. Honestly! But, such politics cannot nearly prevent me from enjoying the photos and so I may be damned for my lack of self-control! On the other hand, lang, a “mannish woman” who is much acclaimed for her music is being rated by Askmen.com a meager 45% for sex appeal but an enviable 88% for success. The tension between these two makes a lesbian uncomfortable, especially because they qualify that sure, she is not feminine, and hence not attractive but lesbians [the Others] would “obviously” find her a great catch. Maybe I dwell on negativity but here’s more of their asinine opinion:
“Nevertheless, Lang’s reluctance to be categorized and labeled has kept her from becoming a mainstream sex symbol like other pop singers. Her unapologetic homosexuality and her refusal to fit in with traditional femininity has further limited her appeal.” Thanks Askmen.com for letting me know.
It’s strange to think that almost 18 years have passed since those Crawford/lang photographs graced Vanity Fair and it seems that many lesbians in the media have been completely declawed and mainstreamed (Ellen, sort of), while others are closeted (Queen Latifah- c’mon!). Moreover, even though breathtaking femme beauties such as Jennifer Beals as Bette on the L Word are adding glamour and strength to the representation of our community, I think many of us hope to see acknowledgment for the wild kind of diversity (and variety in sex appeal) that we know is the real face of our more radical and vibrant members. On the other hand, I usually return to the romance and subversive power that lies by staying in the margins.
K.d. lang- perhaps I was too young to appreciate you before, and I resent radio for not playing more of your amazing music. I’ll be looking to download your album. In the meantime- keep on butch sista’!!!