Monday, September 21, 2015
The video above, “Hold Each Other” by A Great Big World (ft. Futuristic), was released a few days ago, and I saw it today for the first time. I like it—but that’s not why I’m sharing it. There’s something different about the story of this video.
This is the first of their songs in which Chad King (the one without glasses) sang a song with male pronouns. King, who is openly gay, told Logo TV’s “New Next Now”: “When I sang the line 'hold him,' it made me uncomfortable.”
It’s interesting to me that even now, with the mega-success of Sam Smith and other gay artists, singing honest lyrics could still make a singer uncomfortable. Even so, it doesn’t surprise me, despite the fact that King wasn’t trying to hide anything, and so, had no reason to not sing the correct pronouns.
The reality is that while marriage equality is spreading across the planet, and Western societies have growing acceptance for their gay citizens, we’re nowhere near it being a planet where sexuality is irrelevant. That day, if it ever comes, is decades away—even in Western societies, and in the meantime, there is some risk to living authentically, including for artists.
And yet, things ARE so much better than they’ve ever been, and they’re getting better all the time—in Western countries, at least. We see gay lives reflected throughout pop culture, and more and more often those depictions are honest and authentic. When singers have the courage to be who they are, and they can sing with authenticity, it’s a beautiful thing.
As I’ve said many times, things were very different when I was growing up. The Stonewall Riots happened when I was in primary school (and I didn’t know anything about them at the time). I was in university—maybe a decade later—before I ever heard of a pop singer who was actually gay (the same time I found out there were novelists who were gay). I wasn’t a singer or actor or novelist, but finding that out mattered to me because I could see my reality reflected in their work, even if it was still only subtly sometimes.
Nowadays, I can, among other things, listen to a song in which a man sings about his love for another man, and it makes me feel whole in a way that singers using vague pronouns or using the second person to address a lover could never do. I don’t have to make up my own story for a song—I don’t have to “fill in the blanks”, as I used to put it. Instead, I can just feel the song as my heterosexual friends and family have been able to do their entire lives. To them, this liberation of feeling may seem odd or silly, but it’s something that was missing for a good chunk of my life, and it was never missing from theirs.
So, it’s important to me, and it enables me to experience the magic of songs—or acting or novels or poetry—in a way that had never been possible when I was young. And I really like that.
So, I’m glad that Chad King was able to sing a song with the correct pronouns. I hope it soon becomes the rule rather than the exception.
Below is the first song of theirs I heard, “Everyone Is Gay” from 2013. It came about when they were challenged to write the "gayest song ever" (details are in the YouTube description). I thought it was visually interesting, and that the song was a nice, peppy pop tune, but I didn’t particularly like it for a number of reasons, so I didn’t post it at the time.
With more freedom and openness comes the certainty that there will be stuff that I don’t care for—and, eventually, I’m sure, even stuff that I loathe. But that day is not today. I’ll enjoy that fact while it lasts.