To paraphrase camp rock hero Morrissey, some years are gayer than others. As far as pop music goes, 2004 will be remembered as a remarkably queer year.
Almost every major gay artist had something on the shelves in 2004. George Michael retired from his retirement to release his first album in eight years Patience, including one big hit, Amazing, which unfortunately now graces the ads for one of the TV networks. Considering how long it was between drinks, Michael slipped back into the charts without too much trouble.
Less obviously hit-worthy was Elton John’s effort, Peachtree Road. Between his infamous you’re pigs! outburst at Taiwanese journalists and his more recent slag-off of fellow gay rock star George Michael, Elton has maintained a certain celebrity. It’s a shame his record didn’t cause a similar stir. Peachtree Road received reviews ranging from diluted to hopelessly bland and went straight to the back of fan’s shelves.
Better was k.d. lang’s latest covers album, Hymns Of The 49th Parallel, in which she proved herself to have one of the world’s most beautiful voices. In taking on singers from Leonard Cohen to Joni Mitchell, lang demonstrated that what she does best is other people’s songs. Hymns -¦ also spread lang’s fan base even further, making her less of a lesbian singer and more of an Opera House oddity.
Melissa Etheridge’s Lucky turned out to be an album full of love songs to wife Tammy Lynn Michaels, a back-flip from her previous bitter-love-lost effort Skin in 2001. Some fans said it was a shame Etheridge’s love life was too good to recreate her angsty heydays -“ Etheridge did tragedy so well. While her music got loved-up, Melissa had a bad year in other ways, with a diagnosis and subsequent surgery for breast cancer.
Even Boy George had an album out, of sorts, in the form of the original Broadway cast recording of George’s Taboo. Playing Leigh Bowery, our Boy’s version of I’ll Have You All, a tribute to having heaps of random gay sex, impressed the Star’s Tim Benzie.
Coolest newcomers are the Scissor Sisters, a New York-spawned glam-riot act with attitude and a fabulous disregard for all things square. The Sisters managed one of the year’s most catchy songs, an almost unrecognisable cover of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, and their self-titled album tells stories of disco and drugs.
With two former members of Bikini Kill and a butch-dyke 4WD enthusiast, Le Tigre were always going to be fairly hot shit. Their 2004 album This Island may not have set any charts on fire, but was well received by their interesting assortment of fans.
Adelaide folksters Fruit released a live album, Live At The Church, while in Sydney everyone’s favourite out ex-boy band singer Michal Nicolas finally got his full-length album out. And enthusiasts of Home Nightclub’s Queer Nation parties got a take-home version with Alex Taylor’s CD release of the same name.
Disappointing second album of the year goes to Toronto many-piece The Hidden Cameras. After impressing in 2003 with their debut The Smell Of Our Own, the Cameras came back with Mississauga Goddam, an album that came with similar song titles (Music Is My Boyfriend, I Want Another Enema, etc. etc.) but less obvious originality.