Shauna Jensen’s performance regime reads like an anthology of the international party scene: Sydney’s Mardi Gras; Heaven in the UK; BOYLA in Los Angeles; Halloween on Castro in San Francisco; and Hydrate in Chicago are only the tip of the iceberg.
Jensen is the kind of vocal house diva that DJs ache for, and her voice has been in demand for the best part of a decade. Collaborations with the likes of Paul Goodyear and Wayne G have put her on the party map. Her version of the Sylvester classic Take Me to Heaven was a massive club hit and was later picked up for the US series Queer As Folk. At the Sydney Gay Games in 2002, she performed alongside Jimmy Somerville and kd lang and almost stole the show. Her biography declares in big bold letters THE WOMAN CAN SING. Few would disagree.
But what sets Jensen apart from other house divas is her out status as a lesbian. House music is not normally associated with lesbian music culture. If you had to put a frame around such music it would be more along the lines of guitar-strumming folk.
Jensen has plenty to say about such labels.
Honey, I’ve seen many women with their hands in the air dancing to my music, she says defiantly. I do gigs for the Dykes on Bikes in Sydney -“ they absolutely love me and they’re extremely accepting.
That said, Jensen’s style has raised the ire of more than a few lesbian party producers. She cites one example of being accused of singing a gay man’s song by a Sydney lesbian DJ.
After that I just thought I can’t stop being who I am to cater to one specific audience, so I just do what I do, she says.
Jensen’s career kicked off as a backing vocalist for Aussie rock bands such as INXS, Jimmy Barnes and Powderfinger. While live rock music is a long way from pumping house, it did create an awareness of the power of vocals in music. It took her a little while longer to warm to the kind of dance music she is known for today.
I actually didn’t like what I was hearing when I first went out to parties, she admits. It took me quite a while to discover the kind of dance music that I like which is house music -“ put a handbag in front of that and I’m away.
Jensen’s profile in the music scene led to gigs on television, first as a panellist on the long-running and somewhat controversial Beauty and the Beast and later as a judge on Channel Seven’s Popstars -“ Live. She is currently in negotiations with Foxtel for a special on her one-woman show, It’s All About Me, performed at Mardi Gras last year.
The singer has also been a regular performer at many lesbian and gay community fundraisers. Her most recent appearance was at the Sydney rally against homophobia spurred on by the spate of bashings in Oxford St.
If it’d been a straight person who had been beaten to death on George St, it would have made the front page, the singer passionately says. Because it was a gay person it didn’t so there’s this whole double standard thing that goes on.
Shauna Jensen will play the midnight show in the RHI at the Mardi Gras party this weekend.
From bnews -“ www.bnews.com.au