Out artist Scott Cruz – who describes his music as “elements of rock and pop with a pinch of soul, blues, R&B, and sometimes funk” – recently dropped his new single, “The Reason.”
In that he also works as a TV and film composer, Cruz can spin out classical and cinematic styles as well. “As cliche as it sounds, I like to be seen as a recording artist with different expressions,” says the handsome artist.
That wide musical perspective can be heard in “The Reason” as Cruz mixes up the beats with winning results on the track. His muscular vocals soar effortlessly above the pop/rock soundscape.
“In this time of massive polarizing divides, the one thing people seem to be certain of are their self entitlements,” said Cruz. “It seems people have gotten so wrapped up with the injustices of the collective and their individual world, they’ve forgotten they must still bring something to the table themselves.”
“’The Reason’ is my way of calling it out and reminding people, you still need to give someone a reason to love you too instead of demanding everyone love you. We need to live and be (with every ounce of our being) the reason for people to love us.”
In this week’s music round-up, we’ve got something for everyone: alt-pop/folk, dance, guitar rock, and smooth danceable R&B.
First up, Starbird and the Phoenix – fronted by queer multi-hyphenate artists Courtney Bassett and Andrew Swackhamer – released their debut alt-pop/folk album STARFIRE this week.
Bassett and Swackhamer describe the new album as a “catchy-as-hell, sometimes symphonic Wonderland that takes the listener on a joy ride from lust, queer love and heartbreak to mental health awareness and self empowerment.”
“We wrote this album to spread our joy, our pride, our heartaches, and our need to dance it out!,” add the artists. “STARFIRE is a technicolor fireball sent from the stratosphere to light up the dark left by 2020. We hope it moves people to sing/screlt along, to have a dance party, and to feel like you have friends in us, who want you to revel in all that you are!”
Check out the first single from the collection, “I’m Fallin,” which has a totally chill pop/folk vibe.
Out artist Matt Thompson drops his first single of 2021, “Accelerate,” an upbeat dance pop song about when we “first start talking to someone and things are new and delicate” but impatience can derail the romance.
“I fall in love too fast and have to deal with all of the repercussions of going from zero to hundred,” says Thompson. “I’m always telling myself to be patient and take things slow, and then I end up not.”
With a slightly dark quality and a stormy soundscape, the synth-pop track successfully mirrors the lyrics’ push/pull tale of attraction.
The new collection puts a spotlight on frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie’s songwriting which messages a safe space for people to be themselves.
Over the last few years, Baron-Gracie has held her life up to the light, reflecting on her own mental health and growing pains but also her experience of falling in love and becoming more open about her sexuality, emerging with a newfound clarity and optimism.
The pop/rock track has a rich, grungy Avril Lavigne tilt with a catchy hook and exuberant guitar lines. Baron-Gracie’s vocals are sure and strong gliding across the top shelf production.
Canadian artist Joshua Sade James says his new single “Closer” is meant to bring to musical life the mood swings that can occur in a relationship.
“I want people to start jamming out, then catch themselves saying, ‘oh, WAIT. I thought this was a happy song,'” explains James.
Due to travel restrictions in place thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, James shares he and his boo “haven’t seen each other in over nine months, so ‘(pushing) people out of my way to get a little bit closer’ doesn’t sound too far off.”
With the music video, James and his collaborators wanted to explore underscoring juxtapositions between ‘light’ vs ‘dark,’ bright colors vs black and white, and love vs rage.
“In particular, I wanted to show our emotions that take over our thoughts when faced with conflict,” James explains. “Especially during this lockdown and being long-distance.”
Dance band Ten City shares its first new music in 25 years with their new single, “Be Free.”
Byron Stingily (lead singer & songwriter) and electronic music producer Marshall Jefferson bop along to the disco beat as the track finds its groove with a funky bass guitar and dance-tastic horns.
“’Be Free’ encompasses the spirit of Dance and House Music! Many times people focus on our differences but ‘Be Free’ speaks to how we are more alike than different,” says Stingily about the song. “It is a song about respecting and appreciating our differences!”
Having released their first album Foundation in 1989, Ten City are best known for their singles “Devotion,” “Right Back To You,” and “That’s The Way Love Is” which peaked at #8 in the 1989 UK charts and #1 in the US Billboard Charts.
At a time when we can really use it, “Be Free” has an underlying message of inclusivity with lyrics that remind us we are all alike, that we all deserve freedom and we deserve to be respected.
The chart-topping duo Icona Pop are back with the official music video for “Spa,” their musical collaboration with electronic duo Sofi-Tukker.
The quirky, retro-inspired video is the perfect pairing for the new wave-ish, techno-pop bop.
Speaking about the collaboration, Icona Pop’s Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo explain, “This song is weird in the very best way and we hope that people can have a rave spa at home while listening to it.”
Sofi Tukker adds, “We hope people can feel the joy and giddiness and ridiculousness that we all felt while making it. Even though we miss the club now more than ever, there’s also never been such an important time for self-care. Put some cuces on your eyes.”
Queer pop artist Tafari Anthony releases his latest single, “No Good.”
The soulful electro-pop track features soaring vocals by Anthony as he explores how some relationships are just no good for us, yet we somehow still end up pursuing them for whatever reason.
“It is so much easier than you’d think to get trapped in this cycle of a bad relationship,” Anthony recently told American Songwriter. “I’ve heard too often from people that when a relationship is going well they feel like it’s missing something and that something is the drama.”
Lauv joins forces with Conan Gray for the breezy mid-tempo “Fake,” which skewers vapid, phony social media personalities that seem to prize the number of followers over actual connections.
Amid a series of escalating fake photoshoots, the colorful music video features the duo engaging in staged pillow fights and dancing through super-saturated, bigger-than-life soundstage sets before being returned to reality.
Toronto drag artist Sofonda Cox recently dropped her new circuit-house track, “Thrive,” featuring piano-based, big-room synth production with plucked strings, sharp drum kicks, and Cox’s gospel-tinged vocals.
This is Sofonda’s first release since signing with LGBTQIA+ music label So Fierce Music.
Out singer/songwriter Nadia Vaeh puts a bold and jazzy spin on this stripped-down version of her dark hit single “1000 Cuts.”
With hints of Jane Monheit and Sara Gazarek, the artist shows she can move with equal ease from sultry pop/rock to sassy jazz.
The playful confidence of the track and Vaeh’s musical virtuosity make this a winning track.
Vaeh is donating proceeds to The Trevor Project, which offers a safe space and support to LGBTQ youth. I previously covered
Ashley Morgan and John Flanagan, of the folk-pop duo Faultlines, are causing a political storm with the re-release of their anti-Trump song, “Rain,” the first single from their next full album, Bittersweet Revival.
“Rain” focuses its spotlight on the threat to women’s, LGBTQ, and immigrant rights.
“As we are approaching the 2020 election, it’s so important to remind everyone that we cannot endure four more years,” says John Flanagan. “Donald Trump is not a president for the majority minority of America. We want to encourage everyone to get out and vote.”
“I honestly wake up every morning and think there’s no way it can get worse than this,” Ashley Morgan reflects from her Los Angeles home. “Then I read the news and sure enough, it gets worse. I truly don’t understand how this man became our president when all he does is encourage violence, white supremacy, fear, and hatred.”
Their unique brand of folk is a mashup of modern pop and roots country. Interestingly, the duo has become known for their signature three-part harmonies.To achieve their sound, they rotate between two talented guitarists, Sean Beck and Todd McCool (who sings the third verse of “Rain”).
• OUT: Some residents of Heber, Utah, complained about rainbow banners being flown from lampposts on Main Street during Pride Month saying Pride and LGBTQ+ rights were political and did not represent the values or beliefs of the community. So the city passed a new ordinance raising the costs and generally making it more difficult to continue the practice.
• AP: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Tuesday blamed South Dakota’s recent surge in coronavirus cases on an increase in testing, even as the state saw a new high in the number of people hospitalized by the virus.
• New Music: In her new single, “Head and Heart On Fire,” Swedish singer/songwriter LÉON perfectly summarizes the instantaneous feeling one has the moment they meet someone and are immediately taken aback by their presence; aware of how strongly they set everything inside of you ablaze. The pop/folk track is both intimate and universal in expressing that moment: “You set my head and heart on fire, wish I could go back to that night, you’ll be forever on my mind.”
• Washington Blade: Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett continued to have no comment Wednesday on whether she’d overturn LGBTQ rights decisions, including the milestone Lawrence v. Texas ruling decriminalizing same-sex relations or the Obergefell ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.
• New York Times: Amy Cooper, the white woman who called the police on a Black bird-watcher in Central Park, made a second, previously unreported call to 911 in which she falsely claimed that the man tried to assault her. When the police arrived, Cooper admitted that her reports were untrue. She’s reportedly negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors that would allow her to avoid jail.
• BBC: Keegan Hirst (top photo), who became the UK’s first openly gay professional rugby player when he came out in 2015, has announced his retirement from professional rugby. “Be brave, be bold. Embrace change and f*cking go for it.”
Thank you Rugby League. It’s been emotional.
Thank you to all my teammates, opponents, coaches, staff and mostly, the fans.
Noting that Dua Lipa and Lady Gaga have recently done disco music as well, Ware says she thinks “it’s the kind of music that… I think ‘elation’ is such a great word to use. It’s needed at the moment.”
The new track is definitely a recipe for club glory with its sleek disco influence, a touch of funk and the kind of free-roaming rubbery bass lines that would have you dancing relentlessly.
It’s the perfect prescription for a world without dance floors.
I have to include the latest from mysterious and enigmatic electronic music producer DVRKO: “Lights Up.”
The masked artist (pronounced Dar-koh) recently told Billboard he “hails from a post-apocalyptic civilization in the not-too-distant future, roaming the earth outcasted from society for his wild past and naughty behavior.” He uses pirated technology and his futuristic music as his only tools to communicate with the world.
Asked to explain his backstory, DVRKO answered, “If I have to explain, you’re not paying attention. Take the trip, crack the code: journey’s worth it. But look, at its core, my message is simple: love and respect mother earth, and your mothers, your brothers and your sisters. I promise you, it won’t suck.”
And while he won’t share more on his identity, he does offer this advice to aspiring musicians: “Don’t listen to Polka and don’t pet squirrels, they will find you and touch you.”
Clever or mysterious, DVRKO’s “Lights Up” features an accessible chorus, bouncy syncopation, and exudes a soaring feeling of optimism that is sure to chase away the blues.
I won’t put a label on indie artist Abby K as her music spans several genres including folk, Americana and alt-country.
She was inspired to write her latest single, “Mom’s Old Room,” after a transgender fan shared their story with her.
Noting the “silent prison” some trans people may find themselves in, the LGBTQ ally says, “Living a life where I couldn’t be myself would break me. This song is dedicated to all the human butterflies in the world. May they have the courage to transform and live their true beauty.”
“Just Wait,” the latest from SoCal native Emily Vu, explores the vulnerability of falling in love with an engaging self-awareness.
“It’s about being aware of how susceptible I am to love and how being in love or just starting to get to know someone is a very vulnerable thing for me,” Emily explains of the inspiration behind the track. “I’m asking for them to wait for me and just trust the process.”
The music video stars the young pop artist surrounded by a multitude of women with each woman representing a past relationship and how Emily carries those experiences and lessons through life.
Vu launched her career in the summer of 2018 on TikTok playing around with cover songs. Since then, she’s amassed a fervent worldwide fanbase of 1.4M TikTok followers, 388K Instagram followers, and 4M+ Spotify streams.
New music from top-notch out artists for your weekend…
First up, acclaimed singer-songwriter VINCINT has teamed up with the cast of Netflix’s Emmy Award-winning series, Queer Eye, to unveil the music video for “Be Me.”
Directed by Jake Wilson (Cher, Lizzo, Jonas Brothers), the video was filmed by VINCINT and the Fab Five using their iPhone cameras during quarantine.
The track is pure musical joy.
“It’s a celebration of the self!” says VINCINT. “A moment to believe that you can be more than what you thought you ever could. This video is a burst of light in a time where light is so needed.”
“Be Me” premiered in the official trailer for Season 5 of Queer Eye – which is set in VINCINT’s hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
I covered VINCINT’s earlier release, “Save Myself,” here.
California-based Tommy Boi serves up a bit of hopefulness with this heart-on-sleeve pop ballad, “blessing in disguise.”
“I grew up as a pastor’s kid so coming out was always like this scary thing that I knew I was going to have to do eventually,” says the young out artist. “I was also made fun of in high school because I was new and kids assumed, I was gay before I was ready to come out.
“It was really painful and hard to know people were making up rumors and talking about me,” he adds. “Anyways, I think this song was just a culmination. It’s me singing to myself while I’m going through it, hoping that everything turns out to be okay in the end.”
I hear Tommy is currently working on a music video for the track, but to be honest – I like being able to experience Tommy’s open, plaintive vocals set atop the haunting, melancholy piano soundscape without a visual to distract me.
Look for his new four-song EP due out late July.
Pop sensation KimPetras has teamed up once again with producer and DJ Kygo to release the music video for their pop-tastic collaboration, “BrokenGlass.”
The video for the song, which appears on Kygo’s third studio album, Golden Hour, depicts Petras as the queen of a dystopian-inspired, post-apocalyptic nightscape.
Kygo is certainly the artist of the moment. Last week, the producer/DJ held 16 spots on the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart beating out Lady Gaga’s 13.
“’Mess Me Up’ is the gut-punch of our new album,” says NeonTrees‘ lead singer, Tyler Glenn on the single. “It’s a plea to not let the pain of a break-up linger, set to the tune of a slow dance.”
“What I love tonally is it sounds like that one last dance on prom night before we end it all,” adds the out frontman. “If you’re gonna mess me up, get me addicted, ruin a few good years of my life–Act like you know me and don’t do it slow.”
Indie artists Matt Zarley and Ty Taylor have been friends for over 27 years – ever since they appeared on Broadway in the 1993 revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
In fact, the two talented men were both understudies for the title role.
Taylor and Zarley went on to additional featured appearances on the Great White Way (like Grease and Tommy, respectively) before moving on to successful careers as recording artists as well.
The two had been discussing recording together and they hit on the perfect song for the duo considering their shared experience with Joseph.
“When Ty and I first discussed collaborating on something together, he suggested we do a reimagined version of ‘Close Every Door,’ says Zarley. “We collectively agreed that we should do it with a more acoustic approach, sort of reminiscent of the Indigo Girls and that type of sound. As a result, we settled on just an acoustic guitar and bass as the instrumentation.”
Set in a prison cell, Joseph laments his situation and assures himself he can make it to the other side of his imprisonment.
But the coronavirus pandemic put the project on pause for a few months. When they reconvened for the project, both felt the new world of ‘sheltering at home’ coupled with the homicide of George Floyd had created a new perspective for the song.
Taylor says he looked at issues like “brutality and imprisonment, things that are thrust upon us wrongfully” as he revisited the song. In the video’s introduction, he shares, “It’s fueled with a whole different backstory than I’d ever planned.”
Shot in black and white (see what they did there?), the new guitar-driven track (thank you very much, Mike Messer, on guitar) is infused with a pop/soul flavor that instantly reinvents the song.
Plus, check out the moments at the 2:40 and 4:30 marks as each singer respectfully takes note of the other’s riffs.
Props to Zarley for the creative, current feel on the editing of the video.
Since 2015, Zarley has been producing his “UnCOVERED” series of cover songs requested by fans.
In addition to reimagining pop songs by artists like Sara Bareilles, Sam Smith, Whitney Houston, and George Michael, he’s also explored songs from Broadway shows like Dear Evan Hansen, Ghost the Musical, and Waitress.
• Instagram: Emmy Award winner Billy Porter (above) looks euphoric as the cast of Pose begins working on Season 3. “I couldn’t be more excited to be back on set with my @poseonfx family today to start shooting season 3 of this show that I’m so proud to be a part of. I can’t wait for y’all to see what we have in store for you this season – it’s going to be epic hennies!”
• Washington Post: Bipartisan congressional negotiators reached an agreement today on a roughly $8 billion emergency spending bill to combat the coronavirus, hoping to send it to Donald Trump’s desk by the end of the week. The deal must still be voted on by the House later Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday.
• New Music: Loving the latest from Malia Civetz, “Broke Boy,” a gospel-tinged, pop bop that finds Civetz extolling her guy’s assets even if they aren’t financial. Her raise-the-roof, full-throated vocals paired with a body-positive/sex-positive message is definitely a winning combination. I think we’ll be hearing a lot from the powerhouse vocalist.
“I love my broke boy…there’s no credit card that’s gonna buy my heart, cuz I gave it all to a broke boy.”
• Cape Town: Two teen boys, aged 14 and 17, allegedly gang-raped a lesbian over the weekend in an attempt to ‘correct’ her sexuality just a day before the annual Cape Town Pride Festival on Saturday.
• NBC News: After failing to win any states on Super Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is reportedly “assessing” her path forward. Her campaign manager sent an email to staff Wednesday morning, saying that they are “disappointed” in the Super Tuesday results and that Warren will be “going to take time right now to think through the right way to continue this fight.”
• Dazed: Straight men, like InstaHunk Ryan Yule (below), are apparently joining content-hosting fan sites like OnlyFans making soft porn for gay men. Yule makes a strong case for doing so: “I used to have a wank and wouldn’t get paid for it, and now, I get paid for it.” He reportedly has 250 subscribers at $15 a month. Minus the site’s 20 percent fee, that adds up to about $3,000 a month.