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YEAR IN REVIEW: Milestones and missteps
It was a strange year musically, one that got rolling with a surreal all-star remake of “We Are the World” that had fossils like Barbra Streisand and Gladys Knight (where were they on the original?) rubbing shoulders with younger acts and found the Indigo Girls releasing a Christmas album of all things.
And while the mainstream was abuzz with new albums from Kanye and Eminem, several gay releases got some notice.
The Scissor Sisters, featuring gay front man Jake Shears, are, perhaps, the closest thing the gay world has to the Black Eyed Peas. On third album “Night Work,” which dropped in June, lyrics like “I think I need a rubber tonight” were splashed over neo-disco and new wave beats courtesy of Madonna vet Stuart Price.
Local indie lesbian singer/songwriter Mara Levi released her third album, “We Listen to Fools” (digital only release) in October.
It was, perhaps, Elton John’s least gay album in years, but his recent collaboration with forgotten vet Leon Russell, “The Union,” resulted in a critical triumph. Rolling Stone called the T Bone Burnett-produced disc worthy of the artists’ best work.
Taylor Swift may seem bland compared to Lady Gaga but her country crossover domination continued with this year’s “Speak Now,” a savvy collection of catchy hits.
Swedish diva Robyn — what is it with the Swedes and dance music? — delivered the year’s best dance album with “Body Talk,” a pummeling collection of memorable club rattlers like “Fembot,” “Dancing On My Own” and “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do.”
Katy Perry, of “I Kissed a Girl” fame, teamed up with pop masterminds Max Martin and Dr. Luke for one of the year’s best pop albums, “Teenage Dream,” which dropped in August and topped the Billboard album chart. It’s also up for several Grammys.
Even with no new album out, Lady Gaga kept things interesting, if occasionally uneven, this year. Her “Telephone” video with Beyonce was an epic, nearly 10-minute clip on a Michael Jackson-scope scale, but her September D.C. concert appearance drew mixed reviews as did a half-hearted remix album. Look for a new studio album from her in 2011.
Rhianna’s “Loud” dropped in November and continued her hit streak with two No. 1 U.S. singles, “Only Girl (In the World” and “What’s My Name?”
There was a new “Glee” soundtrack album almost every month this year but April’s “Power of Madonna” collection was perhaps the most memorable. The “Glee” juggernaut will surely continue in the new year.
Electropop British gay-fronted group Goldfrapp released its fifth studio album “Head First” in March, featuring retro-’80s sounds.
Gay Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi released a solo effort in April, called “Go,” which received mostly strong reviews and had a strong chart showing in the U.S.
Gay singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright dropped his sixth studio album “All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu” in April. It’s a classy and stripped-down record that finds inspiration in Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Melissa Etheridge, perhaps the most famous lesbian rock star, released her 10th studio album “Fearless Love” in April. It’s more rock-oriented than her last few albums, which sometimes found her veering way too close to snoozeville. It’s great to hear her rocking out again.
Liza Minnelli released the little-noticed “Confessions” in September, her first studio album in nearly 15 years.
The Indigo Girls were all over the map with their surreal October release “Holly Happy Days” which, despite its nod to Hanukkah with a Woody Guthrie cover featured several surprising nods to Christianity such as the French carol “Angels We Have Heard on High” and a country version of “O Holy Night.” Annie Lennox had one of the year’s more interesting holiday albums with her “Christmas Cornucopia.”
Adam Lambert, the gay “Idol” runner-up, stayed busy this year with his first tour, “Glam Nation,” which made a memorable D.C. stop in June at the 9:30 club. A live EP dropped earlier this month. Look for a new studio album next year.
Cyndi Lauper, easily the world’s most gay-friendly straight act, released a blues album, “Memphis Blues,” in June and earned solid reviews and a Grammy nomination. Look for a live DVD from the tour, which came to D.C. last month, in 2011.
It was a great year for Kylie Minogue fans. Her 11th studio album “Aphrodite” was released worldwide in June and this month a Christmas EP was released on iTunes. Single “All the Lovers” topped the U.S. Dance Club chart and, though Minogue has always been more popular abroad, she still managed a decent showing on the album charts with a No. 19 peak, her second-highest charter here.
Gay singer Clay Aiken went retro in June with “Tried and True,” a standards collection. Though the concept has been run into the ground after umpteen releases from Rod Stewart, Aiken’s the kind of singer who, despite his youth, has the vocal oomph to breathe new life into these classics. His covers of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” and “Mack the Knife” are especially good. He soars on the latter.
One of the year’s biggest disappointments was a dud from Christina Aguilera called “Bionic,” another June release that found the overwrought singer all over the stylistic map with few memorable results. The album bombed — it’s only halfway to gold status in the U.S. six months after its release.
Tagged with Adam Lambert, Christina Aguilera, Clay Aiken, Cyndi Lauper, Elton John, Glee, Goldfrapp, Indigo Girls, Jonsi, Katy Perry, Kylie Minogue, Lady Gaga, Liza Minnelli, Mara Levi, Melissa Etheridge, Rhianna, Robyn, Rufus Wainwright, Taylor Swift, The Scissor Sisters
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