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SPRING ARTS 2017 — albums: Barry, Betty & Blondie

Manilow, finally out, readies New York-themed album



new albums spring 2017, gay news, Washington Blade

Aussie singer Betty Who will release her sophomore album ‘The Valley’ on Friday, March 24. (Photo courtesy RCA)

The new release schedule is light on megastars but heavy on new offerings by some of our most acclaimed musical artists. The details for most of the higher-profile new albums expected in 2017 have yet to be announced, but there is still a strong slate of new music coming our way over the new few months.

March starts off with the much-anticipated second album by English star Ed Sheeran, whose “÷” (pronounced “divide”) hits Friday, March 3. Also slated for release are the latest ambitious concept album by openly gay troubadour Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields’ “50 Song Memoir.”

Four of indie-pop’s most popular bands have new offerings on the way: the Shins on March 10 with “Heartworms,” then Spoon a week later with “Hot Thoughts,” and Real Estate unveils “In Mind,” the follow-up to their much-lauded 2014 release “Atlas.” Conor Oberst and his “Salutations” adds to the indie onslaught, sure to be a big weekend at area record stores.

Also due on March 17 is the 14th studio album by veteran alternative synthpop titans Depeche Mode, “Spirit.” Capital Pride veteran Betty Who unleashes “The Valley” on March 24. That same week comes “Damage and Joy,” the first new album by seminal alt-rockers Jesus & Mary Chain in 18 years.

March 25 brings the second solo album by Ladytron vocalist Marnie, “Strange Words and Weird Wars.” We can expect more glistening dance-pop as Goldfrapp offers their first album in four years, “Silver Eye,” on March 31. The same day the great Aimee Mann returns with her long-awaited new album, “Mental Illness,” the first release in five years for the gifted singer, songwriter and musician.

March is also highlighted by new albums from British boy band Take That, the always-funky Jamiroquai, Canadian dance/pop singer Nelly Furtado, a three-disc set of American standards by the one and only Bob Dylan, the latest by rapper Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan, and the much-anticipated new album by British up-and-comer Tinie Tempah. 

April 7 will be a big day for indie-rock fans as new albums by Father John Misty, the New Pornographers and Cold War Kids all arrive. The same day brings Future Islands, who will follow-up their synth pop classic, 2014’s “Singles,” with “The Far Field.” Electronica will also be well-represented as EDM duo the Chainsmokers, known for their smash “#SELFIE,” release their debut album “Memories … Do Not Open,” and the self-titled third album by openly gay Venezuelan DJ and electro-wizard Arca will also hit retailers.

The first new solo release by pop singer Michelle Branch in 14 years, “Hopeless Romantic,” also hits on April 7. So does the self-titled debut album by Nancy and Beth, a duo featuring Megan Mullally (Karen from “Will & Grace”) and Austin-based musician Stephanie Hunt.

On April 14, the freakishly talented Norwegian artist Sondre Lerche is back with his eighth album, “Pleasure.” The following week brings legendary crooner Barry Manilow and “This is My Town,” his first new album since he married his longtime partner in 2015.

Acclaimed Danish dream-rockers Mew, featuring the solemnly beautiful vocals of the incredible Jonas Bjerre, return on April 28 with “Visuals.” Also expected in April are new albums by the dynamic pop singer Bebe Rexha, veteran hard-rockers Incubus, and British post-punk revivalists Maxïmo Park.

The biggest event in April, of course, is the 10th annual Record Store Day held on Saturday, April 22. St. Vincent has been named Record Store Day Ambassador. Given the big anniversary and the meager and lackluster selection for the Black Friday Record Store Day last November, this year’s roster of new releases and exclusives is reportedly jammed with outstanding titles that could include — well, anything really. It shouldn’t be long before the list of Record Store Day titles starts leaking to the public, so keep your eyes peeled.

May kicks off with Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Blondie returning with their first album in three years with “Pollinator” on May 5. Queer-punk duo PWR BTTM unleashes their utterly distinct sound and vibe with their second album, “Pageant,” on May 12. Also on the 12th is the latest offering by the massively successful country-rock hybrid Zac Brown Band, “Welcome Home.” May 19 will be exciting for fans of electronic dance-pop, as the legendary duo Erasure, featuring the always-amazing vocals by gay pop icon Andy Bell and the electronic mastery of his longtime musical partner Vince Clarke, return with their 17th album, “World Be Gone.” It sounds like the album might be unusually political — the press release states the UK duo gives “the world and recent political upheavals a thoughtful examination.”

It may not be Fleetwood Mac, but Buckingham/McVie will be as close as you can get without Stevie Nicks. Their new album, the first ever from Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie as a duo (albeit backed by Mick Fleetwood and John McVie), is scheduled for May, but a firm release date has not yet been announced. Also expected in May is “Binary,” the latest from the independent folk-rock icon Ani DiFranco.

Stretching into June, the big release early in the month is the latest from country titans Lady Antebellum, “Heart Break,” which is set for June 9. There are a few big-name artists who had been expected to unveil new albums this spring but have yet to announce release dates, so at this point a spring release date could still be possible but some will not doubt stretch into the summer:  Sheryl Crow, Lorde, Drake, Charli XCX, Katy Perry, St. Vincent, Beck, Christina Aguilera, Gorillaz, Kanye West and Kelly Clarkson, among others.

And then there are always surprises. Bruce Springsteen has been sitting on a finished new studio album for a year and could drop it at any time. In this era of surprise and sudden releases instead of the traditional build-up, who knows what great new music might unexpectedly come our way this spring.


Music & Concerts

Musical icons and newer stars to rock D.C. this spring

Brandi Carlile, Bad Bunny, Nicki Minaj, and more headed our way



Brandi Carlile plays the Anthem this month.

Bands and solo artists of all different genres are visiting D.C. this spring. Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will team up to perform at the Wolf Trap in June, and girl in red will play at the Anthem in April. Some artists and bands aren’t paying a visit until the summer, like Janet Jackson and Usher, but there are still plenty of acts to see as the weather warms up. 


Brandi Carlile plays at the Anthem on March 21; Arlo Parks will perform at 9:30 Club on March 23; Girlschool will take the stage at Blackcat on March 28.


Nicki Minaj stops in D.C. at Capital One Arena as part of her North American tour on April 1; Bad Bunny plays at Capital One Arena on April 9 as part of his Most Wanted tour; girl in red performs at the Anthem on April 20 and 21; Brandy Clark plays at the Birchmere on April 25; Laufey comes to town to play at the Anthem on April 25 and 26. 


Belle and Sebastian play at the Anthem on May 2; Chastity Belt performs at Blackcat on May 4; Madeleine Peyroux stops at the Birchmere on May 5; The Decemberists play at the Anthem on May 10; the rock band Mannequin Pussy performs at the Atlantis on May 17 and 18; Hozier plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on May 17 as part of the Unreal Unearth tour. 


Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will sing soulful melodies at Wolf Trap on June 8; Joe Jackson performs at the Lincoln Theatre on June 10; the Pixies and Modest Mouse are teaming up to play at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 14; Maggie Rogers plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 16 as part of The Don’t Forget Me tour; Brittany Howard headlines the Out & About Festival at Wolf Trap on June 22; Sarah McLachlan plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 27; Alanis Morissette performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 29 and 30

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Music & Concerts

Grammys: Queer women and their sisters took down the house

Taylor Swift won Album of the Year



When the late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court, her answer was simple: Nine. She stated: “I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” RBG did not attend the Grammy’s last night, but her spirit sure did. Women, at long last, dominated, ruled and killed the night.

Cher, in song a decade ago, declared that “this is a woman’s world,” but there was little evidence that was true, Grammy, and entertainment awards, speaking. In 2018, the Grammys were heavily criticized for lack of female representation across all categories and organizers’ response was for women to “step up.”

Be careful what you wish for boys.

The biggest star of the 2024 Grammys was the collective power of women. They made history, they claimed legacy and they danced and lip sang to each other’s work. Standing victorious was Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, SZA (the most nominated person of the year), Lainey Wilson, Karol G, boygenius, Kylie Minogue and Victoria Monét. Oh, yes, and powerhouse Taylor Swift, the superstar from whom Fox News cowers in fear, made history to become the first performer of any gender to win four Best Album of the Year trophies.

In the throng of these powerful women stand a number of both LGBTQ advocates and queer identifying artists. Cyrus has identified as pansexual, SZA has said lesbian rumors “ain’t wrong,” Phoebe Bridgers (winner of four trophies during the night, most of any artist) is lesbian, Monét is bi and Eilish likes women but doesn’t want to talk about it. Plus, ask any queer person about Swift or Minogue and you are likely to get a love-gush.

Women power was not just owned by the lady award winners. There were the ladies and then there were the Legends. The first Legend to appear was a surprise. Country singer Luke Combs has a cross-generational hit this year with a cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” When originally released, the song was embraced as a lesbian anthem. When performing “Fast Car,” surprise, there was Chapman herself, singing the duet with Combs. The rendition was stunning, sentimental and historic.

Chapman, like many of the night’s female dignitaries, has not been public with her sexuality. Author Alice Walker has spoken of the two of them being lovers, however.

The legend among legends of the night, however, was the one and only Joni Mitchell. Not gay herself, she embodies the concept of an LGBTQ icon, and was accompanied by the very out Brandi Carlile on stage. On her website, Mitchell’s statement to the LGBTQ community reads, “The trick is if you listen to that music and you see me, you’re not getting anything out of it. If you listen to that music and you see yourself, it will probably make you cry and you’ll learn something about yourself and now you’re getting something out of it.”

Mitchell performed her longtime classic “Both Sides Now.” The emotion, insight and delivery from the now 80-year old artist, survivor of an aneurism, was nothing short of profound. (To fully appreciate the nuance time can bring, check out the YouTube video of a Swift lookalike Mitchell singing the same song to Mama Cass and Mary Travers in 1969.) In this latest rendition, Mitchell clearly had an impact on Meryl Streep who was sitting in the audience. Talk about the arc of female talent and power.

That arc extended from a today’s lady, Cyrus, to legend Celine Dion as well. Cyrus declared Dion as one of her icons and inspirations early in the evening. Dion appeared, graceful and looking healthy, to present the final, and historic, award of the night at the end of the show.

Legends did not even need to be living to have had an effect on the night. Tributes to Tina Turner and Sinead O’Conner by Oprah, Fantasia Barrino-Taylor and Annie Lennox respectively, proved that not even death could stop these women. As Lennox has musically and famously put it, “Sisters are doing it for themselves.”

Even the content of performances by today’s legends-in-the-making spoke to feminine power. Eilish was honored for, and performed “What Was I Made For?,” a haunting and searching song that speaks to the soul of womanhood and redefinition in today’s fight for gender rights and expression, while Dua Lipa laid down the gauntlet for mind blowing performance with her rendition of “Houdini” at the top of the show, Cyrus asserted the power of her anthem “Flowers” and pretty much stole the show.

Cyrus had not performed the song on television before, and only three times publicly. She declared in her intro that she was thrilled over the business numbers the song garnered, but she refused to let them define her. As she sang the hit, she scolded the audience, “you guys act like you don’t know the words to this song.” Soon the woman power of the room was singing along with her, from Swift to Oprah.

They can buy themselves flowers from now on. They don’t need anyone else. Cyrus made that point with the mic drop to cap all mic drops, “And I just won my first Grammy!” she declared as she danced off stage.

Even the squirmiest moment of the night still did not diminish the light of women power, and in fact, underscored it. During his acceptance of the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, Jay-Z had a bone to pick with the Grammy voters. He called out the irony that his wife Beyoncé had won more Grammys than any other human, but had never won the Best Album of the Year. Yeah, what’s with that?

But then, it brought additional context ultimately to the fact that the winner of the most Grammys individually … is a woman. And to the fact that the winner of the most Best Album of the Year awards … is a woman.

Hopefully this was the night that the Grammys “got it.” Women are the epicenter of The Creative Force.

Will the other entertainment awards get it soon as well? We can hope.

Most importantly, in a political world where women’s healthcare is under siege. Will the American voters get it?

A little known band named Little Mix put it this way in their 2019 song “A Woman’s World.”

“If you can’t see that it’s gotta change
Only want the body but not the brains
If you really think that’s the way it works
You ain’t lived in a woman’s world

Just look at how far that we’ve got
And don’t think that we’ll ever stop…”

From Grammy’s mouth to the world’s ear.

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson returning to D.C, Baltimore

‘Together Again Tour’ comes to Capital One Arena, CFG Bank Arena



Janet Jackson is coming back to D.C. this summer.

Pop icon Janet Jackson announced this week an extension of her 2023 “Together Again Tour.” A new leg of the tour will bring Jackson back to the area for two shows, one at D.C.’s Capital One Arena on Friday, July 12 and another at Baltimore’s CFG Bank Arena on Saturday, July 13.  

Tickets are on sale now via TicketMaster. LiveNation announced the 2023 leg of the tour consisted of 36 shows, each of which was sold out. The 2024 leg has 35 stops planned so far; R&B star Nelly will open for Jackson on the new leg. 

Jackson made the tour announcement Tuesday on social media: “Hey u guys! By popular demand, we’re bringing the Together Again Tour back to North America this summer with special guest Nelly! It’ll be so much fun!”

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