After Gay Pride, or however you want to call it, we have a clear winner for the title of album of the summer: Scissor Sisters. They have put out their third album, a party album that even beats the Vengaboys. The thing is that “Night Work”, as it is titled, that was released on 28th June, is the sweatiest and stickiest output from the NYC band yet. Keeping in mind that the semi-successful “Ta-Dah” came out four years ago (a success in sales, but it left the fans cold), it turns out that what was going to be the third album got tossed out along the way (they say Elton John advised them to do it), and they started all over again, taking a break—the now-muscular Jake Shears had himself a good old time in the dark clubs of Berlin, and the slimmer Ana Matronic (who is like post-training Oprah) took the opportunity to get married to the brother of Lady Miss Kier (yes, from Deee Lite). And along with their other two band members, Jake and Ana have put out an album that sounds like everything from Bronski Beat to George Michael, by way of The Police, but which still has enough energy to feed us through the summer and much more. Besides, they’re fun and they seem to like what they do: one of the launch campaigns for the album included an advertisement of Jake as an escort on rentboy.com, with pictures of him semi-naked to promote the album.After triumphing live wherever they go - like at Glastonbury, where their duet with Kylie raised greater expectation than Shakira covering The XX, they'll keep touring on and visiting lots of other places, although many of the gigs haven't been anounced yet. Anyway, I bow to them. It was funny to see how afterwards those who attended their concert went running from the stage to the one where the performance of the other big hit of the festival, the Pet Shop Boys, were performing; the latter were even a hit at the Barcelona Primavera Sound festival, to the surprise of many who seemed to discover what hedonism meant there, that word that is so often used in magazines like i-D. Of course it was with the same show that they did last year, and that all of the festival-goers didn’t see. And a final note about the thing with Shakira: will we see her sometime at some macro-festival with intellectual airs? Will Pete Tong playing her at Sonar go some way towards achieving that? We hope so, more than anything else, so we can see how inevitably the fundamentalists pull their hair out. Waka-waka.
Kylie’s “Aphrodite” is another celebrated album this summer, as a break from the Cult of Gaga (she is in the middle of a very comprehensive tour of the US with over 30 concerts, so we hope that she will have recovered by the time she gets here in December). After the bluff of “X”, which I bet even she didn’t like, Kylie is back with an eye on the dance floor, with the appetiser that is “All The Lovers”. At the Gay Pride festival in Madrid she was on promo rounds, and she filled the Plaza de España and blew everybody away; the woman has something about her that pulls you in, which is how she got to be the muse of the Tous jewellery company. Although her fans will like “Aphrodite” and it will sell like hotcakes in the UK, her friends the Scissors Sisters have beaten her out this time.
Beach club madness
Going to a beachside bar, whether gay or hetero, can be a nightmare for your ears. Pure radio formula, and where you don’t hear the Latin hits of the moment, we have (since all of the dance channels got started) all of those hits taken from horrible compilations playing on dance floors for tacky teenage girls, and of course at the most lively “beach clubs” (that’s what they call them now). This year, as far as dance music goes, any kind of ethnic, retro, or both types together sampling is in. Balkan accordions are in (go on then), and not only Shantel or Riva Starr, who are supposed to be into the gypsy thing and who make real claims, but also more sugary-sweet songs like that hit that is already on the British charts, “Stereo Love” by Edward Maya, which is consolidating a trend: if we had to spend the rest of the year listening all over Europe to what triumphed during the summer in Ibiza, then what is a dance hit in Rumania right now would span the continent and triumph for a whole year. So we still have a way to go there. And who would have guessed that we would be dancing to traditional folk songs like “ El Pescador” by Totó la Momposina—there you have it, passed through the filter of Michel Cleis and made into “La Mezcla”. You are seeing the remains of the exploitation of cumbia and similar music.
Michel Cleis - La Mezcla (Original Mix)
As far as ethno goes... retro was about hits like Gramophonedzie, which sampled Peggy Lee (no less) in “Why Don’t You”, 80 years later, and this time around, from Serbia, it’s really ethno-retro again. If we sample something Italian, it’s a sure hit: the Australian group Yolanda Be Cool & DCup struck gold with “We No Speak Americano”, sampling Renato Carosone, but watch out for the nightmare that is coming with a thousand dance versions imitating Patty Pravo’s “Bambola”. You can tell me all about it (the “good” one is Tuccillo’s, just so you know). Even Riva Starr, who is no dummy, samples a 70s hit from the Italian Donatella Rettore, “Splendido Splendente”, to come up with the summer song “Splendido”. So if you get the urge to become a dance producer, now you know: ethno-retro-italo is the winning combination.
I love you, Ander
Let’s go to the movies and see what the panorama looks like. Films with queer subject matter have trouble with distribution. One of the best European films last year, “Ander”, has yet to open commercially in many countries. It’s the story of the coming out of a farmer, but it doesn’t end there: the Spanish director Roberto Castón presents it to us in a slow, dignified packaging, portraying the area in which he lives, the rural areas of the Basque Country, in the north of Spain—surroundings that the majority of us aren’t familiar with. It might be because of the gay theme, even though there are no nudes—the director himself said that if a single penis appeared the film would be declared not recommended for viewers under the age of 18, and that wasn’t the intention– or it might be because 60% of it is spoken in Basque, but the film hasn’t managed to open or find a distributor (not even on the indie circuit). In any case, it can be seen other ways, and not only those that you might be thinking about: the director lets any film festival or cultural centre that asks have it. Castón is already working on his second feature-length, after the success of “Ander” in France – it did come out there. You should see it; it’s worth it, with a charming loutish touch, clamouring for the freedom to live life however you feel like it. It reminded me of the best moments of the beginnings of Ferzan Ozpetek’s career ( “The Ignorant Fairies”, for example). Yes, afterwards the Italian-Turk thought he was Almodóvar and went in for melodrama with Margheritta Buy –his Carmen Maura– and ended up falling into the most evident drama, in “Saturno Contro” (which was called “No Basta Una Vida” or “One Life Isn’t Enough” in Spanish, no relation to the Italian or English title). Now they say that he has come back with a comedy, “Mine Vaganti”, in which he returns to homosexual subject matter, to those big banquets and outdoor terraces in the Italian countryside, where of course confessions and regrets flourish. We hope to be able to see it to confirmed, although with Italian cinema you never know: there are still a couple of opening Ozpetek films being shown in cinemas now.
“I Love You Phillip Morris” has been more fortunate; after its opening being delayed for ages, it seems that it will finally come out in several parts of Europe this summer, although we’ll see if it comes out at all in the United States. It’s the curious story of a Jim Carrey turned into the king of con men, and totally in love with Ewan McGregor. Don’t expect much sex–except a few prim kisses– in a crazy story of going in and coming out of jail, full of incredible adventures, based on the real life of Steven Jay Russell, a born impostor who had the press in an uproar with his original cons and numerous escapes from prison to get together with his boyfriend, the Phillip Morris of the film’s title. Rodrigo Santoro is also in it, if you are interested. So, take refuge in specialised festivals. In Barcelona, where I live, we have two, heirs of the Catalan tradition of gay associations, many of them unable to reach an agreement with each other. The Casal Lambda festival turned over a new leaf a couple of years ago, adding a catchier name ( Fire!) and a new director, Joako Ezpeleta (well-known former presenter of a radio program focused on indie pop); it also changed its course: now it programs with more criteria and not just the typical pleasant comedy with gay characters, allowing us to see films that would be hard to find on the commercial circuit. This year Fire! opened with the new film by François Ozon, “Le Refuge” (which will open on the commercial circuit in its original version), but we could also see a lot of Latin American cinema, risky documentaries, and a retrospective of the French Sebastien Lifshitz, whose “Presque Rien” was legendary. The film that I liked the best was “ Eyes Wide Open ” ( “Einaym Pkuhot”), by the Israeli Haim Tabakman, presented at Cannes in 2009. The piece shoots darts at the ultra-orthodox Jewish community through the story of a butcher, a respected, exemplary man, married and the father of four children, who sees his world fall apart when he falls hopelessly in love with his new employee. Coincidentally, the Jewish Film Festival took place the same week, and if we liked a Hebrew film in the gay festival, in the Jewish festival we saw a gay film, “ La Folle Historie D’Amour De Simon Eskenazy ” by Jean-Jacques Zilbermann, where –in a more pleasant version of the eternal problem of unexpected love—we have a Jewish man who falls in love with a transvestite who is also Arab to boot, to complicate matters even further. They don’t know what new story to make up anymore.In mainstream cinema there isn’t much queer to be found this summer, unless we consider the abdominals of vampires and wolf men from the “Twilight” saga or the rebuilt “A Team. ” Don’t think dirty, seeing strange things in the relationship between Jackie Chan and Will Smith’s son in the new, successful “Karate Kid”—that’s not what it’s about (or the kicks, if you let me have my little joke).
Having finished the first season of “Glee”, which may be very mainstream and very Disney at times, but which is the series with the largest number of queer references after “Ugly Betty”, we won’t be orphaned for the summer. Chris Colfer (Kurt in the series) is impressive, knocking them out in all of his appearances on talk-shows, with a great sense of humour and showmanship. He will go far, don’t be fooled by his old-fashioned clown face and flutey voice. And if you miss Wilhelmina from Ugly Betty, one of the most exaggerated and campiest characters in recent years, I think that we will meet her again soon: Vanessa Williams has been signed on as a new neighbour of the desperate women. Let Wisteria Lane quake in its boots.As we were saying: the empty space that “Glee” covers (never better said) as the series that heats up our summers again is filled by “True Blood”. It’s back dirtier and more gay than ever in its third season. Asses, abdominals, and increasingly homo relationships (to close the circle, we ask that Scissor Sisters make an appearance on the series, performing at Fangtasia—it would be a good climax). Anna Paquin continues with her little skirt and her teeth, always ready to do the low-class girl dance, but it is the Swedish Alexander Skarsgard who has made his Eric into the star of the wet dreams of half of the world, and part of the other half—even of his beloved father (Stellan Skarsgard, who in “Mamma Mia-The Movie”, guilty pleasure of a couple of summers ago, was my favourite father for Meryl Streep’s daughter).
Let’s talk about TV-movies. In the UK, thanks to the BBC, a 90-minute episode just came out about Boy George, “ Worried about the Boy ”, a chronicle of George’s life and all of his group of friends and enemies (from Marilyn to Steve Strange, by way of Malcolm McLaren), his adventures in the Blitz before the publication of “Kissing to Be Clever” (shall we say, before he was successful). A lot of make-up and new romantic deliriums, and a fantastic soundtrack—what more can you ask for? And what do we see, nearly thirty years later? Here we are: in trouble with the law trying to enter Celebrity Big Brother.And since we’re on the subject of realities, let’s talk about them. The big success lately is RuPaul. Her “RuPaul’s Drag Race ”, already with two seasons under its belt, is the big revelation, with its format of drag queen contests done like “Supermodel”. If you haven’t seen it, you won’t believe me, but it is hilarious. RuPaul is a real character with a lot of experience and seeing it programmed on one of our channels seems almost impossible, but if they do, when they bring it, they better subtitle it, not dub it—they’ll destroy it. And since in the USA they also like to exploit realities to the max, for this summer they have pulled a spin-off out of their sleeve that sounds promising: “ RuPaul’s Drag U ”, a sort of “Charm School” in which the most charismatic drag queens of the two seasons are going to be the ones to teach glamour and how to carry yourself to hapless biological women. Having reached that point, let yourselves go, relax, and enjoy it. Have a good summer.