I appreciate the Advocate for being perhaps the only publication to cover gay issues as hard news. I certainly wouldn’t turn to Out or DNA for that. And yet, I also turn to the news weekly to learn about gay musicians, which is kind of like turning to Newsweek or Time to figure out what the kids these days are listening to.
The magazine just published its 2008 music issue, and it’s got some terrific interviews with Broadway actor Cheynne Jackson, indie pioneer Bob Mould and dance music ally Moby. It also listed five emerging LGBT artists. Such recommendations tend to be hit or miss, mostly miss.
This time, the Advocate put its stamp of approval on the Shondes, Los Super Elegantes, Jake Walden, Team Gina and Steven Alvarado. So I did the 21st Century thing and jumped onto Myspace to check these artists out.
The Shondes are the most promising of the bunch, sounding like Sleater-Kinney with a violinist. I managed to listen through a few of the band’s tracks on Myspace all the way through, which is a good sign. I usually lose my patience pretty quickly. I’d want better context with the full album, though.
Los Super Elegantes takes a kitchen sink approach, mixing Latin music with pop and punk (supposedly.) But nothing I heard on the band’s profile grabbed me. It’s clever without actually being catchy. Singer Martiniano Lopez-Crotzer is hot, but his rough-edge voice sounds too deadpan for the kind of music they play.
The Advocate calls Walden a balladeer, but it’s just the same sad gay folkie stuff that seems to be so fashionable at pride festivals. I tried to get through some of the files on his Myspace profile, but I was immediately reminded why I don’t listen to Coldplay. It’s not that I don’t like mopey, introspective music, but someone like Sacha Sacket seems to be doing something interesting with the form, whereas Walden? Eh, not so much.
Team Gina is pretty much an indie hip-hop group. Cute in a sort of Peelander-Z way. If you want to construe that as a compliment, you’re very much welcome.
And if I couldn’t get through Jake Walden, there was little chance I was going to get through Steven Alvarado. His feature namedrops Bob Dylan, while quoting the singer-songwriter as not being into Madonna. Huh. Get her. Alvarado may be great for folks who like Dylan clones. I’m not part of that audience.
Of course, such exercises are completely subjective. The Advocate has pointed me to artists I really like, such as Sacket, Ex-Boyfriends and Dylan Rice, and they do fine with well-established out artists, such as Mould, Rufus Wainwright and Darren Hayes. But I can’t shake the perception that the Advocate, being advocates, prioritize outness over talent. It’s a 9-year-old example, but at a SXSW panel, contributors to the Advocate said the magazine dropped the ball when covering Stephin Merritt’s rise in indie circles with 69 Love Songs. The magazine dedicated a big spread to Toshi Reagon instead.
I’ve had more luck with Out’s music coverage, which pointed me to neo-New Wave band Office and Israeli pop star Ivri Lider. Heck, I even ended up liking Levi Kreis a bit. Being good and being out need not be mutually exclusive. I’m not sure why the Advocate doesn’t quite get that vector right.