The first in a series showcasing the artist's multifaceted practice.
Best known as the frontman of alt-rock band R.E.M., Michael Stipe is an artist in the most far-reaching sense of the word. His distinct vocals are hard not to recognize thanks to the popularity of tracks like “Losing My Religion” and “Shiny Happy People”. Stipe has also worked extensively in film, founding two production companies and acting as the executive producer behind well-known independent hits like like Being John Malkovich and Velvet Goldmine. His circle of friends — musicians Natalie Merchant, Tori Amos, Thom Yorke, Courtney Love, and the late Kurt Cobain, just to name a few — reads like a who’s who of the 90’s alternative rock scene. It should comes as no surprise that Stipe would extend his practice into the realm of the visual for his latest project — a photo book.
Volume I is the first in the series “presenting different aspects of Michael Stipe’s multifaceted artistic practice.” Here Stipe and co-collaborator Jonathan Berger work with photographs; there are thirty-five in total and through them Stipe plays an array of roles. He moves fluidly between subject, photographer, and curator, putting together his own photographs with found pieces from his collection. Present in condensed form are 37-years of Stipe’s artistic practice of creating and collecting materials, and he involves the two practices in Volume 1 as he conflates “figures in his own life with those in American history and popular culture,” focusing specifically within his experience as a queer man.
The book features many of his friends, lovers and fellow artists. …
When my friends in high school were listening to Sublime and Ben Harper (my school was full of hippies) I was listening to Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Outkast. Most hip hop back then (it’s still not perfect, but it’s better) was blatantly homophobic. It was really bad, and tough to listen to as a queer kid. I guess I could have just stuck to Britney and Xtina, they weren’t calling anyone a faggot in their lyrics (don’t get me started on Katy ‘Ur So Gay’ Perry) but I genuinely loved hip hop. I got way more from a lyric like “the flower that grows in the ghetto knows more about survival than the one from Flushing Meadows. It got love for the sun, that’s where I’m comin from.” than “Hit me baby one more time.” Mainstream hip hop in 2018 is a world a way from where it was when I was in high school. Homophobia is less tolerated and we have queer artists like Frank Ocean who are universally beloved. Which brings me to Dissect. It’s a podcast from Spotify that pulls apart songs exploring the deeper meaning behind them. Season 3 is dedicated to Frank Ocean and from the first two episodes I can not recommend it enough. I have learned so much about Frank and the inspiration for his music (he has some brilliantly random influences). Each episode this season will explore a different song from Channel Orange and Blonde. Please go add it to your podcast list immediately. And Frank, if you’re reading this, shoot us an email, we should do a cover, or just hang out and watch old movies. I’m fine with either
"Basura" is out now.
My very first introduction to Christeene was at the D.C. gay bar Trade. A friend sprung up from his seat running and shouting “Christeene! Christeene!” towards a strange looking woman dressed in ripped fabric, heeled leather boots and doting a bulky handbag. Christeene, when she turned around, had shoddy black bangs that wanted to cover her fierce blue contacts, and a space between her two front teeth to boot. It was a look so out of the ordinary you had no choice but to look. Not to mention she spoke with a lisp. Regardless of her appearance, she seemed nice.
Christeene — the character created by Paul Soileau — has been making music for the better part of a decade. Her gritty, transgressive queer music shocks on the surface level, but her sophisticated avant-garde approach to music has caught the attention of fashion big-wigs like Rick Owens and the international fag-rock audience.
When Slava Mogutin told us he was headed to Austin, Texas to spend some time photographing the performer at home, we knew they would be images worth seeing. Published here for the first time, Christeene and Slava’s collaboration looks dystopian — it’s as if the only thing left on earth are farm animals and one super chic punk-femme.
In between their photos they took some time to talk too, which you can read below:
Slava Mogutin: How do you introduce your new album, Basura, in comparison to the last one. …
Jesse St. John’s new single is the queer-pop song of the summer.
“Fake It”, the new single by LA-based singer and songwriter Jesse St. John feels like a queer contender for 2018’s song of the summer. Musically it’s bright, fun and pop-heavy, which makes sense considering Saint John has written songs for Britney Spears, Charli XCX and Brooke Candy. He’s also worked with singer-turned-Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Erika Jayne on her song XXPEN$IVE. “Fake It” has a total LA vibe to it too, it’s the sort of song you’ll want to blast in the car with the top down if that’s your thing. You can hear the Britney influence but it’s there with a bloghaus, Ed Banger kind of edge. “Fake It” has me seeing glitter and palm trees, not sunglasses and Advil. It’s exciting, too, to see the force behind many of today’s gay icons coming out with his own stuff. It feels like St. John is part of a burgeoning queer renaissance within pop music, material not just targeted toward us but written by us. What with Troye Sivan and Kim Petras eating up the charts, music – along with every other industry – is certainly having a queer moment.
It’s clear, though, that St. John creates more than just a fun pop song. On “Fake It” his lyrics are ultra-relatable and contemporary, capturing the unique emotions that come with being queer in the social media age. He sings, “Ever make you feel like a fraud, living just so people see it, wish that I was pretty enough to not think hard.” …
Did you pick up your copy of GAYLETTER Issue 8? If you answered no, I suggest you change that. We featured a bunch of beautiful, beautiful people, and among them is pop-music-alt-damsel Cody Critcheloe, better known as SSION. When Cody told us he had a new album coming out we got super excited. He had just released “Comeback,” which tells the story of an old flame returning to the appropriate lover who is more than willing to accept that skank back. It’s also a pretty obvious play on words. Ssion hadn’t released new music since 2012, so a new single six-years later is most definitely a comeback. “O,” out on May 11th, is Ssion’s third studio album and to celebrate the release he’s throwing a cute party at Mission Chinese. There’s going to be food, drinks and he’ll be playing the album. I’m stoked about it because when we got together to create his feature for Issue 8 (with Slava Mogutin) he was telling us all about how he made it in a basement in LA. Cody said he just kept inviting people to be on the album so that it had the flavor of a mixtape, like something corny you’d curate in high school, but with indie-pop and indie-rock royalty (Sky Ferreira, Devendra Banhart, Ariel Pink). The official singles, “Comeback,” “Heaven Is My Thing Again,” and “At Least the Sky Is Blue” (check out our behind the scenes coverage) have been on my Apple Music repeats for a while now. I am eager and ready for more!
April 23, 1961 — I wish I’d been alive to experience this unforgettable night in queer, musical, and American history. At 8:30pm — or maybe 8:45pm — Judy Garland took to the stage at Carnegie Hall where she’d go on to perform for nearly two hours, making international headlines with one of the many comebacks that would define her career. It was, and remains (at least in my book) the single most important performance of the 20th century; dubbed by critics, super fans and attendees as “the greatest night in show business history.” In the audience were Rock Hudson, Julie Andrews, Debbie Reynolds, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton and a slew of other queens you can hear hollering throughout the Capitol Records recording of the show that soon won five Grammy awards, including Album of the Year and the first-ever award for Best Female Vocal Performance.
The concert was recorded, mind you, unbeknownst to Judy herself and the evening proved once more that she was the consummate vocalist, one who could ‘wow’ for hours on end, not to mention live, and with the support of only an orchestra. Name someone who can do that today and win a Grammy for it — I can’t! You can’t either. This record, which remained at number one for thirteen weeks, pushing Elvis from the top spot, is still in print: a monumental achievement, a body of work unto itself, and something worth celebrating.
I suggest cancelling your Sunday afternoon plans, buying your favorite bottle of wine (or something stronger), and shutting yourself in to listen from start to finish — you won’t regret it. …
The first time I ever heard of Cardi B was in 2015 when she was on Love and Hip Hop New York. My then-boyfriend introduced me to her and I’ve been hooked ever since. (My first ever drag performance was a lip-sync to her iconic “Foreva,” which itself was co-opted from an iconic moment of hers on the show. The performance was as extra as you can imagine.) I’ve been waiting ever so patiently for new music from this “regular degular shmegular” queen ass bitch from the X. “Bodak Yellow” last year got me so thirsty and then “Cartier Bardi” was a nice Christmas gift. Four months later, here we are, finally with that new album, Invasion of Privacy, a record with a little bit of everything. We have those lead singles, a couple features (Chance the Rapper, Kehlani, SZA to name a few), some pop a la “Be Careful”, trademark slays, “Knick knack patty whack, give a dog a bone / Ima flex like a board, I’m a 10 she a toy / Stupid hoe, unimportant, unattractive, unemployed,” in “Bickenhead” and “They said by now that I’ll be finished / Hard to tell / My little 15 minutes lasting long as hell, huh?” in “I Do.” There are some self references, which I always love, particularly in the opening track. We even have a rap ballad — “Thru Your Phone” — that is the source of the album’s title and, presumably, a personal account of how she found out Offset was cheating on her. “I Like It” is a veritable Latin bop, one of the album’s highlights for sure. The standout though has to be “Best Life” with Chance the Rapper. His verse is solid but Cardi’s flow is too good, there’s so much internal rhyme that I can’t help but keep it on repeat. I could keep going but I’m not going to, go listen for yourself!
A hard-hitting homage to disco divas and ragers everywhere.
Serving CEO of Kunt, Inc. on the cover for her new single, “Anna Wintour“, Azealia Banks has fully returned after three years of chaos and controversy, handicapped throughout by mismanagement and a market-wide blacklisting that associated her name with everything befouled, wicked, and just plain unsavory. She has persisted, however, receiving universally positive reviews for her acting in Love Beats Rhymes, and independently releasing some standalone tracks to keep her head above water with her fans. These projects have been limited by the constraints of her previous behavior. But this is Azealia’s first label-backed release since Broke With Expensive Taste, and it hits hard enough to remind us why we know her name. Beyond the art, she has asked to be forgiven for the harm she committed to the LGBTQ community (and others) in the past. She’s acknowledged her faults, and evidently matured over her years in the public eye. I believe her, because a song like this creates space for us, specifically, to breathe and to live. You can hear the queer presence, acceptance, and celebration in the fabric of its making. I also believe her because she spent most of 2017 on her soap-shop Twitter handle @CheapyXO, giving her Kunts the tools to reupholster their bussies, which is certainly more than Dan Savage has done for the community.
“Anna Wintour” fulfills every lack we’ve complained over since disco died – the dance floor now usually defaced by tepid beats and wide-eyed suburbanites who all got their outfits from the same mall on Long Island. …
Beefy bodies, green-juice and Elizabeth Taylor drag in the new video
“Riding in your car on the road straight through to nowhere.” So sets the tone for Ssion’s latest single “At Least the Sky is Blue” off the forthcoming album O. The opening line is miserable at best; a cliché sung by teenagers, that has been metabolized into a cultural phenomenon of sorts — who hasn’t dreamt of driving away from it all with the windows open nowhere in front of you?
Cody Critcheloe — the artist behind Ssion — is a mastermind of this kind of banal beauty. He made his name as a singer, making music off his laptop, but has since re-focused on directing. After his music career took off in late-2000s, Ssion’s been on musical-hiatus since 2012’s Bent. The name hasn’t completely gone away though. His film-treatments, which dabble mostly in surrealism, has found him working with the likes of indie-stars Perfume Genius and pop-icons like Kylie Minogue.
When we heard Ssion was coming back with an album it was easy to say ‘yes’ when Cody asked to collaborate on some pages for GAYLETTER Issue 8. In conversation with Bruce Labruce, Cody said that “At Least the Sky is Blue” is a very honest song, inspired by his time spent in L.A. doing ketamine, which he confessed is “such a fun drug.”
On a lyrical level, “At Least the Sky is Blue” indulges in that revery, but the music video has it’s own narrative breakdown. Just under six minutes of footage amount to a pulpy, tacky and totally far-out storyline that includes beefy bodies, an in-house green-juice bar, an 80s Mercedes-Benz, and a dream sequence staring Ariel Pink as a white-haired Elizabeth Taylor. …
Ho Ho Ho Ho and a bottle of rum!
Universally infamous and an inspiration to baby prostitutes everywhere, Willam Belli is back with a new music video for the Christmas season that’s sure to land her on the naughty list. A parody of the iconic ho anthem “Once Upon A Time” by Mariahlynn, Willam’s song “Ho Ho Ho Ho” tells the tale of one lucky lady’s close encounters with the most generous man of legend: Santa. Throughout the bitter months of decay in the wind-tunnel also known as Manhattan, I keep myself going with the insight imparted to me by legend, icon, and total star, Cardi B: “a ho never gets cold.” While I can promise you that sometimes a ho definitely does get cold, in this song Willam affirms Cardi’s wisdom by detailing the many hot gifts to come from Santa’s sack — money, cookies and a questionable serving of milk.
In the video, Willam is a vision in red and denim. The look is at least halfway Christmas inspired and tinged with a familiar dominatrix touch. She might have been going for a Louboutin endorsement by becoming… a red bottom. Willam exercises that sometimes the point is to wear not anything at all, and of course, bill your promiscuous expenses. Unfortunately, viewers are asked to sign in to watch due to YouTube’s age-restrictions. The uncensored (and super spicy) version, however, is available on Willam’s Patreon page for the staggering $1 dollar. You won’t see Willam’s milk and cookies, but the sexy cast of dancers and Santa himself leave you with plenty to unwrap. …
Hot off her forthcoming EP, Lepore's first single is fabulous as usual.
Amanda Lepore — nightlife starlet; model; muse, and the world’s most expensive lady — is back with with “Buckle Up,” her first single out since 2011’s EP I… Amanda Lepore brought us several camp-anthems like “My Pussy,” “Champagne,” and “My Hair Looks Fierce.” Premiering exclusively with GAYLETTER, “Buckle Up” is off her forthcoming EP Lepore. (Due out Feb. 16.)
Seeing Ms. Lepore perform live is quite the thrill. Her over-the-top outfits, usually featuring a considerable amount of shimmering jewels, and high-brow nipple tassels, has been captivating audiences since the 90s when the store-clerk turned model took the New York nightlife circuit by storm, and began appearing all over the world, blowing kisses and drinking champagne with her fanbase. With a penchant for all things fabulous, Ms. Lepore continues to brings old time flavor to the rapidly evolving club scene.
“Buckle Up,” returns Ms. Lepore to her post as the reigning vocal-star of all things nightlife. (Though if you’re partying in New York, you know that Ms. Lepore is a permanent fixture, a real working woman; she appears weekly at several of the city’s most sultry parties.) With a playful, retro-swing, it will be no time before Ms. Lepore is up on stage performing “Buckle Up.” She sings about taking the night, and taking a mister home, lyrics that will surely serenade her usual audience of club-kids, queers and celebrities. Ms. Lepore knows how to strike up applause from the world’s most glamorous audiences. …
Fatima Al Qadiri creates a queer vernacular in music forbidden in her homeland
Senegal-born, Kuwait-raised composer and producer Fatima Al Qadiri enchanted a sold out crowd this past Saturday night at Bushwick’s Secret Project Robot. DJ’s Skyshaker, Sharp Veins, Asmara, and Rabit warmed up the with their hip-hop tinged sets as the cavernous venue brimmed with a diverse crowd of fans and dancers.
As Al Qadiri ascended to the stage at 1:00AM, the conceptual artist donned a long wig with bangs — a familiar trait of femininity — but after a few songs into the set, Qadiri snatched it off her head, revealing the signature short coif and sporting a warm grin. Refuting any kind of hetero-normative standards, the queer artist proceeded to dominate the crowd with a dynamic repertoire that included tracks from her recently released five track EP, Shaneera.
A stark departure from her previous solo efforts that include collaborations with Future Brown and GCC, Shaneera (Hyperdub) is a bold move by Al Qadiri to create a queer vernacular in music that is forbidden in her homeland of Kuwait. Al Qadiri’s earliest works — 2012’s Desert Strike, 2014’s Asiatisch, and 2016’s Brute — capture her experience with queer identity and political upheaval, wrestling content fished from her childhood during Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion.
Desert Strike is the sonic story of a child, video game obsessed and contingent to the trauma of Iraqi occupation, while Asiatisch imagines a China painted through themes of Western appropriation, and Brute, whose artwork shows a Teletubby in swat gear, symbolized Al Quadiri’s insight into the Occupy! …