Saturday, February 10, 2007

I Don't Feel Like Listenin'

I can't figure out why the Scissor Sisters, who are wildly popular in the UK and all over Europe, have flopped so miserably in the United States. The New York natives are among the best-selling artists in the United Kingdom but haven't cracked the charts in their home country.

My best guess is that their beat-you-over-the-head-with-a-dildo homosexuality is simply too abrasive for American audience. For some reason Europeans have a higher tolerance for former gay bar strippers wearing nothing but overalls than Yankees do. Though not all members of the Scissor Sisters are gay, and though gay themes don't entirely dictate their lyrical and aesthetic content, the band is fairly, uh, flamboyant. I saw them at the Warfield during their break-out tour, and it appeared that a large proportion of their fan base (at least in San Francisco, which is hardly an average city) are cross-dressers, bears, or unafraid to hold hands with their same-sex partner in public. Incidentally, it was one of the best concerts I've ever attended. (That they can put on such a fun show, replete with multiple costume changes, yet still maintain such a high degree of musicianship in their live performances is amazing.)

But it's not like Americans haven't embraced gay groups before. Queen and Elton John never had trouble making it huge in the US. "Relax" made it to number 10 on the American charts. Wham! was a hit over here. Though, as my boyfriend pointed out, all of those groups developed an American fan base before they had come out as gay or they were big in the 1980s, when thinly-veiled homosexual aesthetics blended in quite nicely with the overall styles of the day. Have their been any majorly successful, openly gay artists in the US in the last decade and a half?

I'd suggest that the band's actual music is what's keeping them down in the states--they preform an uncategorizable fusion of disco, glam, and dance-friendly pop--but half the junk that tops the charts on this side of the pond is synth-infused disco crap. Gwen Stefani's two solo albums have thrived in America in spite of (or because of) her synth-pop sound. Justin Timberlake could turd in a paper bag and it'd immediately go platinum in the US, and everything he does sounds pretty disco.

So what gives? Are Americans actually put off by gay music? Or would any band that's so unconventional--gay or straight--flounder in the states? Or are we just allergic to music that's not easily categorized?

1 comment:

Aaron said...

fwiw, I think that they're just way too campy -- and I'm someone who likes junior senior, kylie, basement jaxx, new order, etc.

although it is kind of weird that, say, peaches is acceptable listening in america but not this kind of band.