It didn’t take me long to realise that the most exciting part of a Kylie show was most definitely her entrance. As the lights went down, several statuesque scantily clad men appeared on the stage, gold wreathed and beautiful. ‘The Carnival of the Animals’ played as the anticipation grew and grew. Kylie emerged from the sea on a golden shell (Herald on Sunday, Australia Feb 2011). Shimmering under neon lights, Aphrodite had arrived and you could certainly feel the love in the room.
Having attended various Kylie Minogue concerts in the past I know what to expect from the audience: children, hen nights, the odd middle aged couple and gays, gays and more gays. This comes as no surprise as Minogue is perhaps the biggest gay icon of the 21st century (The Sun, April 2011) and has amassed a huge gay following over her career spanning over 20 years. I often wonder would it be as easy for Kylie to get the gays on her side in this day an age when music is littered with artists and record companies who know how the power of the pink pound.
A Kylie show definitely aims to please her gay demographic. Visuals of buff, oiled males are played as a backdrop during most of the performances which feature Adonis like dancers rarely wearing more than a scrap of fabric for each routine. Her recent video for ‘All the Lovers’ depicts Kylie at the top of giant human pyramid featuring lovers of all different sexual orientations celebrating their love for one another (Resurrection of Affection,, Armond White).But Kylie could not be accused of riding the wave of ‘gay-for-pay’ that has exploded on the music scene. She has not carved a career for herself out of her gay icon status and does not need to pander to an already very loyal fan base. In an interview with VH1.com she says
‘My gay audience has been with me from the beginning. The most important thing to me was that it was very natural in coming together. In recent years a lot of record companies marker directly towards the ‘pink pound’. But I never did that. They kind of adopted me instead’.(VH1.com, 2004)
Kylie has a point. In recent years we’ve seen many music acts that are specifically designed to captilalise on gay music listeners. This is a tactic that has both it’s good and bad points. On one hand it means that the stigma surrounding homosexuals is deteriorating but on the other it means that gays and lesbians are almost being exploited by the media and music.
Tatu were a female duo formed in Moscow who burst on the scene in 2003 with their number one single ‘All the Things She Said’. The song stayed at the top of the charts for four weeks perhaps because of the music video that accompanied the single. The video saw the duo behind a fence dressed in school unifroms kissing in the rain and snow. The video garnered much controversy around it release and tv presenters Richard and Judy launched an unsuccessful campaign to have the video removed suggesting that it promoted paedophillia. (Daily Mail, 2003)
Lena and Yulia of Tatu alleged that they were a lesbian couple for years before the release of their debut single but they were met with more controversy in 2004 when it was revealed they were both heterosexual women with boyfriends (The Sun, Jan 9th 2004). By this time their debut album had already gone Platinum in Europe. (IFPI Platinum Europe Awards)
Tatu were not the last pop act to exploit gay for pay. In 2008 Katy Perry released ‘I Kissed a Girl’ which has now become somewhat of a lesbian anthem. Her immediate follow up ‘Ur So Gay’ was also met with controversy. Lesbian ‘Gossip’ front woman was outraged by Perry. Giving in an interview with a leading gay magazine in 2009 she deemed Perry ‘offensive to gay culture’. She went on to accuse Perry of ‘riding on the backs of our culture without having to pay any of the dues and not actually being a lesbian’(Attitude, June 2009). ‘I Kissed a Girl’ is now known to be the 10th best selling single of the 21st century (The Y! Music Blog 2009)
Perhaps the biggest gay icon to emerge in the last 2 years is Lady GaGa. A woman who has exploited gay-for-pay to the extreme. Upon accepting an award at the 2009 MTV VMAs GaGa made a grand statement by thanking ‘God and the gays’ for her award (Daily Mail, August 2009). Since then her latest concert tour has grossed over $95 million (Billboard Box Office Scores 2011). At a recent awards ceremony GaGa wore her now infamous meat dress which she explained was a statement about LGBT rights saying: ’If we don’t stand up for what we believe in, pretty soon we’ll have as much rights as the meat on our bones’(Metro, Sept 2010). Her latest single ‘Born This Way’ addresses homophobia and equality and the song has been compared to Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’ by many (Boy Culture, 2011). Whilst many of GaGa’s gay fans would appraise her support of gay rights it does seem a bit gratuitous at times. One can’t help but wonder if the it is infact the record company that is the driving force behind GaGa’s gay rights campaign. Can we really blame them anyway? ‘Born This Way’ is the fastest selling single in itunes history selling more than one million copies in five days. GaGa and her record company are rolling in it. Record companies are ruthless when it comes to making money. Marketing to specific groups to generate revenue is nothing new. Boy bands for teen girls etc so one must question, should gay audiences be any different? We should be so lucky.