By Patrick Fleming

Every gay musician has got to have his gimmick.  Boy George was the eighties clubber.  RuPaul was the nineties supermodel.  Freddie Mercury was the biker.  The Village People couldn’t get by with just one gimmick, they had six!

Without a gimmick, you become Lance Bass.

This spring, several out artists are presenting their new albums.  To help them identify their gimmick, and encourage you to buy their albums, we’ve assigned them each a role.

Jason Walker, The Fighter
When a skinny white boy has the balls to take the stage of Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theatre, you know he is a fighter.  That’s exactly what Jason Walker did – appearing on NBC’s Showtime at the Apollo singing competition show.  Not only did Walker not get booed off the stage, he received a standing ovation and won the competition.  Music producer Junior Vasquez happened to be watching the show.  His people contacted Walker’s people and a month later, they were in the studio working on Walker’s first album.

This Is My Life produced three Billboard #1s, confirming the artist as one of the few gay singers capable of breaking through to a global dance audience. His songs of life and love, delivered in an octave well above any other male artists in pop music, became staples on both gay and straight dance floors worldwide.

This winter, Walker released his follow-up cd, Flexible.  The first single, “Can’t Get You out of My Mind”, rocketed Walker right back to the top spot on the club charts.  It was also #1 on LOGO’s video countdown show, The Click List.  His second single, “Can’t Stop”, produced by superstar remixer Quentin Harris, hits dance floors this spring and is expected to be his fifth consecutive #1.

Adam Joseph, The Princess
Adam Joseph, the artist, may appear to be a pink, glittery princess but don’t be fooled.  Adam Joseph, the business man, is a true warrior.

After graduating Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, Joseph battled to become one the first openly queer artists to sign with Sony BMGs all-gay label, Rainbow with a Twist.  It was the break artists dream of until the label folded and dropped its entire queer roster. 

Joseph was determined that he wouldn’t fall to defeat.  He formed his own independent label and released the smooth r&b grooves “You’re Mine” and “Flow with My Soul”.

But it was the music video to his campy track, “Faggoty Attention” that shined the brightest spotlight on the young artist.  A little bit Michael Jackson (“The Way You Make Me Feel”), a little bit Madonna (“Music”; at least the part where she is dancing in her limo), the video depicted Joseph and his gaggle of gays luring a vulnerable straight boy.  It was a YouTube hit; criticized by some as a lucky break. 

Adam Joseph, however, has said in interviews that the so-called lucky break was intentional; the result of hard work and tactical marketing.  This spring, he aims to prove he’s got staying power when he releases his new faggoty track: a cover of Kool and the Gang’s 70’s disco hit, “Fresh”.

Levi Kreis, The Country Boy
Born in East Tennessee, Levi Kreis broke into the music business as a Christian singer/songwriter.  His last album, “The Gospel According to Levi”, ushered listeners through the complicated and painful past of a young man growing up under the grip of religious fundamentalism.  His new album, “Where I Belong”, releases this May and is a complete one-eighty of his past work.  In fact, the album is the most positive, upbeat music we’ve heard from the talented piano-man.  And its gospel and country flavor is a sweet departure from the house and dance tracks preferred by most other out artists today.

Raphael Solomon, The True Beauty
Raphael Solomon has overcome many struggles.  The 28-year-old sex muffin has been used, abused, spit out and hung to dry. The best thing is he airs all of his deliciously dirty laundry on his captivating debut album, “Beautiful Dancer”.

In “Sex with My Ex”, the first track from the album, Solomon reflects on the good and bad of making whoopie with an old flame.  It’s an intriguing song; one that demands attention because of its unique subject matter but succeeds in captivating the listener with its beat and memorable hook.  It’s important to note that Solomon decides that sex with a former lover is not a bad thing, as long as you go into it with no expectations.  Living for the moment is a running theme in Solomon’s album and probably says a lot about the artist himself.

Even when at his lowest – like when he admits in “Brand New Dime” how he can’t pay his rent - Solomon’s the ultimate optimist.  The former model knows how to pick himself up, dust off, and have a little fun.  Like the night he dressed as Tarzan for a performance and his loincloth came undone on stage. Raphael Solomon’s “Beautiful Dancer” is available on i-Tunes now.

Joey Salinas, The Hustler
Joey Salinas’ 2008 ballad “All of Me” yielded the young artist a Billboard Magazine award.  This spring, he releases “…And Then There Was Alexander”, a provocative album that continues Salinas’ voyage into the complicated adventures of his young life.

The first single from the album, “Bedtime,” was penned by Salinas and inspired by a booty call.   Joey says that while waiting for his hook-up to show-up, he allowed the urgent, erotic energy he was feeling to spill over into a tune.  Basically, his horniness wrote the song.

The ups and downs of Joey’s rollercoaster emotions bleed into his music.  He reveals and explores every aspect of his self: his sensitive side, aggressive side, sexual and moody sides.  It is that personalized touch that critics say makes the young artist relatable to fans.

Joel Evan, The Exhibitionist
Playgirl model Joel Evan’s debut album, “Enjoy the Sadness” was released under his stage name Jet Kanashi.   Kanashi means “sorrow” in Japanese.   The album explored Evan’s ideas on turning sadness into pleasure.  He may have physically stripped for the magazine.  He emotionally stripped for the album.

Two years - and many months in deep meditation – later, Evan is back with his next album, “Embracing the Light…and then some.”  With this release, the artist decided to go back to his real name because while writing the songs, he realized Kanashi no longer suited the material.  The new tracks explore Evan’s need to break from sadness and find inner peace.

Standout tracks include the moody opener, “A Lighter Shade of Sorrow”, “Never Ending Universe”, and “Rule the World”, a frisky dance confection complimented perfectly by Evan’s melancholy vocals. “Embracing the Light…and then some” is available now.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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