Monday, 3 May 2010

Doing the Wright thing

Shocking news - someone you've never heard of is a lesbian.

When it was first announced that People Magazine would be running a front cover outing story this week, speculation ran through the internet like an undercooked chicken fajita. Were we finally about to find out the truth about Tom Cruise's 25-year mission impossible?

No, I guess not. Instead, it turned out the closet opening celeb is a country singer called Chely Wright. The world greeted this Earth-shattering revelation with a collective 'meh' and went back about its business.

The two most common responses were 'Who?' and 'How convenient, coming out the same week as your new album and autobiography'. Gosh, we're a cynical bunch.

Chely Wright was, for a while at least, flavour of the month in Nashville. Her fourth album 'Single White Female' (maybe time to add another adjective there) was a big hit, shifting 500,000 copies back in 2000. Subsequent albums failed to live up to that early promise and she parted ways with her label MCA Nashville in 2003.

The following year she independently released a song about the armed forces called 'Bumper of my SUV', inspired by a real-life incident when a passerby gave her a mouthful of abuse for having a 'US Marines' sticker on her car. Although the song wasn't anywhere near her best work, it became a sizeable hit thanks to its politically-charged message.

Those same right-wingers who rushed to support Chely back in 2004 may well find themselves somewhat conflicted by this new twist in her tale. After all, announcing you're gay in Nashville is a little like turning up to a Bar Mitzvah with a tray of Scotch eggs.

Snippets of the People magazine story feature Chely saying she had no intention of being the first country music star to come out of the closet, nothing in her life "has been more magical" than the moment she decided to reveal her sexuality. Of course, many people rushed to name k.d. lang as the first true cowgirl-on-girl pioneer. But k.d. was never really a mainstream country artist - hell, she even shunned capitalisation.

Gossip fans may scoff at what they see as a lazy attempt to drum up some publicity for Chely's forthcoming CD and book. But it's rather naive to assume that the singer's traditional fan-base will be motivated to snap up her latest CD on the grounds that she's striking a blow for gay visibility.

It'll be interesting to see what impact Chely's interview will have on her standing in the industry. When one-time Nashville darlings the Dixie Chicks spoke out against George Bush, they received death threats from the hardcore country fans, but saw their music embraced by the mainstream instead. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that Chely experiences a similar upswing.

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