Hua Hsu, America’s best music critic, has been in overdrive this week. First, his loving Times portrait of the most important neodisco act of our time, Hercules and Love Affair. I happen to like electronic and dance music very much, so perhaps I’m biased, but I sincerely believe that the Hercules and Love Affair album is a rare example of genuine pop genius, and it is well worth your time. And as it turns out, the hit single, “Blind,” has an affecting backstory.
Being gay is certainly central to Mr. Butler’s music. But unlike other previous gay dance-pop crossover acts like RuPaul, Hercules doesn’t engage in self-exoticization. With the exception of the tragic song “Raise Me Up,” few of Mr. Butler’s lyrics touch directly on the subject of his sexual orientation. “Blind” is elliptical, but personal, he said.
“‘Blind’ was about growing up a gay kid, my immediate family and social group rejecting me, and asking why I was born into this situation,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “But knowing that as soon as I could escape, I would, and that I would find freedom and solace.
“As an adult, however, I found a life full of excess and other wounded people and confusion. Thus, I felt blind.”
It actually never occurred to me that there was anything “queer” about the song. Daniel Wang, however, picked up on the theme immediately.
“With ‘Blind’ I thought: ‘Hit, hit, hit! Queer, queer, queer!’ ” he said. “The voice of Antony is so undeniably queer. It’s so melodramatic yet expressive, and clearly not belonging to any normal heterosexual, macho male. To put that over a disco beat, it’s like Sylvester meets Ute Lemper. It’s a perfect pop combination.”
I have to say, I’ve heard many heterosexuals sing strange, warbling falsettos, but I suppose Wang has a point here.
Another neat thing about the album: it is appealingly timeless. You’ll see what I mean.
Hua also has an excellent piece at Slate on unprintable band names. Go read it. I’ll note only that I saw Toronto’s ****** ** at SXSW, and they were insane. The lead singer almost slammed into me a few times and he is approximately twelve times my size. I deftly zigged when he zagged, at one point falling on my ass. There was one highly gritty elderly English rocker who kept taunting the lead singer, and they collided on several occasions. I’m all for anarchy, but hey, you might want to sweat on your audience less, comrade.