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For gays,new songs of survival

At first listen,We R Who We R,the current single from the singer Ke$ha,sounds like just another entry in her glitter-caked catalog of dance hits.

Written by New York Times |
November 14, 2010 1:36:34 am

At first listen,We R Who We R,the current single from the singer Ke$ha,sounds like just another entry in her glitter-caked catalog of dance hits. Eccentrically spelled song title? Check. Effervescent electro-pop production courtesy of the megaproducer Dr Luke? Check. Ample use of Auto Tune? Double check.

But We R Who We R has a subtext: It is intended as a response to the recent rash of suicides by gay teenagers and young adults,several of whom were close to Ke$ha’s age. (She is 23.) “It’s heartbreaking,” said the singer,who has sold upward of 29 million tracks worldwide since her first album,Animal made its debut at No.1 in January. She called her latest single an anthem for those “who haven’t felt accepted because of their sexuality,” a torch song for “people being themselves unapologetically.”

In the wake of the continued legal wrangling over the military’s “don’t ask,don’t tell” policy and same-sex marriage; harassment of gay youth in schools; and anger over the use of a gay joke in the trailer for the Vince Vaughn film The Dilemma,the top of the pop music charts has become a refuge of unambiguous support for gay rights.

Mean,a song that Taylor Swift released early in anticipation of her third —and current No. 1—album,Speak Now,is a bluegrass version of an antibullying public service announcement: she sings,“Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me/And all you’re ever going to be is mean.” Pink’s Raise Your Glass,a new single addresses similar themes of overcoming persecution: “So raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways,all my underdogs.” For the song’s just-released video,Pink plays a singer at a gay wedding.

And the video for Katy Perry’s new single,Firework,a song from her album Teenage Dream,features a scene in which two boys passionately kiss as pyrotechnics burst from the singer’s bust.

Then there is Lady Gaga,the biggest gay idol of the decade. Her next single,the title track from her forthcoming album,Born This Way,isn’t due out until early next year. But Elton John has told Entertainment Weekly it “will completely get rid of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive as the gay anthem.”

Together,these artists represent a new wave of young (and mostly straight) women who are providing the soundtrack for a generation of gay fans coming to terms with their identity in a time of turbulent and confusing cultural messages.

There is no better place to witness the growing pains of pop music than YouTube,where for the past year Josh Erdman,20,and Ben Klute,19,both sophomores at Occidental College in Los Angeles,have been posting clips of themselves singing covers of pop songs by Miley Cyrus,B.o.B,Kelly Clarkson and other Top 40 regulars. After several of the clips received over 100,000 views,they began to add a small stamp to the videos that reads “Legalise Gay,” a line that Klute cribbed from a T-shirt he bought at American Apparel.

After finding We R Who We R on a site a couple of weeks ago,they updated the stamp to read,“Legalise Gay ‘Cause We Are Who We Are.”

“It’s exciting because it feels like this gay awareness and openness to homosexuality is coming to a head,” said Jake Shears,the lead singer of the band the Scissor Sisters,which is supporting Lady Gaga on a forthcoming leg of her Monster Ball Tour. “If our band’s sexuality,and other artist’s sexuality,and really anybody’s sexuality,is going to be less of a big deal,then great. But what if it is just something that is just a trend? What happens to the gays if it goes out of style?”

For Ke$ha,this is a transcendent and satisfying moment. “I never could have imagined how much impact my music could have on people,” she said. “I realised that through pop music,I have the opportunity to stand up for something I believe in.”

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