Heard of Steve Grand yet? You probably will. Buzzfeed has christened him "The First Openly Gay Male Country Star". It's more than a bit of hyperbole; not only is he not so much as a C-lister in Nashville, he lacks a record deal, funding source, and manager.
What he does have is a really slick music video:
On the strength of that, and his viral fame, I'd be surprised if the lack of a manager and record deal thing stuck around much longer. He is absolutely a hot property since the Buzzfeed bit (I think it got picked up by HuffPo too).
Lots and lots of my Facebook friends have shared stories about the dude, or this video, or talked about it. Several have liked his page.
And you'd think this would be right up my alley, 'cause shit do I love me some gays and country music. And here's a gay dude singing country music.
Well, y'all know me. So what I'm going to say isn't going to come as a surprise: this isn't really country. This song. I only made it about two minutes into a 5-minute video. I will admit a bit of bias going into it 'cause I read the Buzzfeed article and looked at the animated gifs before clicking play. And when the video starts the camera pans across a clearing littered with red Solo cups to a suspiciously well-coiffed fellow in an open shirt sitting on a log by the ashes of a fucking bonfire and then the singing starts and it flashes back and they're sitting around the fire drinking beer and passing a damn flask and there are chicks in tight jeans because of course there are, how else will you know it's country music.
I closed my eyes and tried to discard the stupid imagery and concentrate on the music, and I think that got me about 45 seconds farther into it than I would have with my eyes open, but it's still not country. In spite of how he's strumming a guitar at the beginning of the video, the predominant instrument in the song is a piano, and a bombastic piano at that. I'd ask whether country music really needs another Phil Vassar, but this is much less Phil Vassar and much more Billy Joel. (For the record, though, I do think he fits in just fine in Nashville. But y'all know my feelings about Nashville.)
He's got a fine voice, by the way. I really, really like his voice. I don't like his sound. I'd love to hear him emote on, say, "Ring of Fire" (which would be apropos, given it's also a song about inappropriate love). I think he'd do a hell of a job. But as it stands, he's demonstrably less country than, say, Gary Allan, and much as I love Allan he's not going to be a stand in for Hank Sr. any time soon, or even King George.
Which brings me back to the Facebook thing. With one exception (my best friend, who to his credit said he was "unsure what I think about this"), none of the people who were talking about Grand are actual country music fans. What they all are, on the other hand is some combination of a) gay, b) liberal, or c) PFLAG members. The endorsement of this man, in other words, seemed to be purely ideological and not at all musical, and I'll be honest and say that really annoys me. It casts dislike of him as being less about music and more about sexual orientation. And while I am glad Grand has decided to be open about who he is in his music and I applaud him for it and am glad we're past the days where, for instance, Charley Pride had to release his first few albums without pictures of him lest people refuse to buy country music from a ~gasp!~ black man, I am frustrated as a music fan that a lot of the discussion of Grand will no doubt focus on who he likes to sleep with and less on what actually matters: his music.
Me, I keep my politics and my music strictly separate. My favorite singer was, is, and always will be Steve Earle, the battiest barking moonbat ever to suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome. Crazypants Democrat he may be, he makes some damn fine country music. By the same token, though, I don't like singers whose politics match up with mine just because of that--I'm never gonna be a Ted Nugent fan. It's a cool bonus when it happens, yes, but it doesn't drive my purchases.
Lately, I am starting to think that's more rare than it should be.