Last week, I was ogling the hot men of country music, but now I’d like to turn my focus away from shirtless hotties and celebrate country artists who actually gay (and not just worthy of gay fantasies.)
Obviously, we know about Chely Wright, who famously came out in 2010, years after she’d had a hit single. And there are plenty of gay moments in country music history.
But then there’s Drake Jensen. He’s the only country artist I can think of who is trying to begin his career as an openly gay man. It’s right there on his website. There’s a gay love story in the video for his song “On My Way to Finding You,” and the video itself is dedicated to a gay teenager who committed suicide after being mercilessly bullied.
Plus, you can see Jensen’s bear claw tattoo in his video for “Pancho and Lefty,” which bears will recognize as a sign that he’s part of their subculture. And—drag queen alert!—Jensen recently recorded a cover of “Stand By Your Man” featuring Willam. Here’s a photo from the video shoot, featuring Willam dressed up as a sassy cowgirl.
So… yeah. This dude is not hiding his sexuality. But can he actually have a major country music career as an openly gay man? Chely Wright reportedly got cold shoulders and even death threats after coming out, and it’s not like any other big star has followed her lead since then. (Though if you believe the rumors, there are quite a few pink headbands under all those cowboy hats.)
Musically speaking, Jensen would fit right in on country radio. “On My Way to Finding You” is a pretty standard country ballad, and by covering “Pancho and Lefty,” which was a huge hit for Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, he’s dutifully honoring the past, which all country stars are obliged to do. (If you don’t say you love Merle or Willie or Loretta Lynn, they seriously take away your Country Card.) His music doesn’t exactly stand out from everything else in the genre, but “more of the same” has never been a problem in the world of popular music.
But can he do it? Can Jensen break through? If nothing else, can he at least sustain a modest career as an openly gay country singer? Are there enough fans out there who will be excited to see a gay artist (or who won’t care about his sexuality at all) to keep him going? I’ll be very interested to find out.
Mark Blankenship thinks Dolly Parton should count as a gay country star, because she’s just that fabulous. He tweets as @IAmBlankenship.