Declaration of interest: I’m friends with Philip’s husband Tommy. Nevertheless, the following is my true view.
We buy more music than straight people, we are more loyal to the artists that inspire us than straight people, we are more vocal in our support of tunes we love than straight people… but us LGBT+ people are rarely the target for album releases.
Yeah, there are some specifically gay artists out there – Matt Fishell, who is enthusiastic but not always good; Steve Grand, who is good but not always enthusiastic – who aim for a gay (male) audience. But they do it more through YouTube and ‘going viral’. They leave less of a real footprint because of it. They’re not mainstream.
There are also mainstream gay artists – Cliff Richard, Elton John, Morrissey – who specifically avoid aiming for us directly and look more to selling albums to straight people.
There’s a sub-genre of male artists who take songs usually sung by women and sing them afresh, usually changing the gender of the object of the song. And there are those that leave the gender alone, but turn a happy song into one of frustration and persecution while they’re at it.
Where are all the happy songs, sung by a mainstream artist, where the object of the song and the singer are of the same sex? It’s pretty rare, alas, alas.
For this reason, Philip Chaffin’s new album, Will He Like Me?, immediately stands out. These are (for the most part) happy songs, songs that celebrate finding love. They’re from Broadway/West End musicals, so they’re crowd-pleasers (this is not a criticism, quite the reverse) and we’re likely to already know at least some of them.
And it’s a man singing about how much he loves another man. Songs originally written (often by gay writers) for women to sing about men. And here they are, finally providing some romance, longing and delight to a gay male audience who, just once, would like a gay romantic song that wasn’t all heartbreak and despair.
I couldn’t help but sing along (thus drowning out Philip’s gorgeous baritone with my own wavery caterwauling) with this album.
My husband, who long ago gave up seeking anything useful from mainstream artists that would speak to him personally, was enraptured by this album. It worked for him. He was delighted by it. And not just for ‘gay rights’ reasons – he specifically noted that Philip was one of the best singers he’d heard in years and that the album would’ve worked for him even if the roles were reversed and it was Philip singing about a woman.
Tommy Krasker’s production on the album is spot on. He knows where the music should come first and where the lyrics are most important. He knows when the whole sound should be quiet and refined and when it should blast our ears (in a good way). This seems to be a rare skill these days, and I last heard it used this well in the soundtrack album to the brilliant musical ‘Fun Home’… which Tommy also produced.
I bought Will He Like Me? on CD because I’m old fashioned, and also because that seems to be the way to give the most back to the people behind albums these days – streaming is basically worthless to the artist whilst being lucrative to the streaming company.
Nevertheless, however you choose to listen, it’s worth you listening. Enjoy.