These days, with more and more public figures coming forward about their sexuality, it was only a matter of time that we here at AfterElton.com put together a list of the most influential and intriguing openly gay and bisexual male musicians of the past century. Compiling a list like this was no small feat.
While we’ve limited this to only 50 musicians, the number of openly gay artists far surpasses that number, and we’re sure you will likely spot an artist near and dear to your heart that we left out. Trust us that it was not done in malice. We simply tried to assemble a list of those artists we feel have been both successful in their careers while also raising awareness toward gay rights issues and giving back to the community in which they belong.
We also decided to rule out those artists whose sexuality was often rumored to be gay, but have never been confirmed by the artists themselves, take Morrissey or Liberace for example. We also decided to omit those musicians who appeared to flirt with being bisexual, but ultimately seem to consider themselves straight, such as David Bowie, or musicians who have talked in vague generalities about bisexuality but again ultimately seem clearly heterosexual, such as Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong.
So here we are with a list honoring those out and proud men who have paved the way for many others like them and many more who will surely come. These men have been a positive influence for GLBT youth around the world, and by their honesty they have helped shape the current climate and acceptability for being an openly gay male artist in today’s music industry.
These are artists who risked their careers to be true to their sexuality, and who make us proud to be the gay and bi men that we are.
50. Tiziano Ferro
Italian pop singer Tiziano Ferro got his start like numerous American Idol finalists these days by participating in a talent show – the Sanremo Music Festival in 1998. While Ferro did not win the competition, he did make it to the 12 finalists, but more importantly he caught the attention of two producers in the audience – Alberto Salerno and Mara Maionch.
Together they worked on Ferro’s debut album Rosso Relativo, released in 2001. Ferro’s song “Universal Prayer” was used at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, and he has since gone on to sell over 8 million albums worldwide, in part because Ferro is fluent in Spanish and releases Spanish versions of his Italian albums. Recently Ferro made headlines when he chose to come out to Italian Vanity Fair magazine on October 5, 2010, stating “I want to fall in love with a man.” Ferro is our most recently out gay male artist.
49. Colton Ford
Born Glenn Soukesian, Colton Ford first rose to prominence as a gay adult film star from 2001-2002 with 11 films to date, many of which I’m sure you’ve already seen. Interestingly enough, before Ford’s time in the movie industry, he began his career as a back-up singer for the likes of Salt ‘n Pepa, Chaka Khan, and Vanessa Williams.
Ford walked away from the adult film industry in 2002 to refocus his career on music, generating a string of club/dance hits including “Everything” and “That’s Me” on which he collaborated with Cazwell. His cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” peaked at No. 9 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart while his debut album Tug of War was released in 2008. In the same year he participated in the True Colors Tour alongside Cyndi Lauper, the Indigo Girls and Joan Jett. Ford appears in the music video for Lauper’s 2008 single “Into the Nightlife.”
Ford’s second album Under the Covers features his versions of tracks from artists like Britney Spears’ “Trouble” and Robyn’s “With Every Heartbeat.” So what kind of man is someone like Colton Ford into? He says he likes “a man who can be vulnerable, share his insecurities, be in the moment and be very honest and authentic. That speaks to me more than anything. That’s a really, really hot quality.”
48. Jay Brannan
The Texas born Brannan has been compared to Rufus Wainwright for his openness as a gay artist, and has been compared to Ani DiFranco and Joni Mitchell for his craftiness with songwriting, possessing the qualities of an “angry, sad woman.”
In 2002, after just one semester of college in Ohio, Brannan set out for New York City hoping to break into the entertainment industry. He quickly landed a role in the film Shortbus and got the chance to add his own song “Soda Shop” to the movie’s Soundtrack. Brannan’s music career soon took off as he utilized Myspace, YouTube and Blogspot to routinely upload self-made music videos. He soon developed a loyal fan base and in 2008, Brannan released his debut album Goddamned and followed up with an album of cover songs In Living Color in 2009.
Jordanian-American Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, Ferras grew up in a small town in Illinois where he never felt like he really fit in. After his parents divorced, his father kidnapped him and brought him to Jordan, where he began playing a Casio keyboard and began writing his own songs.
Ferras’ first album, Aliens and Rainbows featured the song “Hollywood’s Not America,” which was used as the exit song for season Seven of American Idol.
He has since co-written several songs for artists including Adam Lambert and The Veronicas, and is currently working on his next album which he hopes to release in 2011. (It is currently in post-production.)
With his smooth, sweet voice and his incredible songwriting ability, Ferras is certainly a talent to watch. And what does openly gay Ferras look for in a mate? “A sense of humor. And a great ass”.