Phil Reese

Top 10 Out Gay Male Pop Stars

Filed By Phil Reese | October 23, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Andy Bell, Boy George, Erasure, George Michael, Jake Shears, Michael Stipe, Mika, Neil Tennant, Pet Shop Boys, pop stars, queer music, REM, Rufus Wainwright, Rupaul, Sissor Sisters

To celebrate Mika's coming out earlier this month, I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at ten out gay (or bi) men who seem to have no trouble tearing up the charts today despite the glass closet. Sure many of these boys experienced career setbacks after coming out, but for overall, these men represent over 100 million albums sold collectively. They're all powerhouses in their genre, and they continue to affect and influence the industry. Of course, they're no match for the ladies... but that's a different post altogether!

10. Boy George: He may not have his act all together, but he's still a spectacular performer. As he aged, his voice became richer and more confident. I dare say I like him more now than at the height of his fame--even though he can be downright scary sometimes! Here is one of his recent singles, "Vote For Love." Appropriate with the votes in Maine, Washington and Kalamazoo coming up... (please click the links to help!)

More after the jump...

9. RuPaul: I can't lie, I own more RuPaul albums than should be legal. That said, Ru's summer jam, Champion, was a solid piece of pop. "CoverGirl," "Jealous of My Boogie," and "Champion" were all outstanding singles, and dance-floor-fillas! Here is "CoverGirl" from that album. Look out for Ru's newest venture, Starrbooty coming to a TLA video catalog near you soon!

8. Mika: "We are Golden." Nuff Said. Didn't you just know he was going to blow the world's socks off when you heard "Grace Kelly?"

7. Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters): Yeah, I know Scissor Sisters have had TONS more recent hits than "Filthy Gorgeous," but this is just one of the best dance-rock songs ever made, and its my piece, so I'm doing it! In all seriousness, however, Jake Shears is a renaissance man in the industry. He has a keen ear for the perfect pop hook, and he's worked with some of the biggest names in rock and pop as a writer. He'll surely have a strong presence in many areas of the industry for a very long time--like the gay Jack White!

6. Michael Stipe (REM): When Michael Stipe came out earlier this year, I was shocked... I had been under the impression he was already out! Out or not, this band has been the keystone to the Alternative Rock and College Radio genres for over 20 years.

From "Losing My Religion" to "Stand" to "Orange Crush" to "Everybody Hurts" and "What's Your Frequency Kenneth," Stipe and REM have dominated the airwaves with strong, purpose-driven guitar and Stipe's unique voice that sounds like an enthralling combination of an angel and the homeless guy who passes through your back alley arguing with himself at night. "Hollow Man" is from their latest album, Accelerate.

5. Rufus Wainwright: Son of Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III, brother of Martha Wainwright--Rufus was destined to make beautiful music. His chillingly melodic yet lethargic voice is as haunting as it is beautiful, and it pairs up with his piano like Glenn Beck pairs with crazy--perfectly! He's a soundtrack shoe-in, with songs on everything from Shrek to High Fidelity and dozens of other films. He even reproduced in its entirety Judy Garland's Carnegie Hall set a few years ago. If that's not gay, I don't know what is.

Here's one of his most recent hits, "Going to a Town."

4. Andy Bell (Erasure): He looked so sexy in those tight jeans back in the day. Of course, I was about five, so I couldn't really appreciate it, but Andy Bell and Erasure have made some amazing New Wave and Dance for over twenty years, and tricked millions of suburban housewives into digging totally queer music! Erasure is still together, still making amazing music ("I could Fall In Love With You" obliterated the competition on Dance charts two years ago) and still touring and selling out stadiums.

When I saw them on the True Colors tour three years ago, they brought down the house by doing a set of their most amazing hits (unlike a certain 70s icon who decided to only do previously unreleased material from her forthcoming album. Can we say bathroom time?) and I lost my voice screeching "Love To Hate You" at the top of my lungs. "Breathe" is a few years old, but the song and the video are gorgeous. One of my favorite songs ever. And I hate ballads, usually.

3. Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys): God, as bad as I want to, I can't stop listening to the Pet Shop Boys. It creeps in at least once a week. If it isn't "Its a Sin" or "West End Girls" "Go West" or "What Have I Done To Deserve This," then it's "You Were Always On My Mind" or "DJ Culture" "Domino Dancing" "Opportunities" or "New York City Boy." The Pet Shop Boys are one of Billboard's most successful Dance Acts of all time, with only Janet Jackson and Madonna charting more often on the Dance charts. That's pretty good company to keep. And Pet Shop Boys have earned their position.

Even though Neil Tennant's nasally, almost snide delivery doesn't necessarily sound angelic, the raw lyrics and the classic synth-pop sound get under your skin and consume you. They're pretty kitschy--from their one-word album name gimmick to their styling periods that had them emulating Soviet iconography for a long period of time--but they're also pretty spectacular performers. Their concerts are nothing to sniff at and the artists that they've worked with are all among the top selling living artists of all time. They're legit. And lets face it, Neil Tennant is still sexy--and he doesn't have any hair left. "Did You See Me Coming" is from this year's Yes.

2. George Michael: One of the most talented musicians to ever get a mug shot, George Michael's career has spanned almost three decades now, and he's still showing up surprising audiences at concerts around the world (just a few months ago he surprised a UK audience there to see Beyonce, joining her for a curtain duet). Though he's extremely troubled, his music is brilliant and beautiful. And, as it turns out, the perfect soundtrack for cleaning your house on a Sunday afternoon!

Though he's created some outstanding music over his long career, his most personal album by far was Listen Without Prejudice, a beautifully sad yet optimistic intimate collection of songs that can easily bring you to tears right before getting you up and dancing. Anyone who knows me, knows that spring doesn't start until we've gone driving around town with all the windows down blasting "Freedom 90" as loud as is legal. Here now is one of the greatest singles ever written and one of the greatest music videos ever filmed.

1. Elton John: I don't have to explain why Elton John is number one, right? One of the most successful male musicians in pop history, Elton John has consistently rocked for four decades and shows no signs of stopping. I'm going to let his music speak for itself.

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Mika came out as bi, not gay. It would be awesome if the people could stop forgetting that "LGBT" has 4 letters, not 2.

Totally with you. As an openly bi man myself (which I've mentioned in a few posts) I get frustrated as well. In the opening paragraph I included "(and bi)" for Mika. However the overwhelming majority of the artists are gay. Not to mention that I am a bi man who identifies as gay--one can be bi in sexual orientation, but self-identify as gay often to emphasize the unity with the LGBT community. Now Mika self identifies as bisexual, but many of these men who identify as gay may very well have a bisexual orientation, and--like me--choose to emphasize that they feel unity with the politically 'othered' group.

However, bisexuals should have pride. I have a lot of pride that I'm a bisexual man who has worked hard along with the entire queer community for many years! YAY BI PRIDE!

I just think it comes off as very erasing when bisexuality only gets parenthetical mention in an article titled to be about "gay" men.

While obviously there is a lot of room for interplay between "bi" and "gay", especially given how society as a whole reduces them to the same thing, we are not privy to that level of insight into Mika's identity. While I respect and understand what you're saying with regards to your own identity (which sounds pretty similar to my own), the validity of bisexuality as an orientation/identity is frequently dismissed or questioned within the LGBT community, and I feel like your handling of Mika's bisexuality here is playing into that.

Could be so, but this one was just supposed to be a fun one. ;-) I took on this piece quite lightly and wanted to just present something a little fluffy and fun for us all. Hope you enjoyed it otherwise!

But we ALL would have enjoyed it so more if you had simply been accurate and not have left out all the people between 1 and 5 on the Kinsey Scale.

While yes, it is clear that it was just "a little fluffy and fun for us all" piece, you are probably just not aware that the biphobes, the closet-cases and haters jump on each and every little example like this to say "see you don't really exist", "you all are just in the closet" or a personal favorite "you don't have any place in MY Community" . . . carefully overlooking all the major bisexual/pansexual people who helped FOUND the modern LGBT Right's Movement (Stephen Donaldson started 1st LGBT Student Group in the USA at Columbia University BEFORE Stonewall & then helped other people start them on their campuses, Brenda Howard started PRIDE Celebrations, yadda, yadda, yadda), without whose sacrifice and hard work we'd all be so much less far along in fighting our way to true equality.

Surely you must get tired of it when other people inappropriately "Straighten Out" most of the things that are seen in the mainstream press and history books. Don't you think we do too?

as stated in other comments here, I am openly bisexual, and proudly so. I mentioned bis right from the get go. I don't know what else I can do. I'm plenty bisexual, but this is a predominately gay list, and I'm not writing something with a massive title. In library studies, when picking subject headings for cataloging, you only mention a subject if its dealt with on more than 20% of the pages. A book isn't about 'something' unless its 20% of that book. Mika is 10% of this post, and I still mention bisexuals at the top. Just not in the title. I think I did plenty good. I'm sorry all my bisexual brothers and sisters are apparently unhappy about being included, but not being the center of attention.

But we ALL would have enjoyed it so more if you had simply been accurate and not have left out all the people between 1 and 5 on the Kinsey Scale.

While yes, it is clear that it was just "a little fluffy and fun for us all" piece, you are probably just not aware that the biphobes, the closet-cases and haters jump on each and every little example like this to say "see you don't really exist", "you all are just in the closet" or a personal favorite "you don't have any place in MY Community" . . . carefully overlooking all the major bisexual/pansexual people who helped FOUND the modern LGBT Right's Movement (Stephen Donaldson started 1st LGBT Student Group in the USA at Columbia University BEFORE Stonewall & then helped other people start them on their campuses, Brenda Howard started PRIDE Celebrations, yadda, yadda, yadda), without whose sacrifice and hard work we'd all be so much less far along in fighting our way to true equality.

Surely you must get tired of it when other people inappropriately "Straighten Out" most of the things that are seen in the mainstream press and history books. Don't you think we do too?

I agree with Alex here. As a bi male who only identifies as bi and never as gay or straight it is irritating to be presented as a subcatagory of gay again.

I wrote the title - not Phil. There's only so much room in a title guys, before it screws up our technical aspects like the URL/SEO stuff. It was my call and was done for professional reasons.

The post celebrates Mika coming out as bisexual. It includes bisexuals. In the first paragraph it says the post is about Gay and Bi men. It seemed like that was enough.

Mea culpa.

However there is only a difference of one letter between "Gay" and LGBT and if a prestigious outfit like Blerico (32,157 Alexa USA Traffic Rank!) makes it a habit to be inclusive, lesser lights will soon follow.

I remember when I was young listening to the veterans of Stonewall, the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance reminiscing about then early days. And one of the Big Controversies that developed was when women suggested that the word "Lesbian" be included and OMG the battles that occurred over that radical suggestion!

And what do you know but that the exact same arguments were made. To paraphrase one woman, the men endlessly claimed that it was "impossible!" because it just wouldn't fit on "the button, the brochure, the banner, the building . . . " And yet the women persevered and somehow it and we have all made accommodations. The "movement" did not implode. In fact it has grown and gotten bigger and better by being inclusive then, as it will by learning to be inclusive now.

He drew a circle that shut me out Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout But love and I had the wit to win; We drew a circle that took him in. ~~Edwin Markham

The Pet Shop Boys song you mention is actually West End Girls, not Western Girls... One of my favorites!

HAHA! I knew that. A little background to that Freudian slip, I attended Central Michigan University and our biggest rivals were Western Michigan. When they'd come to town to play us, the radio stations would play "West End Girls" and we'd all sing along changing the words to "Western Girls." It was my subconscious seeping in as I was writing there! Thanks for pointing that out, I'm going to go ahead and get that changed!

That is the thing Phil, you can't really be light and fun without someone being negative on this site and others. It amazes me that even when someone is talking about something totally positive and hopeful,like the march, another person comes along to rain on the parade. I swear this site, especially, has a lot of dark clouds and cold fronts. (to put it in a "fun" way) People need to lighten up a bit. No wonder some people just give up on labels. I like calling myself a gay man as that is what I am. Personally, I don't care what anyone calls themselves, but they should not be negative about so much! Oh and about the people above I really like Rupaul, Elton and the Pet Shop Boys and not too familiar with some of the others.

Aw gee, Rann, I appreciate the support, but really Bilerico is the site I find that the commenters tend to have the best stuff to say, and I never feel crowded out by the negative nancies (unlike a certain OTHER LGBT news site who shall remain nameless, but whose name rhymes with Bweerty!). I love our readers! They're overwhelmingly supportive, like you!

Why is civil criticism "negative"? I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade, but I think the language we use is important and worth discussing. Wouldn't the piece have been just as light and fun if it had been titled "Top 10 Out Gay and Bi Male Pop Stars"?

No Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons? I think that's a serious oversight.

I'm sure Anthony and the Johnsons make some awesome music, but my focus was on big name pop stars that are putting out albums still at this time. I'm pretty well versed with all things pop, and I've never heard of Anthony and the Johnsons! I also left out a lot of other folk who just aren't recording anymore, or may have been around for a while but just haven't made more than a little blip on the pop radar (Pansy Division, for example). I looked mostly at folks who have charted more than a few times on Top 40 radio, and may even still be charting on Top 40.

This is a really FUN list :) But where is "The Think White Duke" David Bowie? He has been openly bi-sexual since 1972.

Now that was a serious oversight on my part. David Bowie is definitely still making great music. As is his long-time 'pal' Mick Jager. On top of that, there's Iggy Pop--who was featured on the Teddybears' "Punk Rocker" recently a big charting single. I couldn't get everyone in, and this was definitely subjective, but you bring up a good point--now I'm sad I left him off!

Phil, I realize you are so young that you probably missed him entirely (unless you sit around in K-Mart listening to the Christmas songs), but Johnny Mathis came out ages ago in the pages of the old Advocate (way, way back in the David Goodstein era) ... and if you can regard him as "pop" (yeah, it's a stretch ...) then he deserves Honorable Mention, just for his sheer balls at coming out so early (I mean, late in his career, but early as far as out-and-open celebs are concerned) ... and while he was still recording.

On top of that, he's African-American, even.

Other points:

(*) Ditto your remarks regarding Micheal Stipe --- he has been known to be gay for decades, and if he made it official only recently, then it was about like Samuel L. Jackson announcing that he's black.

(*) Re PSB: Try playing Liza Minelli's version of Losing My Mind (from the Results album) and following it immediately with the Pet Shop Boys version (from the Introspective album). It works remarkably well, probably because Pet Shop Boys produced the Minelli version first, then used the sounds that were too over-the-top for Minelli on their own version. (No, it's not their best hit but it is a useful DJ trick if the dance floor is already grooving to the Minelli version.)

(*) You say how great he is but you failed to refer to Captain Fantastic by his proper salutation: It is Sir Elton John to you, Bianca.

(*) And to underscore the gay generation gap yet again, I will admit that I hadn't even heard of Mika or Andy Bell/Erasure. Thanks for educating me.

Speaking of Pop stars- did Robbie Williams ever officially come out? I loooove me some Robbie Williams.

And Rufus & Jake Shears should do a duet- with me screaming in the background like a tween Miley Cyrus fan.

Just sayin'.

Yeah, Waymon, I forgot to say ... I luv Rufus Wainwright.

Robbie Williams flirts with being under gay suspicion so much that whether or not he IS gay, it really doesn't matter--to him or the world. He's perfectly comfortable with being thought of as gay, even if he doesn't come out.

Truth be told, I'm a HUGE fan of his, and I've followed his torrid romances with trashy women for years. He fucks gross tricks JUST like a straight man.

Love my Rufus!! If you go to CBC Radio's ( website under Concerts on Demand, you can hear a whole solo concert he gave last summer in Ontario. A few other Canadian Queer music men would Joel Gibb of the Hidden Cameras, Owen Pallet of Final fantasy, Gentleman Reg and my soon-to-be-famous friend from Nova Scotia, Ryan MacGrath.

Looking back a few years (and across the pond), Phil, I'm a huge fan of the self-declared bisexual, the Thin White Duke himself, Mr. David Bowie. He could Jean Genie me any day!!

My one problem with the list is the inclusion of Michael Stipe... not because he isn't gay but because he's more of a rock star than a pop star. I agree, Johnny Mathis absolutely belongs on that list... he's one of the top selling pop singers of all time. Then we get into what is pop and what is rock? Freddy Mercury was a rock singer, but also dabbled in pop. Then if you get into rock you get people like Rob Halford of Judas Priest (who, let's face it, is pretty ballsy to come out in the homophobic world of heavy metal), Pete Shelley from the Buzzcocks (who I LOVE!), K.D. Lang (pop or country???). It's complicated. Bowie or Jagger... not nearly gay enough, no matter what anyone wishes. How about Jobriath... okay, obscure, but he came out in an era when it really took a lot of guts to do so.

Certainly all great performers. However, I limited myself to living, still releasing mainstream material and male. That's why the artists who landed here landed here. By pop, I mean top 40 Rock/AltRock/Pop.

Filthy Gorgeous is the best Scissor Sisters song ever.

@gina - agreed on Michael Stipe but not Johnny Mathis. I say we just substitute David Bowie in our own mental lists and call it even. :)

Clarification: I did not say Johnny Mathis should make it into the current Top 10 --- he's way too "over" for that --- I simply said he deserves an Honorable Mention in the footnotes.

Well, the comments are notes at the foot of the post... so consider it done! :-)

Hmmm, so just males?

Someone needs to do a follow up top 10 lesbian pop star list.

Good list, but, not on this list are also:

Lance Bass
Clay Aiken
Adam Lambert
Bob Mould
Freddie Mercury

I think that's in the plans, Louise. I know when Phil and I talked about the post, we agreed that it would be easier to split the posts up to make for better posts. ;)

Lame that they didn't include Fred or Keith from the B-52's

Bi people are a part of the LGBT grouping that just so happens to be termed "gay" or "queer". Both of these terms can have broad or specific meanings depending on context. Furthermore, just because you CAN (or have) sleep with a member of the opposite sex you are not Bi, if that were the case then technically we are all bisexual. I really wish that people would stop trying to cop out of the gay label simply because they CAN have sex with the opposite sex. Get over yourselves and come to terms with who you really are. Your inability to accept yourself is part of why the straight community thinks that we all have a choice. From now on I am using the term LGT, if you don't want to be associated with us then we don't want you either.

Joshua...(hugs) You seem so upset about someone wanting not to be invisible.
Are you afraid that you won' be valid?
The same way you don't like it when straight people don't take you serious we bisexuals don't either. So why do that to us? I mean...that's pretty straight of you yannow?

Bo Hooo! Boy George should have been No.1 in your list! and where do you get that he should get his act together? he's never had his act more together than now... check out my site and find out why! ;)

Ps: "Vote For Love" hasn't been released as a single... but it should as it is a great song!

Love & Peace, Jesus

Dear Jesus,

"Vote For Love" is amazing, and I hope lots and lots of people bought it (like I did) upon my recommendation.

PS, You kind of rock in a really really amazing way.

Thanks for supporting us young little bloggers.

PPS, anyone who doesn't know anything about Boy George is a dumb ass. Boy George is outstanding and is better now than ever.

PPPS, except for "The Crying Game." I love both Boy George and the Pet Shop Boys but that song should have never been made. Why couldn't you guys have done "Domino Dancing" together?