For all the hoopla and excitement over Frank Ocean's coming out last year, the musician remains a rarity on the music scene: a queer person of color who has found mainstream success. Even as record executives reconsider the closet, a force still dominant in the industry long after Stonewall broke it down elsewhere, there's only select space for artists who buck the heterosexist trend. That's the argument pop artist Chris Cali makes in his essay, "The Limited Tropes of Gayness."
"I'm not a white glam rock singer with make up and sequins and leather pants. I'm not a black urban rapper bravely defying gender and racial stereotypes. And I wasn't a drag queen with catchy house music serving body and 'fish.' I never had a gimmick," the emerging artist writes. "Even the limited tropes of gayness now so prevalent in mainstream culture don't suit me as an artist, and they definitely don't suit my songs. Even in the assimilation of my own counter-culture, I don't seem to fit."
For years Chris Cali tried to make himself fit into a mainstream dynamic, singing about women and straight love. It wasn't until making this music video for his track "Never Let Me Go" that Chris Cali finally felt confident in his decision to throw off the burden of outside expectation and show his love for other men. "Just like that, the years of contemplating whether or not I should take that fateful step just evaporated as my lips touched his on camera." His resolve was doubled when Mark Carson was murdered, he says. "I suddenly felt a very urgent sense of what is right and what is wrong." But will executives and the public look past his sexuality and hear his music? We'll find out soon enough: the Brooklyn-based musician's currently working on his debut EP, PHARAOH.
In the meantime, here's the video for Chris Cali's single "Never Let Me Go."
If you like what you hear, listen to more of Chris Cali on SoundCloud and follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. He'll also be performing at Splash Bar in New York City this Thursday, June 19th.