When Sam Smith did a low-key cover of Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know" for Sirius XM, he noticeably avoided using any pronouns, male or otherwise. The ebullient, "There's a boy! I know! He's the one I dream of!" was changed to the melancholy, "Oh, it's you...." It was still a cute cover, but for an openly gay singer to skirt the issue, especially on such an informal recording, was a bit disappointing.
Even Smith's breakthrough song "Stay with Me," about the unrequited love he felt for a straight guy, is gender neutral. But according to fellow out singer Adam Lambert, the music industry's "gatekeepers" like to keep gay artists in a glass closet.
"I think there have been a lot of things in general that have shifted within the LGBT community and mainstream acceptance," Lambert told Digital Spy. "There's not as much of a reason to be scared of it, because people in general aren't scared of it."
Lambert noted that while British singers Smith and Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander are helping to change attitudes in the music industry, he'd like to see more mainstream acts do the same in America.
"It'd be nice if there was more," he said. "I think it'll happen slowly but surely. There are success stories happening and that's the biggest thing for the music industry. They need to see that it actually works in order for them to feel comfortable with it. The audiences are there for it, but the industry needs to come around a bit more to it. They are, but it's the last piece."
The music industry is notoriously slow to catch up with the times. Hell, it's still trying to recover from Napster and let's just say Tidal ain't cuttin' it. But while the industry is dragging its feet into the 21st century, there are out and proud artists outside of the mainstream, or along its fringes, living and singing their truth, such as Alex Newell, Perfume Genius, and former Vampire Weekender Rostam Batmanglij.
"Luckily we're in a moment right now with streaming where there's more power put back into the artist's and audience's hands," Lambert added. "But the gatekeepers who make a lot of the other big decisions in the music industry, those are the ones hardest to convince on certain things. That's the reasoning for some of that pronoun stuff."