During the late 90’s when The Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys ruled the charts with other manufactured pop, one pop band stood upon the shoulders of most of them. In came Savage Garden, and hello Darren Hayes.
If you looked at my CD collection ten years ago it was a woman led collection of music, I’d say 10% of that were male singers, bare in mind I had 600 cds back then. I would say also that most of the collection was good old fashioned pop music, cheesy and if it had a dance remix all the better for me. Sometimes when I would talk about my cd collection, I would sometimes get looks of despair as friends would say Oasis and Feeder, and I would say Spice Girls and Steps. But I could always turn this around when I mentioned my love for Savage Garden, and that frown would turn upside down.
Savage Garden was my “grown up” music, and I found real connection if their songs. Affirmation was the pure definition of what a pop song should be, and I would always play this song when drunk with friends, demanding for them to agree with me how true the lyrics were. The first guy I was ever in love with I would think of him listening to I knew I loved you. The frustration I had when I couldn’t sing as fast as Darren could on I want You, and Crash and Burn was the ultimate song ever.
Even as Savage Garden split at the height of their career, I was excited to see the other sides of Darren through his solo music. After two “controlled” albums, Darren was dropped but still delivered two more albums to date, with a collection of songs I believe to be his best solo work to date. But why after selling 39 million albums worldwide, why haven’t we heard more?
In 2006 Darren publically came out to the world announcing his engagement to his long term partner. This was amazing to see, already we had stars being forced out by the press, this is how it should be, on their own terms.
Darren Hayes recently gave an interview with Billboard in which he discusses his coming out transition and the homophobia within the record industry, Hayes stated his belief that being honest about his sexuality resulted him in being stereo typed as an ‘gay artist’.
However, the singer admitted that he does believe his coming out impacted the success of his solo career.
“The one crazy thing was when I shot a video for my first solo single, “Insatiable” and I danced in the video. Apparently the label freaked out because they felt I looked obviously gay in it. They made me re-shoot it. They made me straighten my naturally curly hair and they pulled all TV and live performances from the promotion of the album.”
“It’s unpopular to say this now because it sounds like sour grapes, but my career and certainly my radio play was impacted once I was openly out,” he said.
“I don’t regret it for a second. It wasn’t that I was blacklisted, but it was that I became a ‘niche’ artist purely based on my sexuality.
“Today, that doesn’t matter. But back then, it was like I was suddenly your gay uncle. That was frustrating. My sexuality was used as a descriptor, and if you think about it, that’s nuts. No one says “Openly heterosexual singer Adele.”
I’m a gay man in my mid 30s, and reading this makes me so sad that would be such an issue. I knew myself watching Darren perform, and listening to his lyrics that he was gay, but it didn’t matter to me – I loved his music.
But back in this era there was not that much acceptance of gay pop stars, which is crazy considering 90% boybands were put together and styled to win over the gay community, look at Take That. H from Steps was shielded from coming out, and Stephen Gately from Boyzone was forced out because a trick of his had evidence to leak to the papers.
Will Young sold a million singles after winning Pop Idol, the first big headline was “I’m Gay” and that was brilliant to a lot young gay men of that generation, but afterwards you could see his management team minimising the gay talk out of interviews. I would of loved an out and proud gay idol in my late teens, but why wouldn’t the record companies?
Hayes continued “Prior to coming out I remember being in a board meeting with very high up radio executives who were openly mocking Ricky Martin’s sexuality. The record industry back then, at least at the executive levels, seemed quite homophobic.”
Would Ricky Martin of been so big if he released Livin Vida Loca as a gay man? Was all the struggle of George Michael and Freddie Mercury coming out count for nothing?
I can continue to this day to be a massive fan of Darren Hayes, and I will be having my first dance to “Crash and Burn” at my wedding. As many of us would like one more tour or album, I’m just happy that Darren’s voice is still being heard and he is proudly representing our community. Darren Hayes you are my idol!