Thursday, April 9, 2009

Androgynous: Antony Hegarty...

On record, singer Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons trembles, swoons and nearly buckles beneath the weight of his world. His pathos echoes the extravagance of Judy Garland, while his androgynous warble traces the mood swings of Nina Simone. He's indie-pop's latest drama queen, even if he is built more like a bouncer at a biker bar.

Androgynous Zone - Antony Hegarty
Much of Antony and the Johnsons' music has revolved around singer Antony Hegarty's efforts to come to terms with and explore his sexual identity. But his latest album, The Crying Light, shifts away from issues of gender and instead examines Hegarty's relationship to nature — growing things, flowers, mountains, streams — which isn't what you'd expect from an artist with such strong ties to downtown New York's world of drag queens and cabaret.
Androgynous singer and songwriter Antony Hegarty, aka Antony & the Johnsons, modeled himself on drag queens and Boy George early in his career. But despite that background, his music is surprisingly serious. The Crying Light is his latest CD.
The voice of Antony Hegarty has been close to ubiquitous as of lately. It is part of the sound of artists as diverse as Marc Almond, Bj√∂rk, CocoRosie, and Lou Reed, to mention only some of those with whom he has collaborated.[1] But it has also been heard in films, such as V for Vendetta, where it is played by the jukebox in an important scene, as well as the recent Bob Dylan film I’m Not There, where Antony is singing “Knocking on Heavens Door”.[2] In addition, of course, there is his own band, Antony and the Johnsons, with their two albums; the self-titled Antony and the Johnsons and I am a Bird Now, with a third album, The Crying Light, due for release in 2008.[3]

Born when Ziggy Stardust raided the airwaves, and becoming teenager around the time when Frankie told us to “Relax” and Boy George was asking “do you really want to hurt me?”, Antony might be placed in a long history of popular-music singers.[4] This history questions dimensions of the gendered understanding of popular music, questions having become increasingly persistent in recent years. And co-existing with Antony’s reaching out to a more mainstream audience, the rise of queer studies within musicology might be fruitfully used to discuss Antony’s music.[5]

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