Jan 31, 2015

Fall 1991: Looking for Beefcake on MTV

In the fall of 1991, for some ill-advised reason, I moved to Nashville for a graduate program in Religious Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

Nashville had a large but rather closeted gay community (same-sex acts were still illegal), and no specific gay neighborhood.  So I was lonely and homesick a lot.

I listened to a lot of music, searching for gay subtext songs, just as I had done in college a decade before.  Except this time I watched the music videos on MTV, and added beefcake to the search.

I came up with 8 gay subtext songs:

1. Good Vibrations (Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch).

The lyrics weren't much, mostly "Such a good vibration," but Marky Mark performed shirtless, and dropped his pants for no apparent reason except to display his basket.

2. Cream (Prince and the New Power Generation)

The gay-vague Prince of "When Doves Cry" returned with a song explicitly about having an orgasm (lyrics too embarrassing to reprint here).  There were no pronouns in the lyrics, although the music video showd him all over a woman.

3. Ring My Bell (Jazzy Boomer and the Fresh Prince)

A few "girls!" in this rap number by future superstar Will Smith and his bff Jazzy Boomer, but mostly it's about using the telephone to reconnect with a lost love.

Besides, they looked like a couple to me.

4. Hole Hearted (Extreme)

There's a hole in my heart that can only be filled by you.

The buffed Gary Chereone and the androgynous Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme also seemed like a couple, and "Hole Hearted" drops pronouns altogether.

5. It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday (Boyz to Men)

Most of the boy band's songs were loaded down with girl! girl! girl! refrains, but this one wasn't.  The lost love had no pronouns.  I interpreted it to mean not a person, but the gay world I'd left behind:

I thought we'd get to see forever 
But forever's gone away 
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. 

6. Black or White (Michael Jackson)

Some "girl!" here, too, but it was mostly about diversity, if you're thinking about being my baby, it don't matter if you're black or white.  Plus the music video had a cool CGI morphing of various faces and races, including a gay prettyboy.

7. Finally (CeCe Peniston)

Finally it has happened to me right in front of my face, and I just can't describe it
Finally it has happened to me right in front of my face, and I just can not hide it

The future drag queen classic not only omitted pronouns, its music video showed a muscular, shirtless guy dancing in psychedelic light.

8. Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)

Apparently the title comes from an old Southern phrase meaning "losing my temper," but I thought they were really losing their religion, their purpose in the universe, away from West Hollywood where things made sense:

That's me in the corner -- that's me in the spot light, losing my religion
Oh no, I've said too much, I haven't said enough.
That was just a dream, that was just a dream, just a dream, just a dream.

Ok, it was December, and I was still depressed.  Time to go home.

See also: outing a Medieval Knight; dating a Country-Western Star; and helping Larry find his fetish.

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