Featured Music: Wednesday, August 18, 2004
No Lone Star or Pearl for metrosexual Pat. He’ll have a martini, please.
Kenny Chesney: No longer a Ralph Lauren cowboy but a stranger in the night, exchanging glances.
Strait George Strait always keeps it real.
Queer Eye for the Country Guy

Have today’s C&W stars been consulting the Fab Five?


A few years ago, many people were shocked when Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford came out of the closet. They shouldn’t have been. After all, Halford had long been roaring on stage on a motorcycle looking like the biker in the Village People. But then you couldn’t blame people for being surprised. In the world of heavy metal, the fact that Halford was openly flaunting a gay stereotype flew right under the radar, and in an ironic way, the hypermacho image Halford was peddling jibed as well with metal as it did in bars on the South Side. Hell, some people were even surprised to learn that Freddy Mercury was gay, despite his image and the fact that his band was named Queen.

This article’s not about rock or metal, though. It’s about another macho genre — country music. Neither is this story about outing people. We don’t know if any of the people featured here are gay, nor are we making any allegations about their sexual preferences. As far as we know, k.d. lang is the only gay musician with a country connection, though Ty Herndon was caught in a compromising George Michael-like situation in a Fort Worth park a few years back. We’re just examining images here, and lately it seems as if many of today’s top country artists have been spending some quality time with the Fab Five.

Let’s start with Pat Green. A few years ago, when he was cheerleading the new fake Texas Music (Bowel) Movement, he looked quite the man’s man — and not in that way, if you catch our drift. Old photos of Pat made him seem like the kind of guy who would chug-a-lug a can of Pearl and then belch and crush the empty against his head, the kind of guy who would unrepentantly walk around with five-alarm chili stains on his t-shirt. Then Pat signed with Republic, a New York-based subsidiary of Universal, and it shows in newer photos of him. Gone is the taco’d hat and the flannel shirt, replaced by a mop of feathery highlighted hair, puka shells, and the sort of shades sported by the top hairdresser to the ladies who lunch in Westover Hills. He doesn’t quite look gay, but he sure as hell is pushing the metrosexual envelope. We can just see some New York image consultant telling Pat, “That Texas thing won’t play in Peoria. We’ll have you looking like Richie Sambora in no time.”

Moving along, we come to Tim McGraw. Circa 1993, McGraw’s image was kind of redneck dweeb, an aw-shucks wallflower at the hat-act dance. He looks pensive, insecure, like he’s thinking, “One day I’ll be as cool as that doggone Garth Brooks.” Fast-forward a decade. McGraw enrolls in a Charles Atlas program or something like that, and presto! (You can leave your hat on, Tim.) Suddenly, he’s buff and looks like a top male dancer, a guy whose wall calendars move lots of units across the sexual preference spectrum. “Who doesn’t like Tim McGraw?” enthused one Amazon.com calendar buyer. “He is a handsome hunk to look at 12 months of the year. The photos could be better, this is not his best, imho. — A gay fan.” (Another disclaimer — just because he has gay fans doesn’t mean he’s gay, so don’t trip.)

Next we have the strange case of Kenny Chesney. Capricorn gave him his major-label break in 1994 and tried to package him as a Dwight Yoakam clone. After switching labels to BNA a year later, he was briefly peddled as a Garth-like hat act for a time, before he entered a Ralph Lauren-at-the-Santa Fe-spread phase. Like McGraw, Chesney seems to have spent some quality time at the YMCA, and thus we have the recent photos of him, which always put us in mind of the Electric Six for some reason. (“I’ve got something to put in you — at the gay bar, gay bar!”) These shots seem to be sending some sort of message. What’s Kenny thinking there? Something like, “Hey, cowboy, wanna wrestle?” And then there’s the fact that on Sharp Dressed Men, the 2002 country tribute to ZZ Top, Chesney — of all the songs in the trio’s body of work — chose to sing “Tush.” Lord, take him downtown indeed.

As for the George Strait montage pictured here, we’ve included it as sort of a control group. Ol’ George hasn’t changed much over the years, and he’s as “Strait” as they come. His colors don’t run, and pink ain’t one of ’em. And just in case you might be entertaining thoughts to the contrary, he’s not just Strait, but “Strait George Strait.” If you got a problem with that, you can take it up with his giant pet screaming eagle.

This article originally appeared in the Houston Press.

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