KD Lang is the quiet rebel. On and offstage, she doesn’t pull off the silly twerk-happy antics these millenium wanna-be acts are noted for but in her own way, KD has pulled off some pretty controversial media stunts in her heyday that remain iconic milestones in music history, without compromising on class.
Strip away all that andro-butch lesbian labels off of KD Lang and you get a pretty soft-spoken, classy lady, who doesn’t have to go that extra mile to prove she is sitting in a different section of life’s orchestra, because she simply IS different.
I mean, hey, any woman who can pull off an androgynous look with a strong, Patsy Cline-like emotive voice that can move hearts of lions and mountains deserves nothing but respect and admiration.
KD’s voice could comfort you on a lonesome night or move you to tears on a long bus ride. It was a voice that would soar with such strength and vulnerability all at the same time, there’s very little else you can do but just be encapsulated by it. (I mean did you see hear her rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’? Holy smokes! The only other rendition that’s just as amazing is Jeff Buckley’s broken-hearted version.)
But since her country/blues/be-bop-influenced debut album with The Reclines, ‘A Truly Western Experience’ was released in 1984, no one has artfully been able to fuse androgyny with sensuality and sensitivity quite like KD. In fact, it was a paradox. The deep longing and pain that smothers her emotional performances doesn’t match her practical and fuss-free image. In the late 80s, she was a starlet waiting to break out. In the 90s, when her single “Constant Craving” skidded into mainstream radio charts every which where, she was suddenly all over the place; being shaven seductively by supermodel Cindy Crawford on the iconic cover of Vanity Fair Magazine (which I still think is one heckuva sexy picture to this day), wearing a wedding dress to the JUNO Music Awards and then, coming out on The Advocate magazine.
And then like a single bright candle in a dark room, burning its own shadows, she extinguished herself from the industry by the late 90s after performing at the premiere of Isaac Mizrahi’s BTS documentary, “Unzipped”.
KD LANG TALKS ABOUT HER MUSIC AND THE MOMENT SHE DECIDED SHE HAD ENOUGH OF THE SPOTLIGHT.
Since then, KD’s focus has been on strictly the music and not the glamour of fame and all the trappings that come with it. She has since become a practising Buddhist with a wiser, more settled outlook on life and she has extricated herself from the model groupies, celebrity friends and the media circus.
In an interview with The Guardian, she describes the height of her fame as “really exciting but it was a fuck-up too. You can think you have the capacity to deal with it but nothing prepares you for it. I really thought I didn’t care, that I could be famous and not be altered by it – but you are. You get caught up in it and some of it is real but for the most part, it’s superficial and very fragile or temporary. I had designers throwing clothes at me and then you realise you have to go to the fashion shows. Which seems very fun and good, until you realise you’re in this kind of prostitutal exchange … I woke up and thought, ‘this is ridiculous’.”
At 5 she knew she was different and had by 13, knew that she was gay but it took her another 17 years for her to publicly declare this to the world despite her blatant andro image.
But it has unfortunately always been about two things with KD that has etched itself with audiences and fans about her and that is her voice and her sexual leanings.
Her coming out was a relief and also a hindrance. It bogs her even today because on hindsight, even though those two titillating bullet point factors helped her grow as an artiste, KD had to pluck up enough courage at some point to bite the hand that fed her so she could focus on what was important – living a contented life songwriting and performing.
Having scaled that mountain, she now does have some concerns about the acts of today who ‘play gay’ and toss stereotypes around thoughtlessly just to sell a few more albums. “The Britney-Madonna kiss [at the MTV music awards in 2003] annoyed me. I don’t know much about Katy Perry, but I think there needs to be some inning now and then,” she mentions the interview.
KD has never resorted to such cheap gimmicks. She let her music speak for itself as she swayed from making country music on her early albums to exploring other genres like the blues, jazz, rock n roll and alternative rock at the height of her career in the 90s.
It was only when ‘Ingenue’ was released in 1992 to critical acclaim and commercial success that KD decided to come out as a lesbian in The Advocate magazine, at a time when very few celebs were divulging to the world that they were gay.
KD admits that at the time it was more about the momentum of success rather than her music that seemed to push her to do edgy, controversial attention-grabbing stuff.
When she quit cavorting around the rich and famous in Hollywood and the media circus lost interest in her, she finally had the time to begin focusing on what mattered to her the most – taking on everyday wisdom and pursuing other interests.
KD has released a number of albums since in this new millennium, which includes ‘Watershed’ and ‘Sing It Loud’ but all without the drunken stupor of having sold millions the way ‘Ingenue’ did but it was something that hasn’t bothered KD Lang too much because she is now making music for the audiences that mattered; without all the superficial glitz and glam.
Her longevity in the business is testament to that and we hope she continues to release more material just so we can all continue to be amazed by her comforting, iconic voice and humble persona in a music world that has become even more tacky and superficial since her controversial heyday.
HERE IS KD LANG’S UNPLUGGED VERSION OF ROY ORBISON’S HIT “CRYING”.