Meet Steve Grand, a country singer from Illinois. The 23-year-old rookie has been getting rather a lot of attention these past few days. Just eight days ago he unveiled his debut video, "All-American Boy," a self-financed paean to unrequited (same-sex) love and surnburst lakeside romance. It has since racked up more than 850,000 YouTube views — which means, yes, it's more or less gone viral. Now he's being heralded as the "first openly gay country star," or at least the "first openly gay male country star," or something. From RYOT News:
Steve Grand has just released his first single, “All-American Boy”. Apparently, he is sans record label, management or any type of industry support. He wrote and produced this song because he believed it was his song to sing and his message to share.
In a genre with a demographic that is predominantly assumed to be conservative, Steve Grand signifies the progressive movement of country music to a much more varied audience and reach. He is the first openly gay male country musician and believes his voice will speak for so many country music consumers who have struggled with their sexual identity.
Grand's story is indeed inspiring. Hailing from a Catholic family in the Midwest, the singer was sent to "straight therapy" for several years shortly after discovering his sexuality at 13. He self-financed his music video with $7,000, and according to a feature in the Chicago Sun-Times, his job experience "has run the gamut from modeling to supplying music for Catholic church events." Only a week into Internet stardom, he has developed a flair for the dramatic. "I would die a happy man today," he told the Sun-Times. "And it's the first time in my entire life I can say that."
But is rushing to call Grand the "first openly gay male country star" not a little, err, reductive, or even inaccurate? As is often the case with these sorts of bold media proclamations, the label brushes aside a bit of history in its eagerness. Most notably, it ignores Drake Jensen, a Canadian country singer who came out in February, 2012, and whose latest video, "Scars," details the pain of being bullied as an LGBT teen. Of course, you could argue that Jensen isn't exactly a star, and his video won't likely have the same viral appeal; as Salon's Daniel D'Addario notes, "his bearish physique isn't winning him any fans among the BuzzFeed set." (Did we mention Grand looks pretty good shirtless? He does.) But he is a country musician with the courage to have come out in a genre that isn't known for its social liberalism, and so deserves public acknowledgment.