FIRST ON QUEERTY — It’s definitely not Oprah or Kevin Spacey. It’s almost certainly not Queen Latifah or Tyler Perry. And it’s likely not even Matt Bomer or Kelly Clarkson. And while the current favorite for May 5′s big celebrity coming out points to country singer Shelby Lynne, we’ve got a more informed entry: Chely Wright, the 39-year-old American County Music Award winner.
Why Wright? Our curiosity piqued when a source at People magazine — which has secured an interview and spread with the person — wrote us a one-line email: “Have you considered it might be Chely Wright?” We hadn’t! So we started doing some digging. (A Queerty commenter, while we were working on this item, even floated Wright’s name in our earlier post.)
As it turns out, Wright, who’s been absent from the industry for a half decade, has a new album and memoir coming out (hah!) May 4. The day before her planned big reveal. The book is titled Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer. The album is titled Lifted Off The Ground. And both should see a huge spike in sales with the buzz of a coming out.
Wright, who was named in 2001 to People‘s “Most Beautiful” list, has much to gain from coming out. Namely, financial gains. Her first major studio record debuted in 1994. She’s released six records since. Only one album, Single White Female in 1999, went gold; its self-titled single, hit No. 1 on the country charts. She’s never repeated that success. So here comes her seventh effort at hitting it big: Vanguard Records releases Lifted Off The Ground on Tuesday, and the publisher Pantheon releases Like Me the same day. Amazon.com describes the book as “a book of revelation: honest, inspiring and true.” Indeed!
(NB: What about Shelby Lynne’s publicist’s remarks? Lynne’s publicist issued standard neither-confirm-nor-deny statements to Gawker about whether that country singer was going to be in (or on) People in the next issue. Such non-committal remarks can often be interpreted as confirmations. But if Wright is May 5′s coming out, that doesn’t mean Lynne isn’t gay, nor does it mean Lynne’s rep lied.)
So on the one hand, it’s not some A-list celebrity that’s coming out and changing the world. On the other hand, at least it’s not an “obvious” celeb like Johnny Weir, who is out in all but name only.
Meanwhile, a search to find anyone who Wright has dated publicly turns up empty. Even the website WhosDatedWho.com, which often marks two people as having dated if they were merely once spotted together in public, turns up empty on Wright. The closest she’s gotten to, ahem, marriage? A duet she co-wrote with Brad Paisley called “Hard to Be a Husband, Hard to Be a Wife.” And interestingly, there is no “Personal Life” section on her Wikipedia entry, suggesting it may be constantly scrubbed.
The country music blog The 9513 describes Wright’s new record as “excellent,” and notes:
On Lifted, Wright goes public with her own private hell. During much of a five-year hiatus from the music business, Wright–”a big ball of pain and pajamas” as she puts it on “Notes”–holed up inside her New York City apartment as she dealt with a long-term depression. Urged on by friend and mentor Rodney Crowell, she turned her personal tumult into a candid song cycle that shows just how she’s blossomed into a first-rate singer-songwriter. Such artistic growth comes as a welcome surprise. A pretty brunette with a big voice, Wright seemed to be the conventional country music babe upon her debut. Even People Magazine took notice, naming her to its 50 Most Beautiful People list. But as Wright hovered around the Faith-Shania axis in the late 90s, she carried a different tune than her pretty peers, trending towards more quirky fare that paid little heed to Nashville formulas. Of course, she remained a mere blip on country radio’s radar, despite scoring a #1 hit with 1999’s “Single White Female.”
Escaping from her music career? Hiding from your public? If this isn’t an apples-to-apples repeat of fellow singer Jennifer Knapp’s build up to her own coming out, we don’t know what is.
On the album’s opening cut, “Broken,” Wright begs to an untrusting lover: “Why can’t you just believe in me?” These matters of faith are the focus of Lfited, from the dreamy, psychedelic “Snow Globe” to the hushed, intimate closer “Shadows of Doubt.” Wright never minces words or wastes melodies. Take “Damn Liar,” a primal, lite-metal ballad that smolders with white-hot anger. Not one to shy away from pain or profanity, she issues a crude rebuke to her beloved: “Fuckin’ liar, that’s what you are.” The Alanis-like “Object Of Your Rejection” is a similarly cynical take on romance, aimed at a nasty ex who “can get away with treating people like shit.” Obscenities aside, the language on Lifted is swift and sure and sounds like a desperate cry for freedom.
Done and done.
Can we guarantee it’s Chely Wright who’s coming out May 5? Nope. Can we guarantee Chely Wright is even gay? Not exactly. But taking into consideration all available information, we’re putting our money on this one. And we’ve got a very good feeling we nailed it. At this point, we know it to be true.