Steve Grand has had quite a week. The country music cutie has seen his self-funded video for “All American Boy” go viral, racking up nearly 1.2 million hits on YouTube, and his previous underwear modeling photos have steamed up the internet as well. “All American Boy” is a hit in the gay community because it has hot guys, hot guys shirtless, hot guys semi-making out, and all this is wrapped around a song that is actually quite solid. Grand’s voice is smooth and textured, and he lets out just the right amount of country music yearnin’ to make it all work. In LGBT culture, Steve Grand has definitely “arrived,” and has a solid career of New Now Next awards, Out magazine covers, and Pridefest gigs ahead of him. But, outside of gay blogs and media, is country music truly ready for all of this?
In 2010, the industry was buzzing with the rumors that a gay singer was ready to come out. It ended up being Chely Wright, a country singer who had a #1 country hit in 1999 with “Single White Female.” Wright capitalized on her buzz to release new music and introduce herself to a new generation of fans via pride parades and gay media, and also released a documentary called Wish Me Away that showcased her career and struggles with being gay in country music.
However, by early 2011 she was singing a different tune. In an interview with the website Autostraddle, she was blunt and honest about the negative effects that coming out had on her career. “It didn’t help my career,” she said. “My record sales went directly in half. If it appears from the outside in that it’s helped my career, it could be because I haven’t talked about the negative.”
Country music has long had the reputation as a straight white guys and gals only club, and though recent black acts like former Hootie and the Blowfish singer Darius Rucker and Cowboy Troy have had some success, they’ve had their share of incidents with fans who want to keep the status quo.
Where does that leave Steve Grand, or any other hot gay guy or gal trying to make their mark in country music? It’s hard to say. “All American Boy” is a hit in the viral sense of the word, but is making no real impact on country radio. Nashville is a notoriously insular place, and it is possibly that Grand could be resented not only for being gay, but for making such a huge splash without paying the proverbial dues.
Either way, if any openly gay country star was posed to make a real breakout in the industry, it’s Grand. He’s got the eyes, abs, and voice for the job, and “All American Boy” skews pop enough to earn comparisons to the pop/country style of a Carrie Underwood. Either way, we leave the question to you, Queerty readers. Do we even care about country music? Is country music ready for an openly gay star? If so, is Steve Grand the guy, or is there someone else more up to the task?