Today, November 2, marks queer country-pop crooner k.d. lang’s 62nd birthday, so what better way to celebrate than with an ode to “Miss Chatelaine,” one of her most celebratory songs?
Born in Alberta and raised on the Canadian prairies, lang (who uses she/they pronouns) took an early interest in country music—particularly that of legendary hitmaker Patsy Cline, eventually forming a tribute band called The Reclines.
With an androgynous aesthetic hailed as “cowboy punk,” the singer-songwriter began to make a name for herself and, in ’88, she released her first solo album, Shadowland, which was a critical and commercial success.
Then, in the following years, lang won two Grammys (Best Country Vocal Collaboration with Roy Orbison, and Best Female Country Vocal Performance for “Absolute Torch And Twang”), cementing her breakthrough into the mainstream music scene.
Punk rock. Disco. Folk. Just as the community is all-inclusive, the songs that shaped it span across several genres. While new gay artists and empowering anthems pop up daily, it’s important to honor the tried-and-true classics.
All of which is to say, by the time she released her more pop-oriented sophomore effort, Ingenue, in 1992, all eyes were on k.d. lang, especially after lead single “Constant Craving” became her biggest hit ever.
It was shortly after the album’s release that lang sat down with The Advocate and, for the first time, spoke publicly about being queer. Though she’s said she was worried about the impact coming out might have on her career (and, indeed, some radio stations stopped playing her music after that), lang knew being open and honest could only be good for her—and for an LGBTQ+ community still looking for positive representation in the media.
So it feels like no accident that her second single from Ingenue was the ebullient and decidedly queer, “Miss Chatelaine.”
Seamlessly incorporating an acoustic guitar, Latin percussion, and a Parisian accordion, the track’s soundscape is both distinctive and universal, almost campy in its defiant, radiant optimism. The lyrics paint a picture of someone who can make “clouds of qualm burst into sunshine,” just by catching lang’s eye.
So, who is the titular Miss Chatelaine? Considering lang had recently come out as a lesbian in The Advocate, many suspected there was a specific woman in her life (for a while there, rumors circulated that she’d been hooking up with Madonna).
But in interviews, the artist has said she was inspired by a postcard sent from a friend traveling through Europe, which depicted a beguiling lady strolling through Paris in a red coat. In a sense, Miss Chatelaine, is the idealized version of a worldly dream woman, one who can whisk the singer away to a better place.
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Of course, “Miss Chatelaine” is also lang herself—as she sings, “I can’t explain why I’ve become
Miss Chatelaine.” It turns out, Chatelaine is the name of a Canadian magazine which, in ’88, named the musician as one of their “woman of the year.” The track is her tongue-in-cheek way of remarking that, somehow, this androgynous, queer cowboy punk from the prairie has become that worldly dream woman in someone’s eyes.
The song’s staying power was helped tremendously by its iconic music video, directed by photographer Rocky Schenck. Inspired by the staging of The Lawrence Welk Show, the visuals depict lang all done up in a bold gown, surrounded by chandeliers, colorful curtains, and bubbles. The draggy, high-glam look further underscores “Miss Chatelaine’s” queer appeal.
Over the years, lang has said it remains one of her most requested songs, beloved by fans old and new alike. And “Miss Chatelaine” recently found a second life on the dance floor when, in support of Ingenue‘s 30th anniversary, she released a more beat-driven remix of the song from Iron Hoof, with a little assist from contemporary country crooner, Orville Peck.
Though not a proper duet, the gay masked singer lends his unmistakable voice to the new track, introducing “that big-boned gal from Southern Alberta… the very lovely, the one-and-only Miss Chatelaine.”
In connecting queer, alt-country stars past and present, the feel-good remix reminds us that the track is a stone-cold, timeless classic—and that the great k.d. lang was blazing trails into mainstream country and pop for LGBTQ+ artist long before most.
From chart-topper Brenda Lee, this forgotten gem is pretty obviously about a woman in love with a gay man.