Thursday, November 13, 2008

KING, QUEENS AND LOVE FOR "LOVE"

The strangest thing happened this week at Rumi's Tuesday night Rube party. Halfway through one particularly thumping hard-house party starter, a video of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech began playing on a massive video screen. I would say, "Only in Buenos Aires!" except that's the last thing I would have expected in BA. I know that everyone here is excited about Barack Obama's successful presidential bid--three women at the pilates studio actually starting clapping and jumping for joy the other day when they found out that I was an Obama supporter--but I thought it was more out of hatred for George W. Bush than anything else. I didn't realize that the younger generation here even knew anything about the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. It was a pleasant surprise that has restored my faith in porteƱos and given love the edge in my ongoing love-hate relationship with them.

Speaking of Rumi, Rube is promoted as being their "gay night," but is a place "gay" just because some boys who do boys show up? I'm not sure. Despite there being at least a smattering of gay guys in the crowd, the energy was decidedly hetero, as it was the two other times I went to Rumi's Tuesday party. Perhaps it had more than a little to do with the preponderance of straight women wearing too-short short shorts. (Nothing says, "I'm here to score, not play fag hag," like pants up to here.) Perhaps promoting Rube as "gay-friendly" confuses both sides. They need to find a way to encourage more queens to show up Tuesday and more princesses to check their mating aspirations at the door or to check the place out on another night.

I might get crucified for saying this, but gay energy tends to be very sexually charged, heavily so, and when most of the guys in the room can't quite figure out who's gay and who's not, it's killed in its tracks. While I applaud the BA club gods for trying to bring gays and straights together, whoever said that when you try to please everyone, you please no one, had a good point. Someone told me that Rube finished at 4 a.m. last week, which is about three hours earlier than any self-respecting BA hotspot is supposed to shut down. A sign? During my 15 years in New York, several nominally "straight" places--B Bar, Flamingo East, CBGB's Gallery--were able to throw successful once-a-week gay parties that attracted the advertised crowd without alienating everyone else. Perhaps some BA club other than Amerika will eventually nail it.

Speaking of dearly departed (for now) TV series, while watching the penultimate episode of General Hospital: Night Shift's second season a few weeks ago, I noticed a devastatingly beautiful rendition of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" providing the soundtrack to a devastatingly beautiful scene between Robin and Robert Scorpio. For a song that's never gone higher than No. 50 on Billboard's Hot 100, the Dylan composition is certainly popular among performers. I remember hating it when it was first released by Billy Joel as "To Make You Feel My Love" on his 1997 Greatest Hits Volume III collection. Subsequent renditions by Garth Brooks (who recorded it for the Hope Floats soundtrack and took it to No. 1 on the country chart in 1998), Trisha Yearwood, Bryan Ferry, Joan Osborne and even Dylan himself were too plodding and treated the lyrics too gingerly to make me feel any love for "Make You Feel My Love."

Who knew it would take Adele, a 20-year-old singer from London who scored a No. 2 UK hit earlier this year with "Chasing Pavements," to turn my love for "Love" around? (Her birthday is May 5, two days before mine and the same day as my best friend from high school and college--there must be something about us Taureans.) Her plaintive, stripped-down piano-and-voice version has the perfect amount of haunted and haunting to really bring the message home. Previous renditions emphasized sappy devotion over sheer determination, but Adele gets the balance right. By underscoring the sense--and strength--of purpose in the lyrics, she gives them a whole new dimension. You'd think such seasoned performers--especially Dylan, who wrote the damn thing--would have gone there first. I guess Survivor was right on their 1984 album, Vital Signs, when they sang, "It's the singer, not the song." Sometimes, it just is.

LISTEN Adele: "Make You Feel My Love"
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