Music Monday: Brandon Hilton’s ‘Radioactive’

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Brandon Hilton works hard on keeping his music and glam on people’s radar. Not long after releasing his second full-length album, Nocturnal, the Dallas-based artist releases a new single not even on the album. With a video. And by not long, I mean a few weeks.

He announced on his Facebook that the song, video and remixes were all out this past Friday. The guy is clearly ambitious.

Watch the video below.

—  Rich Lopez

‘4’-telling

In her latest, Beyonce tries on new hats while relying on old tricks

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

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3 out of 5 stars
“4”
Beyonce
Columbia Records

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Fans might be scratching their heads with Beyonce’s new album, 4. Where is the explosive power? What is it with all these ballads? But she might be having the last laugh. Her fourth solo album (duh) might not have as many potential hit singles, but by dabbling with different formulas she delivers a respectable package — or at least a fascinating one.
Beyonce has proved she can churn out major pop and R&B hits that are smart, fun and have a certain sass, but she holds back big time on 4, setting a mellower tone with a collection of slower tempo tunes.

She croons old-school on the opener “1+1,” her foray into deeper soul. The song is elegant and a surprise, but the second track, “I Care,” makes a far stronger impression. The more mid-tempo ballad is restrained in her verses, but goes way lush in her chorus. The build-up to an emotive guitar solo feels a tad Michael Bolton-ish, but pulls back to a definitive groove.

DROP DEAD DIVA | Beyonce channels ‘80s adult contemporary in ‘4,’ but delivers impressive surprises.

Beyonce slyly fuses her R&B vocals over an ambient electronica beat on “I Miss You.” Is it weird this recalls Haddaway’s 1993 song by the same name? She smartly works with the tune to offer the song as a package rather than showing off her voice and results in a lovely moment. Why she has to rhyme I miss you/like every day/wanna be wichu/but you’re away is beyond me. We get it, B — you’re street and glam.

We’re already getting the impression that she’s given the album a top-heavy atmosphere of ballads that might lose listeners, then comes “Best Thing I Never Had,” co-written by Babyface, which doesn’t dispel this. The pace is picked up slightly but the song recalls those overly polished ‘80s “soul” hits found on lite radio stations (echoed later with “Rather Die Young” and “Love on Top”). She’s channeling her Patti Austin-Regina Belle with cheesy background choruses and keyboards. Let’s not discuss the Dianne Warren penned “I Was Here,” which is ready for movie montages and hackneyed trailers.

Sometimes I wondered if Beyonce was trying to get into some serious soul a la Leela James or Sharon Jones, but kept missing the mark with these smoothed-out tunes that don’t lend much to her attempts. With previous ballads like “Halo,” “Listen” or “Irreplaceable,” we could hear her distinct voice — literally and figuratively. Here, she gets lost and although she’s co-written most of her songs, there’s not a unique sense of the diva.

As if she realized that, she pumps up the jam in the final quarter of the 12-song collection. There’s a relief when the beat-heavy “Countdown” hits at track no. 9. Although disjointed, it’s a welcome reprieve from all her emoting. She does far better with her immediate follow-up “End of Time,” by which time she seems obsessed with drumline beats. She’s pulled it since Destiny’s Child with “Breathe” and most recently with “Single Ladies,” but the horns and that Beyonce swagger we’re used to recall the infectious sounds of Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.”

She weirdly placed “I Was Here” in between the happening upbeat songs and kills the mood. But she closes out with her misfired hit “Run the World (Girls).” Again with the military beats, the song didn’t take the world by storm like she probably hoped, but it puts the energy of the album in overload. I couldn’t stand hearing it at award shows or Oprah’s farewell, but after mellowing out for over half an hour, the song saves the album, ending it with a bang. The girl-power message seems passé but that doesn’t make it less fun.
I applaud Beyonce’s efforts not to deliver the obvious. Face it: We all want another “Crazy in Love,” but instead, she opted to stick to her guns and try something new, even if some of it sounded like it was three decades old. Despite its stumbles and confusing paths, 4 could be the one album we look to as her most daring.   •

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 8, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Lady Raja

Raja
SHANTAY, SHE STAYED | Raja Gemini was announced this week as winner of Season 3 of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’

‘Drag Race’ winner Raja had to keep a poker face for 8 months, but now she welcomes the papa, paparazzi

RuPaul’s Drag Race crossed the finish line this week, and the best woman won. Sutan Amrull, better known as Raja Gemini, kept her eye on the prize since the first episode and ended up being crowned the next drag superstar.

This 6-foot-3 Los Angelo, who is part Dutch and part Indonesian, is no stranger to reality television, having appeared on America’s Next Top Model as the show’s principal make-up artist and serving as Adam Lambert’s face painter for his tour. In short, Raja knows glam and glitter on the road.

After winning a close race, Raj was crowned the winner and rose early the day after to chat about his experience on the show.
— Jerry Nunn

Dallas Voice: How do you feel now that the experience is over? Raja Gemini: I don’t think it has really hit me. I have been keeping the secret since August, even from my parents. I didn’t even talk to my mom about it. She seems to have known, though. She said, “A mother always knows…”

Do you think the judges were fair? I think for the most part the judges were fair. I think Delta Work should have stayed longer. I don’t think they really understood her humor.

Did you have a favorite celebrity judge? There were a few of them. I couldn’t believe that my season had two of my greatest idols: Vanessa Williams and Jody Watley. Jody Watley was a style icon for me since I was a boy in junior high. I wanted to wear giant earrings when I saw her. For her to be there as one of the judges, and Vanessa Williams as well, was a really huge deal for me.

How old were you when you first did drag? Experimenting with it, probably about 15. I have been doing drag all of my life. I was that kid that played dress up all the time, wearing different sheets and dishtowels. I made costumes. I was really getting into it by 16 years old.

People are saying you were friends with RuPaul before the show. People have made a lot more [out of it] than it really is. I have been a makeup artist for a very long time and have crossed paths with a lot of people. Ru at one point lived in L.A. and was a big fan of the L.A. drag scene. She went to all of the shows and I would see her quite often. We weren’t friends where we would call each other up and talk about boy, financial or family problems — we were just aware of each other’s presence. That’s inevitable when you work within an industry. I wouldn’t even say that Ru and I were acquaintances.

Where did you learn makeup? I was actually an art student and went to University of Orange County in California. I tried to be a student and hated it. I decided to be a makeup artist and then a female impersonator!
What are your plans for the prize money?  Actually, I am going to spend it wisely. I am going to pay off all of my bills No. 1, and clean my plate. I will be able to focus on working now. I will be elaborating and creating a brand, if you will.

Some of the money must go back into your act and the latest outfit. You know, it really does. It is very true when they say, “You have to spend money to make money.” Drag is expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. I am a pretty frugal drag queen and I love a bargain. I am definitely a thrift shopper. I love going to flea markets. It doesn’t always have to be that expensive.

Do you regret fighting with Shangela on the show? No, I love it. I love watching Drag Race and love, love, love watching Untucked as well. That’s my favorite thing! I watch it with all of my friends. We totally laugh and cackled at everything Shangela says. She is brilliant and super smart. She is a really great person. She has a bright future ahead of her.

So you don’t have beef with anyone on the show then? Not at all, not that I can think of…

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 29, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Brandon Hilton on gay teen suicide

Brandon Hilton

It might seem easy to write off gay Dallas-based musician and YouTuber Brandon Hilton as a joke. After all, Hilton’s first several posts on Twitter today consisted mainly of skin care tips (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). But then Hilton fired off the below piece about gay teen suicide, letting us know he’s more than just “an attention whore and failed MySpace celebrity,” as one closeted homophobic critic claims. Now then, with his permission, here’s the full text of Hilton’s extended Tweet:

It breaks my heart to hear about all the recent suicides! 4 boys dead in 3 weeks!

Life is not always sunshine and roses… for anyone. not even for me! we all have dark moments, and we all have pasts that we may or may not ever want to talk about. I was planning to save mine for a biography one day, but that was a selfish publicity idea for later on in my career when the glam died down. I think the need to share my story comes now at a crucial time when kids are confused and lonely, and knowing that one of MY FANS could take his/her own life because they feel alone simply breaks my heart. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

You may not be gay, you may not know if you are gay, you may not even know anyone gay, but if you suspect someone you know is, dont attack them. please talk to them, especially kids! you have a reason and a purpose in life, and you are FABULOUS!

In elementary school I was never the popular kid, I had a few friends who stuck by me, and still do to this day. It was rough being short and different and shy. I hung out with girls more than guys, and I didnt really identify with anyone else around me. I knew I was different. In middle school a name emerged, the boys started calling me GAY. so I started researching to find out what it was, sure enough the name fit and I owned it, I didnt tell them they were right about me, I kept it hidden until high school, then they came up with a new word for me…. FAGGOT, I hated that word, it pissed me off just to hear it. It was such a hard road through high school, my 10th grade year I decided that I was going to come out and tell everyone who I really was, so I did. It got worse and almost everyone turned on me, I didnt know what to do, so I had a genius idea to threaten them all. this idea got me expelled from high school for the entire year my 10th grade year of school. It was one of the lowest points of my life.

After the news broke my friends slimmed down to pretty much 2 people. only 2 that I felt I could trust, connect with and tell anything to. about a week after being expelled, I realized how bad I had fucked up my life and I felt hopeless. I had family I could talk to and I had 2 friends I could talk to, but I didnt feel like I could talk to them. I decided that my life wasnt worth living if I couldnt be like everyone else and be normal, so I tried to kill myself. and again, and once again, over the course of 2 months. this landed me in a psychiatric hospital under 24 hour surveillance for 2 weeks. It saved my life. In the hospital I met people who were like me, and who identified as gay and who were ok with it. the counselors helped me understand that I was normal and no different from anyone else except for being slightly more fabulous.

I left that hospital with a will to live, and a will to survive and change the minds of everyone who ever put me down. Its been a long road since then, but I can honestly say looking back, and seeing now that I more than achieved my goal, I developed a drive to succeed and ambition, and though my dreams were high, I’m achieving them.

I went back to high school the next year with a new look and a new way of living, words rolled off me like water resistant couches and new friends came in droves, I’m not saying that anyone should go through any of this to find themselves, but I think finding yourself is the biggest way you can change your life. not everyone is born to be an actor, or a singer, or a model, let alone all three. but EVERYONE is born with a purpose in life, and your goal is to find it and fucking rock it!

Being openly gay has been the biggest restriction on my career, and has kept me from already coming out on top of my goals, but I found ways around the doors that closed in front of me, I climbed in through the windows. I’ve accomplished so much in my life in only 23 years that most people will never do or see or have the opportunity to do. I’m thankful that my life was spared and I was able to do the things I have, and I want to give back that inspiration and that wisdom to others to spare them, YOU CAN DO GREAT THINGS, you can do so much more than you’ll ever think you’re capable of, you just have to go for it. every dream, goal or wish is achievable no matter how insane people may think it is. if you fall, pick yourself up and try again. you cant fall forever!

My family didnt always support me, they thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to do all the things I’m doing now, but that didnt stop me. I went out on my own and I kicked down the doors and the barriers and I fought and worked my ass off to make this dream a reality. just imagine what you can do when you believe. I believe in all of you, I believe in everyone. gay, straight, bisexual, black, white and yellow, you have a purpose and a meaning in life.

I havent lived the peachy perfect life that people seem to think I did, I have an extremely rocky and rough past, but all of it molded me into the amazing person I am today. I dont say that in a cocky way, I say it in a confident way. everyone is amazing in their own way, you have to find your beauty and you have to rock it! because EVERYONE is beautiful!

I believe in you!

BH

—  John Wright

Adam Lambert accused of battery in Miami

Following in the footsteps of another troubled gay music star, glam pop star Adam Lambert has been accused of battery in Miami. The Associated Press reported that a photographer was taking pictures when Lambert started running toward him in an aggressive manner. Photographer Victor Eras is claiming he was wrestled down by Lambert.

A bad week for gay pop singers. George Michael was sentenced earlier this week on charges of drug possession and driving under the influence. To make matters worse, fellow inmates are taunting him by singing his hits songs with altered words.

Lambert tweeted that it was an embarrassing but harmless moment:

“@AdamLambert Battery? Nope. I attempted to grab a camera, no punches were thrown and no one was on the ground…. It was literally harmless. If embarrassment is a crime- thats all I’m guilty of.”

Pop stars.

—  Rich Lopez

Best Bets • 09.17.10

Saturday 09.18

This Room will be jam packed
These are fun days at Station 4 and the Rose Room. Not only does Aisa O’Hara, pictured, host this month’s GayBingo Glam, Jason Dottley and Lady Bunny will also perform in the Rose Room over the weekend. Of course, who could miss aerialist Vincent Pickard over the Station 4 dance floor? Bingo, indeed.

DEETS: Station 4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. 5 p.m. $25. RCDallas.org.

Wednesday 09.22

How about reality TV in real life?
Fans of So You Think You Can Dance will actually have to get out of their living room for this episode. The SYTYCD tour comes to town with Season 7 contestants like Kent Boyd, right, and season 6 winner Russell Ferguson who will bring their sweet moves live and in 3D.

DEETS: Verizon Theatre, 1001 Performance Place. 7:30 p.m. $37–$55. Ticketmaster.com.

Thursday 09.23

The return of the Tuna
Flower Mound Performing Arts Theater brings back Ryan Roach and Chris Robinson as the famous residents of Tuna, Texas. They capture the spirit of the original with hilarity, along the way making Tuna taste, or smell, ever so good.

DEETS: FMPAT, 830 Parker Square. Through Oct. 10. $20–$25. FMPAT.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Adam Lambert brings the glam to the Palladium Ballroom tonight

Glamberts unite!

Adam LambertWe’ve decided that if any of us go on American Idol, we’re shooting for second place. That’s where the real stardom is. Especially for the gays. Clay Aiken started it, but Adam Lambert ran with the runner-up fame and turned into one surprising showman. Whether he’s this generation’s Freddie Mercury remains to be seen, but he’s going to have a blast trying.

And his Glamberts are a force to be reckoned with. You don’t ever want to say a bad thing about Lambert — ever. They will cut you.

DEETS: Palladium Ballroom, 1135 S. Lamar Road. Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. $39. Ticketmaster.com

—  Rich Lopez

Puff pasties

Patti Le Plae Safe works a whole new angle in burlesque

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

VIVA DALLAS BURLESQUE
Lakewood Theater, 1825 Abrams Parkway. July 2.
Doors at 8 p.m. $20.
PinCurlMag.com/events.
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Patti Le Plae Safe

STRIPPED DOWN | Patti Le Plae Safe adds to her resume as the new host of Viva Dallas Burlesque.


Over the years, Patti Le Plae Safe has probably worn every shade of gown and makeup known to man — or woman. Come July 2, the local glam queen will wear one shade you might not have seen her in. Let’s just call it a fleshier tone.

“My first performance is a strip number and I’m gonna play with the audience big time,” she says. “I’m gonna strip down and once the last final piece is off, they might be surprised!”

That surprise will come from the not-that-really-gay show Viva Dallas Burlesque. Tapped to be the show’s new mistress of ceremonies, Le Plae Safe will be working with an entirely different audience.

She’s not concerned. In recent years, burlesque has transcended the seediness of stripper poles and lap dances into a cool retro pastime. Le Plae Safe is actually looking forward to the “Harley honeys and their husbands” in the audience, along with the hipsters and growing gay audience.

“This won’t be a wrong crowd for me to work with,” she says. “I always like to play and go off the good energy from them. Plus, it’s not just a straight crowd.”

But how does a drag queen get to host a show dominated by the sex appeal of women?

“I M.C. GayBingo every month at the Rose Room, and the owners of Viva and the Lakewood happened to be in the audience,” she explains. “They came up to me and said I’d be the best M.C. for them.”

Taken aback by their assertion, she approached with caution. Other than a vague idea of what burlesque was, she didn’t know what to expect. While entertained by the spectacle, she saw a relation between drag and burlesque: the makeup, the costumes and the performance. Le Plae Safe signed on.

“It is different in nature but it’s still a show,” she says. “We create this illusion on stage for an audience who wants a fantasy. It’s also very different. We don’t have these shows in our bars.”

Along with her regular hosting duties at GayBingo, she is the new monthly host for Viva Dallas Burlesque bringing a slightly different flavor to the erotica dance scene which has welcomed her with open arms.

“Each one of entertainers has been excited and opened the door with warmth and love. This really is a new adventure for my career that I never thought I’d be a part of.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice