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The Influence of the Pet Shop Boys

There’s always been this weird stigma I’ve never understood with being straight and liking Pet Shop Boys. What’s that about? After an entire childhood of loathing “West End Girls” with the fury of a thousand suns I decided to give them a chance on a long drive one day, and I’ve never looked back. Chris Lowe’s genius synth-stylings and Neil Tennant’s breathy vocals just paired so well together and stuck out like the sun in the cold industrial wasteland of mainstream pop in the 80s. Before late-eighties greats like The Style Council, Morrisey and Billy Bragg really went to town on Ms. Thatcher, synth-pop was pretty establishment. I know that in particular Duran Duran and Gary Newman were outspoken supporters, but the 80s was a tough time in Britain for everyone, and as you may well know, it was one of the toughest times in history to be gay.

Throughout their entire career, Tennant and Lowe have been tapping the highly underutilized market of gay struggle, though in not a manner so grandiose as most singers might, singing of societal oppression and forbidden sexual attraction, but more intimate stories of people who know they’re gay, struggling every day with the everyday tribulations of modern life. And I always knew they were gay, or Neil Tennant specifically, but it wasn’t until I listened to the lyrics of some of their bigger hits that I realized just how much of these problems were pushed to the fore. Like the notion of being trapped in a loveless marriage on “Can You Forgive Her?,” and relationships with men who only want to “experiment” on “Domino Dancing”. To go back to the 80s though, the Pet Shop Boys’ heyday, I’d like to talk about their sophomore album, the groundbreaking Actually, which is an epic synth-pop record from a musical standpoint, but also one that belies any brushing-aside of the AIDS crisis in Thatcher’s Britain below any danceable surface.

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