Like most ambitious pop singers, Sir Ari Gold wants you to want him. He flaunts his sculpted torso in videos and photographs, he loves to seduce, and he croons about love and lust. His new CD is called “Between the Spirit & the Flesh” and contains one song called “Make My Body Rock” and another titled “Play My F**kn Record.” In many respects he’s using the same playbook as Britney and Ke$ha, except for the pronouns. Gold is an openly gay artist who doesn’t think twice about calling another song “If I Steal Your Boyfriend.”
Like most male performers, Gold would also like to have the same 14-year-old screaming fans that have defined celebrity adoration since “She Loves You” brought girls to their knees. The fly in the ointment on that front isn’t that Gold is gay, it’s that he was never publicly straight to begin with.
“I’m very happy with the route I’ve taken, but I do always say that I don’t get to have a splashy coming out,” says Gold. “Our culture likes to give a lot of attention to the coming out thing and not to someone who says this is who I am. We don’t worship gay people from the beginning.”
Ricky, Clay, Adam, the world has witnessed singer after singer (and celebrities in every other direction) admit their sexuality after the fact, and there’s an irony in our gay rights struggle that anyone who was openly born that way doesn’t get the same media attention as those who linger on the other side of the door. Says Gold: “Everyone has their own timeline and process. You never know why it’s taking some people longer. I don’t judge that; it’s more a critique of our culture.”
Gold, 34, is a fourth generation Jewish New Yorker, from Orthodox parents, whose own coming out took place when he was 18, when he wrote an 18-page letter to his family, Xeroxed copies, and read it aloud. “Their initial response was extremely positive,” he says. “They were crying because of the pain they caused me. I held them accountable. They raised me to think being gay was not right. I got that in the home, in school, in society, the government, everywhere.”
“Sir” Ari (Gold was Knighted by the Imperial Court of New York for his commitment to LGBT issues and HIV/AIDS) got his first break at age five, singing at his brother’s bar-mitzvah. He went on to record more than 400 commercial jingles, sang backup for Diana Ross, and recorded his first album in 2000. “Billboard” sales followed, along with critical praise and countless magazine covers. He’s been named one of the hottest men in the world by “DNA” magazine, and one of “Out” magazine’s 100 most influential people. Along the way he took a break and went to college (Yale and NYU).
“Between the Spirit & the Flesh” is Gold’s fourth studio album, and in many ways he hasn’t strayed too far from his Downtown routes. He still lives in the East Village, in the same building he’s occupied for eleven years, and, in his own words, “I outdo many Jews. I go to Synagogue. We celebrate Passover; the ritual is still a big part of my life.” He’s also very close to his family, and, although he doesn’t consider himself Orthodox anymore, there’s still a lot of old school in his life. “My mother tried to set me up with a nice Jewish man,” says the star of current home-life events.
Musically, “Between the Spirit & the Flesh,” is heavy on club beats, R&B, and…could that be Auto-Tune I hear? “I first used it in 2003,” he says of the much-dissected device. “People said ‘You can’t do it. That’s the Cher effect.’ When a person can actually sing it does its thing on what you’re inputting.”
While there’s less Auto-Tune on the new CD than on previous works, Gold says he’s always been a fan. “Some people like to explore the progression of technology; some people like to record in a more organic way. Some people like to use all the colors in the rainbow, all the colors in the Crayon box.”
(Check out the new video, “Sparkle,” here!)
Although Gold never considered trying to make it as a closeted artist, he found out early on that many in the music business would have preferred that he keep his private life hidden. “I was surprised at the negative response. Not just from straight people, but from gay people. They didn’t feel the compassion for human rights that I did. Gay people were just worried about keeping their jobs.”
The world has changed, and Gold says that the public’s response to “Will & Grace” and “Glee” and “Modern Family” is the way he always envisioned that people would respond to him. “Audiences are more accepting. I don’t think teenage girls care; it’s the people behind the scenes with money who care.”
Gold also sees a celebrity double standard in how women and men are expected (or forced) to behave. “If the girls can be sexy and wear their panties, then the guys should be able to wear their Speedos,” he says. “I like to say I’m gay and sexual. I’m gonna show it off; that’s just me.”
If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard Gold’s singles on Top 40 radio, Gold can give you a number of reasons why: “Seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars,” he says. “From what I’ve heard from people who’ve worked with Lady GaGa and Ke$ha, that’s how it works.” The music industry has a long history of corruption, and Gold doesn’t think much has changed. “Anytime that something has that much power, there’s the other side that wants to abuse that power,” he says. “We’ve never put into structure a proper business.”
One thing that has changed a lot since Gold started writing at 14 is his hometown. The last tune on the new CD is called “New York Attitude,” and Gold sings about a place bereft of some of its original charm. Says Gold of the Old Big Apple: “It was the cutting edge of music and fashion. Everything had its own character; there wasn’t one single store that was like another. Now it’s more like a mall structure; there’s a Chase Bank and Starbucks everywhere.”
Earlier in our conversation, Gold dismissed a recent article on muscle mass as a must for gay attraction, saying “I’ve brought people home who don’t have big pecs and guns and glutes, so they do often get laid.” He pointed out that “If I Steal Your Boyfriend” refers to those insecure, jealous men who won’t let you talk to their partners, adding that “If I was trying to take that guy, he’d never be coming back.” And he talked about his love of vampires, the video theme of “Make My Body Rock.” “The way they want blood is like the most lustful way we want sex, but they don’t want semen or pussy juice.”
If that doesn’t sound like a man living in a city lacking potential, Gold would probably agree. After thinking about New York some more, he added, “Everything that used to happen, you can still find it.”