QUEER VOICES

With 'New Brighton,' Nakhane Is Poised To Be A Queer Pop Icon For 2019

Praised by Elton John and Madonna, the South African artist vows to "never live in fear again" in his new video.

Boundary-smashing pop artist Nakhane draws on his inner struggles coming to terms with his authentic self in a haunting new video. 

“New Brighton,” which dropped Friday, sees Nakhane striking a number of dramatic poses in a pale pink suit and striking blue eyeshadow while strolling on a windswept beach and in the corridors of an abandoned mansion. As the song climaxes, he pledges to “never live in fear again.”

Featuring Anohni on backing vocals, “New Brighton” serves as a powerful introduction to Nakhane — already a household name in his native South Africa — for American audiences. The track is a standout on his debut album, “You Will Not Die,” due out Feb. 22. 

With just over a month to go before its stateside release, “You Will Not Die” is already riding a wave of advance buzz among music critics and fellow artists. The New York Times named Nakhane one of “10 artists to watch in 2019,” and British Vogue felt similarly, describing him as one of pop’s most influential new stars. 

In June 2018, he was interviewed by Elton John on the “Rocket Hour” radio show, and last month he was spotted dining in Portugal alongside Madonna and rapper Mykki Blanco. (The Queen of Pop gushed about the evening in a Dec. 15 Instagram post, calling Blanco and Nakhane “my 2 favorite artists.”)

If “You Will Not Die” succeeds in the U.S., Nakhane could have an impact on pop music well beyond critical raves and celebrity accolades. Last year he starred as a closeted gay man in “The Wound,” a film that depicted a secret rite of passage into manhood observed by South Africa’s Xhosa people that includes circumcision. As a singer-songwriter, he has never shied away from exploring his queer identity through his music and performances, which is still unusual in mainstream pop. 

“Some people say: ‘Aren’t you tired of always having to talk about the fact that you’re a gay artist?’ and I’m like, ‘You have no fucking idea how tired I am of it.’ But for as long as I need to, I’m going to talk about it,” he told The Guardian last year. “For as long as it needs to be said, then it needs to be said. For as long as there’s some kid out there who can’t be themselves, he’ll need someone.”

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