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10 k.d. lang

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You know you’ve had an interesting career when you get in moretrouble for advocating vegetarianism than for announcing you’rea lesbian. That k.d. lang pulled off this trick says somethingabout American mores, but something more about her. Lang is PC,but she’s the least boring PC person alive — as plain-talking anddown-to-earth as Minnie Pearl, yet with all the sophisticated sassof Bette Midler. Facing a sold-out crowd at New York’s Radio CityMusic Hall, she confessed portentously, ”What you’ve heard istrue — I am a L-L-L-Lawrence Welk fan!” Whereupon bubbles eruptedin preposterous, Welkian profusion.

While her dietary beliefs created a beef with the meat industryin 1990, lang was able to tell interviewers she was gay withoutstirring up any perceptible backlash. And because hergender-bending was delivered with humor and soft-spoken charm, itpacked more cultural wallop than Madonna and Lollapalooza puttogether. Think about her multiple-Grammy-nominated album,Ingenue, with its hit single celebrating unrequited love(”Constant Craving”). Or check out her image-spoofing ”MissChatelaine” video, which transmogrified her from cowgirl-cum-torchsinger into a gol-dang chanteuse in acres of chiffon and a beehivehairdo. Or that magazine cover photo of lang in a barber’s chair,posed with a lingerie-clad, razor-wielding Cindy Crawford.

But it’s breaking musical boundaries that makes lang, 32, alasting standout. Ingenue’s success has turned her into one of thegreatest crossover country artists. But why did it take from 1987,when she released her first American album, to 1993 to completethat leap? Part of the problem is her restless diversity: Lang’smusic flits effortlessly from country to rock to ballads and evenpolkas. It hasn’t been easy for the public to get a fix on herimage, but this is a long-term asset: What delayed her arrival mayprolong her stay.

Indeed, nothing seems able to stop lang’s mainstream ascension:She won Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for ”Constant Craving”at February’s Grammy Awards, and was nominated for both BestRecord and Best Song of the Year. And her new soundtrack albumfor Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, the Gus Van Sant flick whoserelease was deferred from the fall to next spring, could helprescue the movie the way Seattle grunge lofted Cameron Crowe’sSingles. Single-handedly resuscitating an ailing film — that’spop-culture clout.

A cut from that soundtrack has a lovely chorus that laments agay hitchhiking cowgal’s fate: ”Wandering, wandering, wantin’ itall/a curious soul astray.” Lang’s a curious soul, all right, inalmost all senses of the word. But astray? No way. k.d. is righton course. — TA

She came (out). She sang. She conquered — and showed us a new kindof sex appeal.


She came (out). She sang. She conquered — and showed us a new kindof sex appeal.