Feature Artist: Bronze Avery
Pride Month may look different this year than in years previous, but pop singer-songwriter Bronze Avery is still ready to get you in the spirit. His groovy tunes and dreamlike bops are here to help you feel confident and proud of who you are. Basically, his music is the kind that you’d blare in your car radio in some ethereal queer universe. In an interview with The Tartan, Bronze Avery shares his experiences of being a gay black musician.
Bronze Avery’s confidence in his identity as a gay black man and as a pop musician stands unwavering today. Over the years, he’s learned that “your identity doesn’t have to get in the way... and can actually be celebrated at the same time.”
“I was kind of hiding that part of myself to appeal to mainstream,” he says of the beginning of his music career. Bronze Avery started that career in 2015 with his EP American Dream, under his birth name Gabriel Brown. He later switched to the stage name Bronze Avery to distinguish himself from other artists with the same name.
However, the change in name was not the only difference in his music as Gabriel Brown and as Bronze Avery. The musician began incorporating his queer identity into his art. This shift helped him realize that hiding a key component of his identity prevented him from forming a connection with listeners. Embracing his queer identity allowed him to find an authentic fanbase and distinguish himself from the status quo.
“Being black has been kind of interesting,” he reflects. “I love being black, but it seems like the industry loves you being black, but only in the way that they want to see you be black.” His heart lies in pop music, citing artists like the Pussycat Dolls and Charli XCX as some of his biggest musical inspirations. However, he has felt the pressure to restrict his options as a musician, especially by what kinds of music he was expected to create as a black musician. In an interview with Billboard, he confessed his frustration with automatically being typecast as an R&B musician when he tells people that he is a singer. But, with a wide grin, he asserts, “We gonna change that.”
Bronze Avery learned to define his own music. “My music is generally dreamy… sexy and sassy,” he describes it. He uses it as a medium to seamlessly champion his black and queer identity without making it the focus. In his music video for one of his most listened-to songs, “Want 2,” he portrays the story of a dancer lusting over his instructor. The video’s cast is made up of queer men of various body sizes, a powerful, yet subtle, attribute. He normalizes interracial queer romance throughout this video, doing so in a way relatable to people of many backgrounds. Ultimately, this song and video summarizes one of his hopes for his art: normalizing his truth.
The musician may be confident in who he is and in the art he produces, but he has had to build that confidence up. “Society painted [being black] as a flaw,” he states. However, he is proud to be black and celebrates black contributions, especially in art. “Half the shit people like and love come from black people,” he tells The Tartan with a cheeky smile. Today, he wants “black people to know that they are beautiful and amazing and regal,” because he remembers when “I did not think that of myself.”
“[Coming out] was kind of a mess,” he laughs. During his freshman year of high school, he left his MySpace open on the family computer. His mother then learned the singer’s sexuality. He now looks back at his experience of coming out as “probably one of the best ways to have come out,” despite the initial awkwardness.
It wasn't until his junior year that he felt confident enough to champion an important part of his identity. He recalls that “I kind of had to go back into the closet.” Since then, he has stood firmly by his sexuality. Today, he endorses the “corny but true phrase: ‘it does get better.’ And it totally does get better.”
Mainstream pop music has ways to go in terms of representation, both in terms of queer and racial representation. Bronze Avery hopes to help inspire other black and queer musicians, as well as encourage people of color and queer people to step into other positions within the industry. Incredible yet overlooked talent is out there waiting to be discovered; it’s a matter of having people on the lookout for “when we’re gonna see the shift in the mainstream narrative.”