“My version of putting the word ‘homosexual’ up in neon is about ridding myself of old, deep shame on a cellular level,” Darren Hayes tells Apple Music. His first solo album since 2011’s Secret Codes and Battleships is the sound of freedom. Freedom from the constraints of traditional pop songwriting—11 of the songs on Homosexual exceed five minutes, with “Hey Matt” clocking in at over nine—and emancipation from the trauma, shame, and homophobia that plagued Hayes as a young man growing up in 1980s Brisbane, Australia. Hayes produced, composed, arranged, and played every instrument on the album, and, musically, it embraces the free-form arrangements of the Madonna, George Michael, and Prince 12-inch singles he listened to as a teen. “I’ve wanted to make a record that sounded like a period of life that I, perhaps, wished I could have re-experienced,” he offers. “If I could have had a happier coming-out period, what might it have sounded like.” With Hayes addressing the domestic violence he witnessed as a child, his treatment as a gay man in the music industry, and the reckoning he experienced as he approached 50, Homosexual is deeply and unflinchingly autobiographical. “It was important that this felt like music for a film, but the film is my life,” he says. Here, Hayes breaks down several key tracks from Homosexual. “Let’s Try Being in Love” “‘Let’s Try Being in Love’ was an immediate reaction to seeing the film Call Me by Your Name. [It] was such a positive story about coming out, which I didn’t have. I was aware that I was turning 50. I’ve really achieved more than I could have ever dreamed of in my life, yet I still have all these wounds. I still have these unfinished things to do with my childhood, with my father. I still have this residue of homophobia. I still have this resentment of how I got treated when I was at a major label as a gay artist. But I also have this feeling of like, wow, I wish I could have [come out as] gay in the 2020s because my experience of being a young, gay person was so fraught with sadness.” “Do You Remember?” “I’m revisiting a song by Savage Garden called ‘Chained to You.’ In ‘Chained to You,’ I was singing in code about my first boyfriend. This time, I’m being completely open about what really happened. It’s a much more sexual, explicit version of my experience. And then it segues into this other part, this other nighttime moment. It’s almost an entirely different song—it sounds like New York in the ’90s to me. It was important early in the record to show people this is going to be an album-listening experience.” “Poison Blood” “It’s about depression. The tense and the poetry on this song is important because if I talk about someone in the present tense, it means they’re alive; if I talk about someone in the past tense, it means they have committed suicide. So, the first person I’m talking about is Robin Williams—that’s someone I relate to a lot. I have a major depressive disorder. My grandmother had a major depressive disorder that eventually cost her her life; she committed suicide when she was 49. One of my siblings’ children, sadly, committed suicide, and it’s just a tragedy that is a genetic disposition on one side of our family. And the other component of that is that I have PTSD and trauma and anxiety from growing up with the violence that I had. And I wanted to write a song where the central message comes in the middle-eight, where I say, even though I have this desire to sometimes not want to be here, I choose every day to stay with my poison blood. It’s been enormously powerful to be able to put this song into words.” “Hey Matt” “It’s a voice note that I almost left for a friend, Matt. The voice note was the inspiration, but some of the lyrics are lifted straight from there. A lot of this record keeps coming back to this reckoning in my life. I talk about it like it’s a car crash, and I’m using this metaphor of, I’m driving in this car. There’s been this terrible car crash, Matt. Matt, I wish you were there. I’m on the 101, and I’m realizing the car crash is me. And ultimately, in the song, I decide I’m going to leave the stuff I don’t want anymore on the side of the road. I’m going to take a couple of the things I want to take with me, and I’m going to leave the rest of it burning and smoking on the freeway.” “Homosexual (Act One)” “For the first half, the song is basically saying, all of my life I’ve been waiting for the sun to come out, but in some ways, I’m also saying me, the son of my parents. But the sun and the joy, the ridding of the shame, you’re here, Richard [Hayes’ husband], the love of my life, and it’s like my favourite record. But then it shifts gears, and it becomes this sense memory I have of being 17, first time I ever thought about a boy that way, and I’m thinking about listening to ‘Heart’ by Pet Shop Boys, or I’m thinking about listening to ‘Into the Groove’ by Madonna, and she’s saying, ‘Only when I’m dancing can I feel this free/At night, I lock the doors, where no one else can see.’ And that’s it. And I’m saying it was the summer of love, and that phrase is repeating.” “Music Video” “It’s my voice, and I’ve used [a recording mechanism called] varispeed to sound like a teenager. I wanted it to sound like 1982 Darren and 1984 Darren, and what it was like to go to school and be so naive to the idea that who I naturally gravitated toward, what I naturally did, which was play with the girls, and had a crush on a boy, that was what was normal to me. The chorus is that escapism, the fact that even then, when I was being corrected, even though I had this awful home life where the first person to ever call me the f-word was my father, I had music videos. I had this dreamworld to escape into, and that was a world I wanted to live in.” “Nocturnal Animal” “This song talks about trauma response. I witnessed so much violence as a child. It was only when my father was asleep or drunk at 3 am that I felt safe. I start this song off by basically saying, ‘You pay a fee to get a dog.../But anyone can be a dad.’ I’m talking about how, as a child, I would dissociate. The young me would have to find a way to self-soothe and to go somewhere almost spiritual and find a mental place to go that was my own form of ecstasy in order to leave my body, in order to survive what it was that I was witnessing. It’s almost like there’s a sense of humour to it, where I’m saying, ‘Yay, trauma! Bring out the dancing girls!’ So, it has this almost hedonistic celebration of showing someone your wounds. That’s what those religious overtones in the song are about. There are allusions to a resurrection because, ultimately, I survived this. But I’ve never forgotten it.” “All You Pretty Things” “I was so moved by the tragedy [of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016]. My experience of gay bars and clubs is that they were the definition of a safe space. And safety is so important when you’re a member of the queer community. And I’d read this People magazine article that spoke very specifically about the victims in a very human way, and it moved me, and I thought I wanted to write a song that just spoke about the moment before. I didn’t want to speak about the perpetrator. I didn’t want to speak about the aftermath. What I wanted to do was freeze this perfect moment in time, of here is the potential. So, it’s a very sparkly, magical, glittery, hopeful song that just mentions some of the victims’ names and what the people who loved them knew them for. My motto in this song is we’ve got to dance to remember them. And then I follow through. I give you this throwdown, as hardcore as I can celebration.” “Homosexual (Act Two)” “[The reason this song is split into two acts is because] I couldn’t decide on the tempo, and there were two grooves. There was a slow, sexy groove, and then there was this faster groove. But in using this slower groove, I came up with a different point of view. And even though the melody is similar and some of the lyrics are similar, I have this really rebellious, cheeky point of view in this song where I basically just say, ‘If you have a problem with me, then take it up with God because I bet she’s a homosexual too.’” “Birth” “It really is an essential part of the record, and it doesn’t fit on the physical version, which is why it’s very important to me that people know that the digital version is what I consider to be the definitive version of this record. Making this record was like giving birth. Dealing with a lot of these emotions and addressing them. When I talk a lot about my darkness and my sadness and my depression, I would describe it in such a negative way. And I have to give credit to a psychologist who said to me, ‘You keep describing it in such a bad way. But what if this feeling inside you is a baby?’ And I loved that idea that instead of me thinking about it as something inside me that was rotting, what if it’s something that I allow into the world. And then my immediate thought was, ‘But what if I don’t want this to come out?’ And that became the premise of this song. And there’s a message at the end, which is backmasked—a peaceful, beautiful, loving message. And it finishes everything off. The entire message of the album is in this song. That final sentence is the answer to everything.”

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