When the Brit Awards nominations were announced earlier this month, American indie singer-songwriter John Grant found himself rubbing shoulders with Justin Timberlake, Eminem, Drake, and Bruno Mars for the International Male Solo Artist award.
While most mainstream music fans in the U.S. likely aren't aware of Grant, they should be. A publicly out gay man who is HIV-positive, Grant makes some of the most strikingly beautiful music you've never heard. He's been acclaimed by critics on both sides of the Atlantic, and he continues to blow minds with his latest video clip from the song "Glacier" from his second solo effort, 2013's "Pale Green Ghosts."
The song's lyrics deal with homophobia, while the video features visuals from various moments in LGBT history — the good and the bad — including clips from famous films such as "The Wizard of Oz," as well as historical news footage from World War II, Harvey Milk, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the legalization of gay marriage in some states. Check it out below, but we forewarned, the visuals are strong and moving and there are a few expletives.
Here are six fast facts that will help you get to know John Grant.
1. Grant first gained noticed fronting the Denver-based indie rock band the Czars for a decade, beginning in 1994. The band recorded for Bella Union, the label started by former Cocteau Twins bassist Simon Raymonde, who also produced a few of the group's albums.
2. Following the breakup of the Czars, Grant took time off from music before he was coaxed back into it by the acclaimed American indie-folk group Midlake, who offered to serve as his backing band. Together, they recording his solo debut, "Queen of Denmark," which was named the best album of 2010 by respected British music magazine Mojo.
3. In 2011, Grant received a text message from a man he had slept with some bad news. After consulting a doctor, tests confirmed that he was HIV-positive. Grant announced the news from the stage while performing at London's Meltdown Festival with New York's Hercules and Love Affair. He also sings about his plight in the song "Ernest Borgnine" on "Pale Green Ghosts."
4. To record the "Pale Green Ghosts" album, Grant moved to Reykjavík, Iceland, where he explored his love of electronic music by collaborating with Biggi Veira of the Icelandic act GusGus.
5. Sinead O'Conner covered his song "Queen of Denmark" on her 2012 album, "How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?" She also turned up to sing backing vocals in "Pale Green Ghosts."
(Warning: The are some expletives in this video).
6. Grant continues to be lauded for his music. In addition to the Brit nomination, he was nominated for a Q Award for Best Solo Artist, alongside David Bowie; and "Pale Green Ghosts" was chosen as 2013 album of the year by the indie retail chain Rough Trade.
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