With “Meltdown,” the first single from his yet-to-be-titled second solo album, Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears does feel like dancing. “I missed doing dance music,” he tells NewNowNext. “I wasn’t ready to do it for a while. Now I’m ready to go there again.”
Shears, who’s based in New Orleans these days, released his first self-titled solo album in 2018, the same year he put out a juicy memoir, Boys Keep Swinging, and starred in his first Broadway musical, playing Kinky Boots’ Charlie Price. This year, he donned a rainbow-maned unicorn outfit for the U.K. edition of The Masked Singer and delivered some incredible falsetto-spiked takes on Lizzo’s “Juice,” Kate Bush’s “Babooshka,” and Blur’s “Girls and Boys” before showing his face in the sixth episode.
Here, Shears spills the tea on his new music, being a unicorn, and which tracks he’d love the Democratic candidates to play while stumping.
Why did you choose “Meltdown” as your new single?
I think it’s a fun, ferocious little nugget of a song. We started playing it live during the summer and end of the fall, and it always tore the roof off the place. So I thought it would be a great sample of what’s to come.
MELTDOWN ‼️ OUT NEXT FRIDAY. PRE-SAVE: https://t.co/c9gWhpz65x Here’s a smoking little jam I’ve been cooking in the oven for you. I wrote this on the hottest day of the summer in NYC. You’ll see it’s a bit of a sonic turn, but I hope you find it sizzling… pic.twitter.com/uCEmnMnFEk
— Jake Shears (@Jakeshears) February 7, 2020
You mentioned on Twitter that you wrote the song on the hottest day of the summer in NYC. What’s the story?
It was boiling hot. I was out in Brooklyn and went into the studio with Michael Cheever from the band Crush Club. He’s an amazing writer and producer, and we get on well. I felt like I was melting, and we just busted it out. There’s a bit of a sinister edge to the song. It’s very funny, but there’s also a kind of evil happening. The character singing it is under a transformation, and I wanted it to be slightly dystopian because I think we’ve made it to a dystopia now. I always want to make fun music, but it’s something that should be acknowledged. It’s also a tribute to the fabulous Sylvester, who always influenced and inspired my vocal styling, and whose music I adore. I love disco with a bit of a darker edge.
What other influences can we expect on your next album?
I’m making a dance record—there’s no doubt about it. Bowie is always going to be a massive influence. The Commodores, Lionel Richie, Daft Punk, and Hot Chip have all been influential. Destroyer’s new album has been so inspiring to me—the lyrics are amazing. The album is a big ol’ splotch of my musical vocabulary.
When will it actually come out?
When it’s good and done. I’m a perfectionist with my stuff, and I’m definitely not pressed for time, but I’m excited to keep putting music out. It’s a long way from being finished, though.
So how was your Masked Singer experience?
I think every performer should be required to do a season. It truly is an amazing challenge, and it’s such a strange sensation. It’s performing without your senses—you can’t really hear or see anything! You’re totally covered. They asked, “Does the idea of a unicorn strike your fancy?” and of course I said, “Absolutely!” I’ll never forget it. They let me pick my songs, too, and to be able to sing Kate Bush on TV in the U.K. was one of the coolest things I ever got to do. I learned so much and worked my tits off.
Shears performs Lizzo’s “Juice” on The Masked Singer U.K. edition.
Did you keep the costume?
Although I loved wearing it, when I took that unicorn head off I was absolutely fine never to see it again. I have no desire to ever put that back on again!
Any chance they’ll let you record studio versions of the songs you sang and release them?
There has been some talk of it, and I hope that’s the case, because it would be fun to record a couple of them.
Which of the remaining Democratic candidates would you like to see use a Scissor Sisters song while campaigning?
Literally any of them!
And which song would you suggest?
For Bernie Sanders, “Everybody Wants the Same Thing.” For Elizabeth Warren, “Inevitable.” For Mayor Pete, “It Can’t Come Quickly Enough.” For Amy Klobuchar, “Take Your Mama.” And for Joe Biden, “Ooh.”
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
Shears performing during the Closing Ceremony of WorldPride 2019 in New York City.
How would you feel if Trump played one of your songs during his rallies the way he keeps playing The Village People and The Rolling Stones despite their demands to stop it?
It actually might be funny, because they’d have no idea what the songs meant. I would love for the Trump campaign to play Scissor Sisters’ “Whole New Way” because it’s about butt-fucking. That would be a dream.
Is a movie version of your memoir, Boys Keep Swinging, going to happen?
Not yet, but maybe someday. I would never rule it out. I definitely want to write a sequel.
Are there any other projects in the works that you can mention?
I’m working on this musical with Elton John that I’m really excited about. It’s progressing, and I’m super happy about it. And another musical as well. I’m in New Orleans and relaxing and doing a lot of writing, so I’m in a creative holding pattern until further notice, which is one of my favorite places to be.