As Austrian singer Conchita became ever more masculine, and as her creator Tom Neuwirth announced “I must kill her”, fans began to obsess over if Conchita would die a death and when.
And, if so, when would Tom Neuwirth take her place?
At the time, what bothered me about some of the fan comments, however, was that they were not of the “Be who you want to be, we’ll support you anyway” kind, but more of the “Be Tom, so we can snoop in your life even further, and be even creepier than we have been in the past”.
Something most artists worry about when it comes to their fans.
Fans feeling that an artist’s life is an open book, and that they are ‘owed’ more than just the music the artist releases, the concerts they give or the public appearances they show up for.
Sadly, this sentiment has been particularly prevalent in a sub-set of the Conchita fandom in recent years, where ‘Tom’ often seemed to be less of a person people loved but left alone, and more of a person to be pawed over.
A person to publish photographs of, even though Conchita always asked people not to and, in some instances, a guy who was treated as little more than a sexual object by some of the creepier side of the fandom.
A good-looking guy they could use for their own weird sexual fantasies.
So, I have to admit, when Conchita’s Instagram account began teasing photographs related to her then-upcoming new single release last week, and the word T.O.M. was suddenly spelled out, I was starting to feel more than a little unease.
Because, while I am happy to support Tom Neuwirth, if Tom up on stage is who he wants to be, my heart felt sad for him.
If Tom, indeed, was who Conchita was about to morph into.
After all, I know how hard Tom Neuwirth has fought to keep his privacy, while also seeming to be struggling to figure out who he is and why he was so unhappy.
Unhappy in that he was obviously trying to figure out where he wanted his career to go, why fame was making him miserable, and how much of himself he wanted to show to the world.
If anything at all.
So last Friday morning when I headed to YouTube to see what Conchita’s Instagram ‘tease’ had resulted in and, instead of Tom Neuwirth, there was a music video with a dude called WURST in head-to-foot black latex cavorting and gyrating around an empty Wiener Linien subway station, the grin on my face was 10 miles wide.
Because, while I did think there was a slight chance we might get Tom Neuwirth, I was not only happy we didn’t, but realized immediately I should have known better.
Should have known Tom Neuwirth would not be pushing himself back into the public eye right now. At least not like he did when he was 18 and new to the limelight.
Because who the fuck in their right minds would want that kind of invasion into their private life?
Instead, last Friday’s reveal turned out to be a new music project from the endlessly talented Tom Neuwirth. A project he is calling WURST – the original surname of his Eurovision Song Contest winning diva Conchita.
A project I think is quite brilliant on every level.
WURST and ‘Trash All The Glam’
WURST’s first release in this new project is a song called ‘Trash All The Glam’. A song that is the first release from his upcoming new album Truth Over Magnitude (T.O.M. — get it?) and, at first listen, is a weaker offering vocally than we normally get from Tom Neuwirth as Conchita.
Particularly in the beginnings of the song.
As an avant-garde electronic track with a pulsating beat, it also has a melody that is difficult to keep up with as it meanders off in a hundred different directions.
A melody and a beat most people wouldn’t really want to dance to, so it ends up being just ‘out there’. A song that sounds interesting, but one that, once you’ve heard it, you don’t really know what to do with.
In other words, ‘Trash All The Glam’ is not a comfortable song.
The song’s lyrics too are convoluted and a bit awkward, and sometimes don’t quite say what I think Tom Neuwirth wanted them to. (My heart that loves Conchita says ‘interesting’, my native English speaking writer’s head says “no, not that word!”).
That being said, the emotion within the lyrics is fascinating, and in particular these lines:
I feel the more I trust in me the brighter all my colors be
And followed by the likes of me I dare to face and to compete
I go and tear to shreads all canting prayers
I cut off hands that hold me back
I’m trashing all the glam
Trashing all the glam
Trashing all the glam
In second and subsequent listenings, however, many of the things I did not initially like about the song began to make more sense. Once I realized they were meant to portray how Tom Neuwirth feels.
The uncomfortableness of being Conchita when Tom himself knew he needed more than that, but wasn’t sure how to create it, is expressed in the way the music doesn’t have a solid center but instead heads off in different directions.
Almost as if searching for something.
WURST’s initial lighter, quavering vocals that at first seemed weak I realized were meant to portray a feeling of being stuck in the feminine when his masculine side was fighting to break free.
The stronger vocals and more intense beat as the song progresses then show how Tom was eventually able to give the masculine free rein by choosing to create a second character.
The creation and birth of WURST.
“I cut off hands that hold me back”
As for the lyrics, this is the one that stands out for me. Especially as it is a bold statement from an artist I have felt over the last couple of years has sometimes seemed to be bordering on arrogant..
Something that came as a shock to me when I first saw it, as Conchita was never like that. (The sneer that shows up for an instant when Conchita answers yet another annoying question from a reporter, for instance, and, for a second, it’s Justin Bieber on my screen).
But an arrogance I also sensed was not really an arrogance at all.
But instead a frustration Tom has felt since he won the Eurovision Song Contest, brought all that glory back to Austria for the first time in almost fifty years, and was still being told by people in Austria’s ultra-conformist society what is ‘acceptable’ and what is not.
Including up to two weeks ago, when Tom Neurwirth appeared as Conchita at Austria’s iconic Opernball in an ankle-length skin tight (gorgeous!) gown, a shaved head and without a stole, and was then berated on Conchita’s Facebook page for wearing something ‘inappropriate for the Opernball’.
Because heaven forbid people attending the Opernball should ever dare join the 21st century.
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honoured to be at #wieneropernball2019 tonight, also because it’s an opportunity to underline the importance of the european elections in may: go to vote! body: @nange.magro_dead.lotus.couture evening skirt: @juergenchristianhoerlofficial Styling: @jpheg @wienerstaatsoper @europride2019
In other words, as much as I don’t find the song comfortable to listen to (but then I don’t think Tom Neuwirth ever intended it to be), I do think it is a superb illustration of the emotions Neuwirth has been battling for so long.
Particularly when all of this is bolstered by the release of an artistically strong music video.
And so I say to WURST, while I doubt ‘Trash All The Glam‘ will ever be one of my favorite tracks, you go, dude!
Cut off all the goddamn hands, (including mine, and with them my absolute insistence on always telling you what to do), and do what the hell you feel like doing.
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WURST’s ‘Trash All The Glam’ music video
As far as WURST’s first music video offering goes, there are three things I enjoyed about ‘Trash All The Glam’ the most. (And can I just say, I bloody love that name – WURST – he could not have picked a better one).
1. Concept, Creative Director: Thomas Neuwirth – The concept for the video is, of course, from Tom Neuwirth. An idea that is stunning when you realize what seems to be an initial simplicity actually has so much complexity going on underneath.
The choreography too is superb. Especially when you let your mind wander back to Tom as Conchita during his first couple of years after his Eurovision win, and remember how utterly stiff and self-conscious she always was on stage.
As WURST, however, Tom Neuwirth’s dance moves rival those of a professional dancer, and his flexibility is something I will be jealous of for weeks to come.
Including that perfect ass, which, the least said about that the better.
As for the lubricant WURST is swimming around in midway through the song – sticky and viscous – it is almost as if he is fighting his way out of his mother’s amniotic fluid. Out into a world where, in this case, he is not being born – but re-born.
A brilliant imagery, from someone who is well on his way to becoming a creative genius, and one that reminds me about something Austrian music journalist Peter Schrieber told me about Tom Neuwirth last year – “That man is special. Then again, he has always been special. Right from the very start”.
2. Producer, Director: André Karsai – I have watched everything André Karsai has created, produced and/or directed over the last few years, and have seen a fascinating progression from his first videos where he always did a technically excellent but often still ‘very safe’ job, to what he has just produced with ‘Trash All The Glam’.
A music video that is actually now pushing the boundaries his previous work used to stop at, as well as one that is less of a music video and more on the way to ‘high art’.
That is why I am interested to see what he produces next, and if it continues to stay out of the safe zone and into something far more intriguing and raw.
3. Camera, Editing, Colour Grading: Johannes Durhammer (Jazztime film) – Superb, from the shooting angles chosen, right down to that color grading that adds such a gloomy feel to the message of the video, and that puts it on a much more unusual level than what is often created in Austria.
The WURST project
So now we know.
Instead of ‘killing Conchita’, something I think most people who love her would never really forgive, Tom Neuwirth decided to push himself and his art forward by splitting himself in two.
Conchita, for the times when diva songs are called for, and when glamorous and feminine is how he wants to be.
And WURST. The more male side of this fascinating person. An artist with a harder edge, a more modern, avant-garde sensibility, and one that can take Tom Neuwirth to artistic places Conchita would never be able to go.
The perfect creative solution for an artist that spends so much time in his own head, and that has seemed to be struggling so much in the last few years to balance both who he wants to be along with the things his fans love about him and don’t want to lose.
To balance both, and yet still be happy.
With the creation of WURST, I think Tom Neuwirth may just have succeeded.