Scissor Sisters is an American pop/rock band formed in 2001. Forged in the "gay nightlife scene of New York," the band took its name from the female same-sex sexual activity tribadism. Its members include Jake Shears and Ana Matronic as vocalists, Babydaddy as multi-instrumentalist, Del Marquis as lead guitar/bassist, and Randy Real (who replaced Paddy Boom) as drummer. Scissor Sisters incorporates diverse and eclectic styles in their music, but tends to sway towards pop rock, glam rock, nu-disco, and electroclash.
The band came to prominence following the release of their Grammy-nominated and chart-topping disco version of "Comfortably Numb" and subsequent debut album Scissor Sisters (2004). The album was a success, particularly in the UK where it reached number one, was the best-selling album of 2004, was later certified platinum by the BPI, and accrued them three BRIT Awards in 2005. All five of its singles reached positions within the top 20 of the UK Singles Chart while "Filthy/Gorgeous" scored the band their first number one on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs, despite the album's meager success in their native US.
The album continued its success in countries around Europe, in Australia and in Canada before the release of the band's second studio album Ta-Dah (2006), their second consecutive UK number one album which produced their first UK number one single "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'". Their third studio album Night Work (2010) displayed a shift towards a more club-oriented sound, charting at number two on the UK Albums Chart, number one on Billboard's Top Independent Albums chart and in the top 10 of several international territories. The band released their fourth studio album Magic Hour in May 2012.
Scissor Sisters has performed around the world and have become recognized for their controversial and transgressive live performances. They also collaborated with a number of other well-known pop musicians, including Elton John and Kylie Minogue; these particular collaborations have been received positively by both critics and other notable figures. In 2004, Bono, lead vocalist of rock band U2, described Scissor Sisters as "the best pop group in the world". They have also collaborated with Global Cool in 2007 on one of their green lifestyle campaigns.
Early career (2000–03)
Originally named Dead Lesbian and then the Fibrillating Scissor Sisters, the final two words of the latter being derived from the lesbian sexual act tribadism, the band was founded in 2000 after friends Jake Shears and Scott "Babydaddy" Hoffman (who had met in 1999 in Lexington) both moved to New York City, enjoying its open and gay-friendly ethos. They began producing music together, with Babydaddy composing music and Shears writing lyrics. The duo released a couple of singles to little success and began appearing at underground clubs on New York's Lower East Side. On a trip to Disneyland, the pair met Ana "Ana Matronic" Lynch at a screening of Michael Jackson's Captain EO. During a subsequent teacup ride, they discovered that they had a lot in common. Shears later remarked, "I really thought she was a freak but when I started singing "Another Part of Me" she showed me the best moonwalk I've ever seen."
Ana Matronic ran a weekly cabaret event known as Knock Off at a club called the Slipper Room in New York, where she liked to hire eccentric and alternative acts; one reporter described it as a place that "served up a racy, multigender revue of kitsch," and that a performer dressed as a giant vulva "enfolded me with her labia while singing "Lick Me in My Wet Spot" to the tune of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"." Matronic invited the pair to appear at Knock Off, which they did on September 21, 2001. Shears dressed as his character "Jason the Amazing Back-Alley Late Term Abortion" whilst Matronic, dressed as a reject from Andy Warhol's Factory, joined the pair on stage and sang. Shears and Babydaddy felt she was very effective and asked her to join the band on a permanent basis, to which she agreed.
The trio then began appearing at other clubs, dropping the word "Fibrillating" from their name. They primarily played electroclash, which was popular at the time in the underground club scene of New York with bands like Peaches and Chicks on Speed. They were soon joined by Derek "Del Marquis" Gruen on lead guitar, who had known Shears from when they both worked at the IC Guys club where Shears had been a stripper. They were joined by a fifth member, Patrick "Paddy Boom" Seacor, on drums who (being heterosexual) felt the need to explain to his mother that "it's not a gay band... there [are] gay members, but it doesn't matter. It's about the music and about performance."
In 2002, the band signed with a small New York record company called A Touch of Class for a two-single deal. Their first single "Electrobix" dealt with gay men's obsessions with working out but proved to be less popular than its B-side, a cover version of Pink Floyd's progressive rock classic "Comfortably Numb". Matronic commented, "It's one of those songs that people were either gonna love or hate, and that's really, really powerful, because it basically means you're evoking a reaction in everyone. The first time I heard it, I thought that if it doesn't make us famous, it'll make us infamous because somebody will shoot us!" Their version of "Comfortably Numb" became a hit in many dance clubs and, after sending Pink Floyd themselves a copy, the Scissor Sisters received positive remarks from the song's original writers Roger Waters and David Gilmour. The song proved to be particularly popular in the UK, where various record labels soon took an interest in the band. In 2003, they decided they would tour Europe where they believed audiences would be more receptive of them and their music than their native US.
Debut album and breakthrough success (2003–04)
"Comfortably Numb" came to the attention of British label Polydor, who signed the group to a contract. Their first single for the label "Laura" (with two different music videos) had a limited release in 2003 and reaching number 54 in the UK Singles Chart, receiving little attention with the exceptions of British music paper New Musical Express, Channel 4's entertainment programme V Graham Norton, and the same channel's music programme Popworld for which they were interviewed. The track also received much radio play in Australia. Their track "It Can't Come Quickly Enough" was also included on the soundtrack of the film Party Monster (2003), playing over its ending credits.
Their first hit was in 2004 with the official release of "Comfortably Numb". Reaching number 10 in the UK, this success was followed by "Take Your Mama" which went to number 17, a re-release of "Laura" (with two different music videos) which went to number 12, the ballad "Mary" which went to number 14, and the hedonist anthem "Filthy/Gorgeous" which peaked at number 5 in the UK. All the singles came from their debut album Scissor Sisters, which reached number one the UK Albums Chart and became the best selling album of 2004, beating Keane's Hopes and Fears by 582 copies. As of 2006, it is the 10th biggest-selling album of the 21st century, and the 51st biggest-selling of all time in the UK.
Several media outlets noted that Scissor Sisters "stick out like a sore thumb" on the list of artists who have sold over 2 million copies of an album in the UK in the 21st century; the others being James Blunt, Robbie Williams, Keane, Dido, Coldplay and Norah Jones—artists considered "mainstream" compared to the Scissor Sisters' brash and controversial image. The band had been particularly keen on producing an album that fitted together well rather than simply producing a string of singles. According to Babydaddy, their purpose was "to create a perfect pop rock album that would pick you up at the beginning, take you on a journey in the middle, and set you right back down again in the same place at the end."
About six months after its British release, Scissor Sisters was released in the US. To publicize it the band appeared on the popular morning television show Live with Regis and Kelly, an event that Shears later recalled: "Kelly Ripa loved us, after the first time we played, she gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, 'I just want you to know that this is my favorite music performance we've ever had.' It was amazing." Nonetheless, neither the band nor the album proved to be a big commercial success in the US: major chain store Wal-Mart refused to stock it, claiming on its website that it contained "a snarling, swaggering attack on conservatism" in the form of the song "Tits on the Radio".
The band refused to produce a "clean" version of the album, and Babydaddy remarked that, "We did have to slap a parental warning sticker on the disc, which is completely absurd. I think a kid listening to Eminem is getting a much more negative message than what we've been putting forward. We've only got one 'shit' and a few 'tits!'" Band members have shown their dissatisfaction with the decision on a number of occasions. However, they continued their success in Europe by performing at the Brixton Academy in London for Halloween 2004, where they asked the audience to dress up as the characters from The Rocky Horror Show; the band themselves did so too.
Recording of the second album, Ta-Dah, commenced in mid-May 2005 at the Discoball; sneak previews of new songs were played at live performances, including "Everybody Wants the Same Thing", performed at the Live 8 concert, "Paul McCartney", "I Can't Decide", "Hybrid Man", "Forever Right Now" and "Hair Baby" (a title that refers to the phenomenon of tumors containing partially formed fetuses). Among the assumed pseudonyms used to play a series of secret shows to test this new material were "Bridget Jones' Diarrhea", "Portion Control" and "Megapussi". Scissor Sisters were also one of the headlining acts at the British V Festival in 2005, where they collaborated on stage with Scottish rock group Franz Ferdinand to perform a cover version of David Bowie's "Suffragette City".
The band fulfilled one of its dreams: Elton John collaborated with them on "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" (as pianist and co-writer). The song reached No. 1 in the United Kingdom on September 10, 2006, and remained in the top spot for four consecutive weeks. "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" also peaked at No. 1 on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart and the Euro Hot 100. "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" became the group's biggest hit to date.
Elton John also contributed to the song "Intermission" on Ta-Dah and played piano on a demo of the song Bad Shit (that can be found on the Lights CDsingle).
In 2006, they acted as an opening act for Depeche Mode's Touring the Angel Tour. Their first gig in the UK for promotion of the second album took place at the KOKO Club, Camden, London, on Aug. 31, 2006, and was filmed for MTV. 2006 performances at the Bowery Ballroom and Siren Music Festival in New York and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival have allowed the band to showcase an array of songs from the new album. A free concert was given in Trafalgar Square to 10,000 ballot winners on September 16, 2006, to promote the Red charity. The band also headlined the 2006 Bestival festival on the Isle of Wight. Additionally, they were invited to BBC's Maida Vale studios to perform different songs on every show broadcast on BBC Radio 1. The event, dubbed "Scissor Sisters Day", culminated in them actually standing in for presenter Pete Tong and hosting his three-hour slot themselves. The show took an unexpected turn when a woman in labour telephoned the show to share her experience with the band and they played "Push It" by Salt-n-Pepa for her. Several performances, interviews, and a humorous jingle that was written in an hour, were filmed and edited into a special seven-day, looped broadcast on BBCi.
The album was released September 18, 2006, in the United Kingdom, and on September 26, 2006, in the United States. According to Shears, the album is a combination of '60s-era psychedelia, glam rock and disco. It reached No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart in its first week of release, officially taking the top spot September 24, 2006, marking a first for the Scissor Sisters, consisting of a single and album at the top of the UK charts simultaneously. The album Ta-Dah leaked onto the Internet on September 10, 2006, five days before its release in the United Kingdom.
The Scissor Sisters ended their first UK tour at Wembley Arena, London, from November 24 to 26, 2006, supported by new artist Lily Allen, who performed during the three days there. The band has also been in the Latin America Top 40 Airplay. "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" is still charting and is so far their biggest hit to date in Latin America, reaching No. 23, charting mostly in South America, particularly Peru. "Land of a Thousand Words" was released as the second single from the album, peaking at No. 19 in the UK. "She's My Man" was the third single released in February 2007, peaking at No. 29. "Kiss You Off" was the fourth and final single released in May 2007 but failed to dent the Top 40, their first single since their debut Laura to do so. The "Kiss You Off" video centered around Ana Matronic in a futuristic beauty salon. The group was the main event during the New Year's Eve celebrations for 2007 in Berlin. On February 8 and 9, 2007, the group appeared on the American daytime soap opera Passions. They performed "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" and "Land of a Thousand Words" from the album Ta-Dah.
Night Work and other projects (2008–11)
After touring the world in 2007, the band had a short hiatus in order to work on their next studio album. Premiering new material of this album at secret gigs in New York City's Mercury Lounge in October 2008, they assumed the names Queef Latina and Debbie's Hairy. New songs included on the set list were "Television", "Who's Your Money", "Other Girls", "Major for You", "None of My Business", "Singularity", "Do the Strand", "Who's There", "Not the Loving Kind", "Taking Shape" (with Babydaddy on lead vocals), and "Uroboros". Shears stated on the band's website there was a possibility that none of these songs would appear on the album, as the band was less than satisfied with most of them. This was confirmed to be the case when the track list was revealed. Drummer Paddy Boom was absent at these gigs and it was later announced that he had amicably parted from the band. The band had come into contact with drummer Randy "Real" Schrager, who was known from his work on the downtown New York scene, playing with bands such as Jessica Vale and The Act. He was initially brought on as a fill-in during Paddy Boom's leave of absence. Eventually, Randy was made part of the full-time line-up.
Scissor Sisters spent much of 2008 and early 2009 in the recording studio. However, after working on new material for approximately 18 months, the band decided to shelve their third album. Shears explained: "In my heart I knew it wasn't right. I didn't really know what it was trying to say. It left me a little bit cold." Reportedly, an entire record had been worked on but that the group had "shelved it about a year ago." Shears admits, "If it wasn't something we could fully get behind and believe in, I think the band was going to be over."
The band returned to the studio and begun to work on new tracks in June 2009, which made it onto their replacement third album Night Work. Produced in collaboration with Stuart Price, Night Work was released on June 28, 2010. The album was described as "supersexual and sleazy" with its first single, "Fire with Fire" as "a really epic song that makes you feel really good". With the album, the band have toured worldwide on The Night Work Tour. As an opening act, they joined Lady Gaga for select dates on her third leg of The Monster Ball Tour in early 2011.
Shears and Scissor Sisters collaborator John "JJ" Garden provided the lyrics and score for a world-premiere musical adaptation of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, a beloved series of novels (and later a television miniseries) about life in San Francisco in the 1970s. The musical was first developed at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Music Theater Conference in 2009, where Shears and Garden collaborated with a creative team that included playwright Jeff Whitty and director Jason Moore, of the Tony-Award-winning musical Avenue Q. The show had a subsequent run in San Francisco on May 18, 2011 at the American Conservatory Theater.
Magic Hour and indefinite hiatus (2012)
On October 31, 2011, Shears tweeted that the band's fourth album was in its final stages. A song from the new album titled "Shady Love" debuted on Annie Mac's BBC Radio 1 show on January 2, 2012. "Shady Love" features guest vocals from Azealia Banks while Jake Shears performs under his pseudonym Krystal Pepsy.
On March 13, 2012, Scissor Sisters announced the title of the album, Magic Hour, and revealed that the record would release worldwide on May 28, 2012. The band also announced the release date of a new single, "Only the Horses". Originally scheduled to come out on May 20, the release "Only the Horses" was pushed up to May 13. The video premiered on Thursday April 18, 2012. On May 7, the band released the track "Let's Have a Kiki" exclusively via Spotify in some countries.
Upon release, Magic Hour peaked at #4 on the UK Albums Chart and #35 on the US Billboard 200. The album reached #1 on Billboard's Dance/Electronic Albums chart. The band embarked on a world tour in support of Magic Hour, starting with summer shows in North America. On July 9, 2012, they performed the American TV premiere of "Let's Have a Kiki" on Bravo-TV's Watch What Happens Live. They toured Europe in September and October 2012.
On October 23, 2012, whilst performing at the Camden Roundhouse, Scissor Sisters announced an indefinite hiatus. A year later, Ana Matronic insisted that the band, whilst still on break, had not permanently split.
On June 9, 2017, the band released their first single in five years, "Swerlk", a collaboration with MNDR. Proceeds for the single were donated to the Contigo Fund, a nonprofit organization for LGBTQ individuals.
Scissor Sisters' music can be generally described as a mixture of glam rock, disco and alternative music. They appear to have been heavily influenced by Elton John (who co-wrote and played piano on "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'") despite Shears commenting that he was not familiar with his work prior to the release of their record. Shears has since stated that he has become a big fan. The band also has been compared to ABBA, the Bee Gees, Blondie, KC and the Sunshine Band, Duran Duran who were "the reason we got into music," Matronic stated, Supertramp, Siouxsie and the Banshees who Matronic "wouldn't be here without," David Bowie, 1970s-era Kiss, Queen, Chic, Richard O'Brien and various other dance, disco, rock, and funk acts. Shears also stated that The Beatles have been an influence for him and that he is a huge fan of Paul McCartney and Wings, hence their track entitled "Paul McCartney". However, the band admits that their music is hard to categorise.
The lyrics of their songs, largely written by Shears and Babydaddy, are known for their mixture of wit and tragedy. The songs on their debut album dealt with a number of subjects and issues in a variety of styles, from drug abuse within the gay community ("Return to Oz"), to Shears' deep platonic love for his best friend Mary ("Mary"). Mary died of a brain aneurysm in April 2006, news that devastated members of the band.
Many of Scissor Sisters' songs deal with themes in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, relating to the fact that three of the band members, including the two founders, are gay. "Filthy/Gorgeous" is about transsexual prostitutes while "Take Your Mama" deals with coming out of the closet to family members. Despite this, Shears stated, "I don't believe sexuality really matters when it comes to music." In an interview featured on the We Are Scissor Sisters... And So Are You DVD, Shears states, "The fact that some of us are gay affects our music the same amount as it does that some of the members of Blondie are straight."
The visuals for Scissor Sisters' self-titled first album and its singles featured artwork by an English illustrator named Spookytim, who has a studio in Brighton called Studiospooky. The artwork was created by a wide variety of techniques and mixed traditional paper-based processes with digital and photographic elements in order to reflect the multi-referential nature of the band's music.
Scissor Sisters are known for their extravagant live performances. In some of their early shows, Shears was known to remove all of his clothes onstage, harking back to his former profession as a go-go stripper; in others, he threw inflated condoms into the audience.
Impact and influence
Several fan societies have sprung up in the official forums including the Jake Groupies, Ana Matronic Appreciation Society, and the Scissor Sisters Party Bus; the latter two having spilled over to their own sites. The band have a close relationship with their fan community and have held small private gigs for select forum members, at which new tracks are previewed and fans have the opportunity to meet the band. In the fan community, those fans who hold a special affinity for Ana are known as "nuns."
In late 2004, Shears and Babydaddy co-wrote and produced the Kylie Minogue hit "I Believe in You", which featured on her Ultimate Kylie (2004) compilation. They also wrote the unreleased "(Everything) I Know", which leaked online in November 2004 and "Ooh (The Blues)", of which Minogue's version remains unreleased. Scissor Sisters went on to co-write a new song for Minogue entitled "White Diamond", which was showcased in her Showgirl Homecoming Tour that kicked off in Australia in November 2006. A stirring ballad version of "White Diamond" was featured as an exclusive pre-order bonus track from Minogue's album X (2007) as well as being the theme song of her tour documentary White Diamond (2007).
Awards, nominations and press
Scissor Sisters have garnered 10 accolades from 28 nominations in various awards ceremonies. Their single "Comfortably Numb" received a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording in 2005 but lost to Britney Spears' "Toxic". The band have had greater success in the UK where, at the 2005 BRIT Awards, the group won all 3 of their nominations, including International Group, International Breakthrough, and International Album, making the group the first to win the hat-trick in the BRITs' International categories. They supplemented their win by opening the show with "Take Your Mama" on a set made by The Jim Henson Company and returned in 2007, opening the ceremony with "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" which later won the Ivor Novello Award for Most Performed Work. Other international honors include the German Bambi Award for Shooting Star.
The band have also been recognized by the LGBT community. Three of their four studio albums have been recognized by the GLAAD Media Awards, consecutively winning the band the award for Outstanding Music Artist (in 2005, 2007 and 2011) while Out magazine also ranked their first two albums on their list of the 100 Greatest, Gayest Albums in 2008: Scissor Sisters (2004) was number 26 while Ta-Dah (2006) was 81. In 2004, gay members Shears, Babydaddy, and Marquis, were honored in Out magazine's List of the 100 Most Intriguing Gay People of the Year. Recognized for humanitarianism, the band were also invited to perform at Live 8 with a set that included previously unheard song "Everybody Wants the Same Thing".
In popular culture
Several of Scissor Sister's songs have appeared in various television shows including "The Skins" in season five of Queer as Folk and "Take Your Mama" in the episode "Six Months Ago" of Heroes. Their song "Filthy/Gorgeous" serves as the theme music to the US version of the sit-com Kath & Kim while the song "I Can't Decide" was used in the Doctor Who episode "Last of the Time Lords" where the Master sings along to it in a mocking fashion towards the enslaved human race. Subsequently, the song debuted at number 64 on the UK Singles Chart. "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" is featured at a costume party in the film How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008) and is one of the "slug songs" in the special features menu that is sung in Flushed Away (2006), as well as being featured during the beginning of the first episode of Private Practice. In addition, "Isn't It Strange," a track created during the band's recording session for "Night Work", featured in Shrek Forever After (2010).
Their music has also been used in video games with "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" featuring on the Wii video game "Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party" and on the game Singstar on PlayStation 3. In 2005, "Filthy/Gorgeous" was licensed by Activision and appears in Neversoft's Tony Hawk's American Wasteland while "Take Your Mama" and "Fire with Fire" appear on EA Sports' FIFA 2005 and FIFA 11 respectively.
The popular trend of mashups has included Scissor Sisters in its vein with DJ Earworm's 2005 hit "No One Takes Your Freedom" combining "Take Your Mama" with The Beatles' "For No One", George Michael's "Freedom '90" and Aretha Franklin's "Think". In early 2008, online record label WHA!?, in association with a Scissor Sisters fan site, released a free-to-download bootleg album entitled Da-Tah which featured mashups of Scissor Sister songs with songs by artists such as Beck, Peter Gabriel, Lauryn Hill, and Nine Inch Nails. In November 2012, the song "Let's Have a Kiki" was used on Glee's fourth season episode "Thanksgiving" in a mashup with "Turkey Lurkey Time" from the musical Promises, Promises.
"Filthy/Gorgeous" is used in trailers for the film Filth (2013). Also, Jake Shears was invited to sing a duet on pop diva Cher's 2013 album Closer to the Truth. The name of the track is "Take It Like a Man".
- Jake Shears (born Jason Sellards): vocals, piano, guitar (2001–present)
- Babydaddy (born Scott Hoffman): bass guitar, keyboards, vocals, rhythm guitar (2001–present)
- Ana Matronic (born Ana Lynch): vocals, 'Mistress of Ceremonies', percussion, keyboards (2001–present)
- Del Marquis (born Derek Gruen): lead guitar, bass guitar (2001–present)
- Randy Real (born Randy Schrager): drums, electronic drums, percussion (2008–present)
- Paddy Boom (born Patrick Seacor): drums, electronic drums, percussion (2001–2008)
Live shows and performances have included John "JJ" Garden—son of Graeme Garden of The Goodies—on keyboards and rhythm and bass guitars.
- Scissor Sisters (2004)
- Ta-Dah (2006)
- Night Work (2010)
- Magic Hour (2012)
- We Are Scissor Sisters... And So Are You (2004)
- Hurrah! A Year of Ta-Dah (2007)
As supporting act
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Scissor Sisters.|
- List of artists who reached number one on the U.S. dance chart
- List of number-one dance hits (United States)
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