Though it's as chic as a marching band and demands that you do that dorky dance along to it (a dance without any acknowledgement of one's hips, no less), perhaps you are like me and find the Village People's 1978 disco anthem "Y.M.C.A." endearing anyway. A feat of subversion that is still routinely played at the heterosexual pride-oriented outings better known as sporting events, the song has kids from 2 to 92 obliviously pantomiming letters along to barely veiled lyrics that tell of public man-on-man butt sex in the insanely debauched pre-AIDS era. In terms of gay culture penetrating the mainstream without the mainstream's knowledge, "Y.M.C.A." stands virtually alone in its reach and stealthiness (though Madonna's "Vogue" comes close—ball culture reached as far as Stephanie Tanner).
Forget all that.
Apparently, gay rights activists have suggested that the song be played at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi during the opening ceremony to stick it to those homophobic Russians (again, probably without them even knowing it). But the group's lead singer, Victor Willis (pictured above with his mouth agape, but not for any penis-related reason), recently said that he's not having that, because the song is not about what you think it's about. It's about the actual, non-sexual fun of staying at the Y.M.C.A. It's about getting yourself clean (in the shower alone). It's about having a good meal (not of dick). It's about doing whatever you feel (as long as those aren't gay feelings you feel). Said Willis, who wrote at least some of the lyrics:
If they want to use the song that way, go right ahead, but I think it's silly because the lyrics were written by me as an expression of urban youths having fun at the YMCA. The words were crafted by me to be taken any number of ways but not specific to gays. It's much broader than that. The song is universal. I don't mind that gays think the song is about them but I won't perform the song in support of any protest.
The inherent gayness of the Village People has been a point of contention between the people who were (and are) in the group and its creators, Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo. Morali, who died in 1991, was gay and in last year's documentary about the politics of disco, Secret Disco Revolution, Belolo said that the Village People were Morali's statement of his own gay pride, as well as an exercise in double entendre. Later in that documentary, members of the Village People balked when told they were described in Alice Echols' excellent book Hot Stuff as "the ambassadors of gay macho." In the segment below, they refute the notion that their songs were written with gay culture in mind. The interrogation makes them kind of bitchy (though they probably were going for something more along the lines of pissy).
Meanwhile Belolo counters their claims, explaining that those double entendres were intentional. Belolo's argument is more believable because look at them.
[There was a video here]
Also, the album from which "Y.M.C.A." came was called Cruisin'.
Embrace the gays is a good rule of thumb for any fading veteran act. Additionally, you'd think that in these enlightened times, the Village People would want to play up the gayness even more in a further attempt at relevance. But no, there they go again, working against the grain. Can't stop the subversion.