IT’S RAINING REM!

Michael Stipe's gay 'revelations' don't seem to be a problem for music buyers - but Geri's music does...

REM are trouncing GERI HALLIWELL in the race for the top spot in this week’s album chart.

The Athens rock veterans have sold over 33,000 copies of ‘Reveal’ on its first day in the shops, with Halliwell‘s ‘Scream If You Wanna Go Faster’ having yet to breach the 10,000 sales mark earlier today (May 15), according to reports on Spice Girl.

Meanwhile, Stipe’s admission earlier this week that he is gay has been applauded by commentators.

Paul Flynn, features editor of gay style magazine Attitude, told NME.COM: “It’s a great thing. There are few openly gay American mainstream rock performers, there are no men in the American charts who are gay. There are women – Melissa Etheridge and kd Lang, for example. But there are no men, so this is great, it opens the door, and sales of ‘Reveal’ won’t completely collapse. It’s great that he’s just released a commercial album at the same time, though I doubt very much that the timing was deliberate.”

Stipe came out in an interview with Time magazine.The star said that he has been with a partner for three years, who he described as “an amazing guy”, and is not a celebrity. He admitted: “I was being made to be a coward about it, rather than someone who felt like it really was a very private thing.”

Flynn agreed: “It seems a bit ridiculous, especially with somebody as obvious as him, that it’s taken him until he’s in his forties to do it. There has been a certain embarrassment factor, when everybody knows. It’s only two words, for heaven’s sake.”

He said there was no parallel between Stipe coming out publicly and gay Boyzone star Stephen Gately‘s admission. “You can’t even say the two names in the same breath. Michael Stipe has an extremely well-established, multi-million selling, international career. Stephen Gately had large sales in one territory – he wasn’t an international figure.”

He cited the example of George Michael, declaring his declaration on CNN that he was gay following his arrest in a public toilet in the US “absolute commercial suicide in America”. Michael released one album of cover versions, which received a lukewarm reception from critics, after the incident in 1998. But Flynn added that REM‘s fans have always had “a college audience. It’s a kind of liberal, free-thinking audience. They’re not Bon Jovi, they were never white-collar rockers, there was always something a bit more oblique and intellectual about them.”

Stipe, who has in the past been subjected to unfounded speculation that he had AIDS, has stated that he never viewed himself as having any particular sexual orientation, quipping: “I’m an equal-opportunities lech” .