When you think of Pride anthems, your mind probably goes straight to the divas — after all, offerings from Diana Ross, Madonna, Cher, Whitney Houston and others have inspired the LGBTQ community for decades. And while we appreciate our allies, what about Pride anthems from LGBTQ artists?
This Pride season, we’re shining a light on anthems from the LGBTQ community. With selections from Frankie Knuckles to George Michael, RuPaul to Hayley Kiyoko, these pop, dance, hip-hop, rock and R&B songs proudly uplift and celebrate the LGBTQ experience.
Sylvester, “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)”
For a genre created by queer and Black artists, a lot of the disco singers who notched hits were straight and white – not here, though. Sylvester’s throbbing, falsetto-fied “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” is a glorious Hi-NRG paean to a person who makes you feel alive.
RuPaul, “Sissy That Walk”
Nearly two decades after “Supermodel of the World” crashed into the Hot 100, RuPaul’s Drag Race reminded the queer community that the alpha queen was still a master of empowering dance anthems — and “Sissy That Walk” is one of Ru’s best; it’s an ode to living your life and not worrying about whether you fly or fall — just don’t forget to feel fabulous while doing it.
Tegan and Sara, “Closer”
An anthem for a budding romance you can’t wait to dive into, Tegan and Sara’s “Closer” demonstrated they could pivot to full-on pop without sacrificing emotional authenticity (a lesson any Cure fan already knows). The sweetly nervous synths and the first-crush energy that fuels the pounding chorus make it an affecting, exuberant classic.
Adam Lambert, “Superpower”
Coming to national consciousness and coming out at a time when being a gay male in music was still seen as a hinderance, Adam Lambert definitely needed at least one “Superpower” to make it in the biz. According to this sultry, confident funk-pop anthem, that superpower is simple, and one the LGBTQ community knows all too well: “You kick us down in the dirt but we ain’t goin’ away / I get back up when I fall.”
Hayley Kiyoko ft. Kehlani, “What I Need”
A match made in lesbian Valhalla, Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani teamed up in 2018 with “What I Need,” a confident open letter to prospective partners that politely but firmly requests clarity on a complicated situation. Consider it a moody pop&B anthem for emotional intelligence and communication in romance.
Shea Diamond, “I Am America”
Over a sprightly funk riff, stomping beat and New Orleans-flavored horns, Shea Diamond declares “I Am America” on this firm, uplifting ode to queer resilience and our refusal to be erased by those with a painfully narrow view of what America looks like.
Zebra Katz, “In In In”
Seductive, sharp and deliciously haughty on the mic, Zebra Katz is in Harlem ballroom emcee mode on “In In In,” dropping an excess of quotable flexes (“The way I do my thing is a goddamn sin / Like, shit, where do I begin?) over a relentless beat and darkly alluring industrial electronics.
Shamir, “On the Regular”
Three breathless minutes of hip house brilliance, “On the Regular” finds Shamir bragging, teasing and delivering dazzling wordplay over a throbbing beat, elastic bass line and even a sprinkling of cowbell. An irresistible ode to self-confidence and a reminder that smarts and swagger are an under-appreciated team.
Demi Lovato, “Cool for the Summer”
Gentle yet vigorous, sly but unabashed, “Cool for the Summer” is a beguiling bundle of beautiful conflicts that features one of Demi Lovato’s most nuanced vocal performances. Most romantic anthems pick one mood and stick with it: This one runs the whole gamut of emotions when it comes to a secret, passionate affair.
Kim Petras, “Heart to Break”
Against a killer, lovable beat that hits like it’s coming out of a blown speaker, Kim Petras puts her vocal range and dynamism on display with “Heart To Break,” a sweet dance-pop declaration about letting go of fear and opening yourself up to potential heartbreak, bliss and whatever else comes.
Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield, “What Have I Done to Deserve This?”
The O.G. lesbian of soul joined up with the Pet Shop Boys in 1987 for the sweet yet painful synth-pop summation of the complicated politics of relationships, particularly when queer romance is involved: “At night, the people come and go / They talk too fast, and walk too slow / Chasing time from hour to hour I pour the drinks and crush the flowers.”
Over pounding synths from late trailblazer SOPHIE (which sound like a tea kettle screaming to get off the heat), Le1f demonstrates that it’s possible to spit fire and sound completely casual at the same time as he toys with and brushes off a swag-less boy who thinks he’s on Le1f’s level: “You’re trying so hard and it really shows / You say I’m fit, hmm, thanks, I already know.”
Melissa Etheridge, “Come to My Window”
Rootsy rocker Melissa Etheridge captures the joyous thrill of a burgeoning romance with “Come to My Window.” With lyrics that emphasize love over judgment – “I don’t care what they say / What do they know about this love, anyway?” – the singer-songwriter’s Grammy-winning top 40 Hot 100 hit was one of the first mainstream singles from an out woman in music.
Frankie Knuckles ft. Adeva, “Love Can Change It”
A classic from the Godfather of House Music, Frankie Knuckles’ “Love Can Change It” is a soulful, inspirational piece of dancefloor catnip with Adeva working her vocal runs like Ali dancing around his opponent in the ring. This isn’t merely physical or romantic love – it’s a soaring ode to the power of good vibes and positivity that, you hope, can make the world a better place.
Troye Sivan and Kacey Musgraves ft. Mark Ronson, “Easy”
“Easy” already included the most adorable woo! of the 21st century, but when Troye Sivan brought Kacey Musgraves into the fold for the revamped version, the queer pop trailblazer and LGBTQ ally created a rousing yet bittersweet bop. You want a gorgeous synth-pop anthem about working through potentially relationship-ending issues? Sign up here.
George Michael, “Freedom! ’90”
Released in 1990, when pop icon George Michael was on top of the world but before he officially came out, “Freedom! ’90” isn’t all that subtle in hindsight – it absolutely plays like a statement of self-love and self-acceptance from someone who struggled to get there. The moment that funky piano riff hits, you can’t help but feel a little lighter.
Rina Sawayama, “XS”
A delirious brew of Britney Spears, TLC and Sleigh Bells, Rina Sawayama’s “XS” is an intoxicating avant-pop banger, and a razor-sharp send-up of capitalism that simultaneously cops to the pull of materialistic longings – a dichotomy plenty of people in the LGBTQ community can relate to.
Janelle Monáe, “Make Me Feel”
With finger snaps, tongue clacks, furious funk guitar riffage and squealing synths that sound straight out of Prince’s Dirty Mind, Janelle Monáe’s “Make Me Feel” bubbles with libidinous energy. When she coyly croons, “It’s like I’m powerful with a little bit of tender / An emotional, sexual bender,” a new queer mating call was born.
Big Freedia ft. Lizzo, “Karaoke”
Riding atop a nasty saxophone riff and pounding bounce rhythm, Big Freedia pummels the mic on “Karaoke,” delivering a rapid-fire vocal volley with an assist from fierce ally Lizzo. Like the best of the Queen Diva of New Orleans, “Karaoke” is an instant party starter.
Elton John and Years & Years, “It’s a Sin”
Elton is GOAT and Olly Alexander is an undeniable rising star. Even so, when they combined forces for a cover of Pet Shop Boys’ 1987 classic “It’s A Sin,” few expected something this vital. Elton’s bass-heavy lamentations and Alexander’s gritty, anguished vocals pair together perfectly on this liberating exploration of queer self-shame and emotional liberation.