This Saturday, people come together for Pride in London, the annual celebration that champions LGBT causes, raises awareness about issues affecting the LGBT community and, yes, OK, gives us all a chance to have a massive party. Kicking off with a huge parade through the streets of the West End, no Pride would be complete without amazing tunes to get everyone in the party spirit.
Music is something that brings us all together. So we’ve compiled an essential playlist of songs no Pride celebration should be without—from songs that hoped to change the world to good old bangers that demand your attention and, naturally, to be sung at the
very top of your voice.
Picking a song out of Madonna’s iconic catalogue was never going to be easy, but “Vogue” has to be one of Madge’s most defiantly gay tracks. Taking its influence from the vogue-ing dance trend that was taking over New York City’s underground gay club scene, “Vogue” was Madonna’s love letter to her gay fans. Her Madgesty walks the walk too—she campaigned for gay rights and lent her support to HIV and AIDS charities way before it was a common thing for a pop star to do. Not only that, but anyone who manages to squeeze Bette Davis, Grace Kelly and Lauren Bacall into a rap deserves extra gay kudos.
The holy mother of all gay icons, Cher exceeded all expectations when she returned to the top of the charts in 1998, scoring the best-selling single ever by a female in the UK. Ever. The eternally youthful star has also showed unwavering support for her trans son, Chaz. Imagine Cher being your mum. We can’t even.
Scissor Sisters, “Filthy Gorgeous”
Never afraid to make rotten old squares feel uncomfortable, the sassy stalwarts of the New York City gay scene may have gone mainstream, but they never sounded so deliciously trashy and devil-may-care as they did on this hedonistic jam. It would have even your most dour uncle reaching for the feather boa.
Rocky Horror Picture Show, “Sweet Transvestite”
Tim Curry’s perfect, pouting performance as Dr. Frank N Furter may seem relatively tame today, but in the ’70s it caused quite a stir. Unashamedly playing with common perceptions around gender and sexuality, his stellar performance is much more than a man cavorting in lingerie. Also: The antici … pation, part—it goes on for days. Admit it, you came in with the pation too early. It’s fine, we’ve all done it.
Lady Gaga, “Born This Way”
There’s no questioning Gaga’s LGBT ally credentials when it comes to her music. She’s a vocal supporter of self-expression and has spoken out against bullying and homophobia. “Born This Way,” a very modern take on positivity and ignoring all the haters, communicates the essence of Gaga and her fandom in just over four tightly packaged minutes. There’s a reason her Little Monsters are so loyal and any critic should try walking a mile in her shoes first. In fact, if it’s those sky-high armadillo shoes she’s wearing, maybe try a millimetre and see how you get on.
George Michael, “Freedom! ’90”
The former Wham! singer took a while to come out and be comfortable in his own skin, and if you listen closely to some of his earlier music, you can hear that internal struggle to be himself. While he’s really singing about shaking off his boy-band past in the irresistibly glossy “Freedom,” this impassioned call for liberty could be anybody’s coming-out story. Also: Supermodels lip-synching his song as far as the eye can see? Gay or straight, that’s the dream.
Janet Jackson, “All for You”
“Got a nice package, all right. Guess I’m gonna have to ride it tonight.” We don’t think Janet’s talking about her local pillar-box here, do you? She’s long championed gay rights and spoken against homophobia and what Janet doesn’t know about throwing herself round a stage in PVC isn’t worth knowing.
“You better werk!” The legendary drag queen and model has never sounded fiercer on this certified banger—and who better than Ru to get those Pride floats shaking? That’s if you can tear yourself away from his addictive reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race, that is.
Peaches, “I U She”
Possibly one of the greatest “mind your own damn business and let me live” tunes about sex ever, here the delightfully brutally honest Peaches lays it on the line: She’ll sleep with whom she likes, when she likes, gender and sexuality unimportant. And you will deal.
Britney Spears, “Work Bitch”
“You wanna live fancy? Live in a big mansion? Party in France? You better work, bitch.” This is the most extreme career advice your mum is ever likely to give you, probably after a few vodkas, but in a song! Britney knows all about working it. Since first swinging her pigtails in 1999 on …Baby One More Time to taking over Vegas, La Spears has been relentless in her quest to bring the sing-along to the party and has also inspired a million hen- and stag-night outfits up and down the country.
Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive”
We live in enlightened times but the LGBT community is still dealing with and overcoming adversity day after day. Way back in the ’70s, Gloria Gaynor created an anthem for anyone who’d ever wanted to tell someone to go shove it. And with Gloria’s determination to hold her head up high, few songs encompass pride and self-belief better. Her tale of empowerment may have that vintage disco sound, but its message is still just as relevant today.
Beyoncé, “Drunk in Love”
The hair inspo for a generation of drag queens, Queen B’s done the lot, from empowering, angry battle cries to heartfelt, emotional ballads. But when she recorded this bass-heavy, slick account of hot married sex, we were all ears. And hips. Challenge those nearest to you to not gyrate when the bass kicks in on this one—they won’t be able to help themselves.
Rihanna, “Rude Boy”
RiRi takes no BS from anyone. The pop world is her house and we are merely lodgers. Fiercely independent, endearingly cheeky and aggressively sexy, Rihanna answered all those tunes objectifying women with this excellent, dismissive shrug to traditional masculinity. And after all, sometimes it’s all we really want to know: Can he get it up or what?
Queen, “I Want to Break Free”
Before you even get started, the band’s name had its tongue firmly pressed in its cheek, and Queen’s songs were seldom on the shy side. Although talented, mesmerising frontman Freddie Mercury died in 1991, his unforgettable pipes and electrifying performances ensured his legacy would live on for generations. Seriously, everybody has a favourite Queen song, even people who don’t like Queen!
Bikini Kill, “Rebel Girl”
Darlings of the riot grrrl scene in the early ’90s, Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” isn’t your average gay anthem. Antagonistic, assertive and rowdy, it might be a surprise floor filler at your local club, and it’s every bit as free-spirited and inspiring as “I Am What I Am.”
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, featuring Mary Lambert, “Same Love”
Taking their cue from the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage in Washington state in the U.S., the hip-hop duo teamed up with Mary Lambert to record this touching tribute to same-sex relationships. At the Grammy Awards the song was performed during a mass wedding officiated by Queen Latifah and with a special guest appearance by Madonna singing “Open Your Heart.” And unless you’ve got a spare unicorn or two handy, you can’t get much gayer than that.
Pink, “Raise Your Glass”
We love pop stars who love their fans, and Pink is so into her fan base that she wrote a song thanking them for all their support. Pink has attracted plenty of speculation about her sexuality—reminding everyone that, frankly, it was none of their business—and has been a very vocal supporter of marriage equality. “Some of the greatest people I’ve met in my life happen to be gay people,” she said in an interview. “I find that very hard to ignore.” Especially if they’re wearing neon and standing on top of a huge float in the Pride parade, right, Pink? Right.
Aretha Franklin, “Respect”
Queen of Soul Aretha was turning sass and power on its head before RuPaul had even seen a stiletto for the first time. This song was written and originally recorded by Otis Redding, but it took a true diva to make it a Grammy Award–winning hit, and Aretha was more than up to the challenge.
Grace Jones, “La Vie en Rose”
You may be a “Pull Up to the Bumper” kind of person, and we wouldn’t blame you, but Grace’s gayest moment—and there have been plenty, let’s face it—is her dreamy bossa nova rendition of Édith Piaf’s classic torch song “La Vie en Rose.” There’s passion, there’s longing and, best of all, it’s all in French.
Elton John, “I’m Still Standing”
With Sir Elton, there have been tantrums, there have been tiaras and, best of all, there’s been hit after hit after hit. On “I’m Still Standing,” the knight formerly known as Reg dismissed all his detractors with an uplifting, unapologetic anthem. Even if you’re a gold medallist in dad dancing, nobody’s going to mind if you bust a move to this one.
Steps, “Last Thing on My Mind”
Coordinating outfits, complicated dance routines choreographed to absolute precision, and, of course, rousing choruses that really shake off the cobwebs: that was Steps. Dismissed by some people—the wrong people—as mere cheese, Steps were a turbo injection of rainbow colours into the late-’90s pop scene and no lip-synch battle would be complete without a standoff to “Last Thing on My Mind.”
Bananarama, “Love in the First Degree”
Affectionately known by the band’s fans as “Guilty,” this tune was Bananarama’s last Top 10 with original member Siobhan. It could’ve been the end for Keren and Sara, but in fact they’ve never looked back. “Love in the First Degree” was the ’Rams at their campest, and their enthusiastic performance on the BRITs, complete with oiled-up dancers, remains a high point in pop history.
David Bowie, “Rebel Rebel”
“Got your mother in a whirl/ Not sure if you’re a boy or a girl.” Androgynous pop chameleon David Bowie liked to keep everybody guessing in the ’70s, and he still carries an air of glamorous mystery about him. With its irresistible riff and its relatable lyrics about not quite fitting in and just wanting to go out and have a good time, “Rebel Rebel” is as ageless as Bowie himself.
Sister Sledge, “We Are Family”
Pride is about coming together, of course, and what better tune to get us all trying out our very best singing voices than this? A song so popular it was a Top 10 hit twice, 14 years apart, “We Are Family” owes its dance-ability to king of disco Nile Rodgers and, of course, the Sisters themselves. If you hear this solidarity anthem start up during Pride, prepare for some big hugs, plenty of linking of arms, beaming smiles and an order to “get up everybody and sing.” Go on, you know you want to. It’s a family thing. —Justin Myers
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