Ultimate Pride playlist: The 50 best gay songs

Get ready to celebrate with our list of gay anthems to stir the heart and move the hips. Happy Pride, everyone!

LGBT Pride month is here, and that means it's time to celebrate. Across the U.S.—and beyond—millions of revelers are gathering for parades, festivals and parties, all of which have one thing in common: great, anthemic songs. Music has always been an important part of gay culture. Songs of empowerment, hope and self-acceptance all resonate with the queer community, for obvious reasons. Of course, we also love a good novelty tune—hello, “It’s Raining Men” and “Y.M.C.A.”

So, with all that in mind, we set out to create a soundtrack for the perfect Pride party. Dance classics like “Relax,” “Groove Is in the Heart” and “Finally” will have everyone on their feet and working up a sweat. While we did include a few chill-out moments—no Pride anthem list would be complete without Judy Garland's rendition of “Over the Rainbow” or Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors”—some great, gay-beloved songs didn't make the cut in the interest of keeping the tempo up (apologies to Barbra Streisand and the Indigo Girls).

Gay Pride doesn't have to be confined to June, of course. Our playlist will revive the spirit of the season any time of year. So turn it on, crank it up and let your rainbow flag fly.

Written by Brent DiCrescenzo, Adam Feldman, Sophie Harris, Ethan LaCroix, Kris Vire and Kate Wertheimer.

RECOMMENDED: Chicago Pride 2014 guide

50–41

“Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood

The BBC tried to ban this thumping, boundary-pushing 1984 debut single by Britpop provocateurs Frankie Goes to Hollywood, for sexually suggestive (if confusing) lyrics like these: “Relax, don’t do it / When you want to suck to it / Relax, don’t do it / When you want to come.” The song’s outré original video was a Fellini-esque fantasy involving leathermen, drag queens, tiger wrestling and an obese emperor in a toga, all building to an even more over-the-top climax; the video was banned by the BBC, too (and MTV). But it didn’t matter: The song was a hit, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s time had come.—Adam Feldman

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“Finally” by CeCe Peniston

CeCe Peniston's 1991 hit holds up just fine on its own, but it's been elevated to anthem status (and makes the cut here) thanks to its inclusion in the 1994 film classic The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Two decades later, it's impossible to hear this song without picturing Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce lip-synching along in their eye-popping drag getups.—Ethan LaCroix

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“Grace Kelly” by Mika

This bold, fabulous single, from Mika's 2007 Life in Cartoon Motion, is at heart about refusing to change who you are to find acceptance. It's the stuff gay anthems are made of, from the message to the sheer jam-packedness of the music—tap-dancing rhythms, iconic film dialogue, Elton-like piano riffs and campy vocals all work together to create a joyous pop hit. (It also doesn't hurt that Mika is such a dreamboat.)—Kate Wertheimer

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“I U She” by Peaches

Peaches may be the sexiest human alive, and the reason is made clear in this song, off 2003's Fatherfucker: "I don't have to make the choice / I like girls and I like boys." Never has sexuality been so fluid (and never have gender norms been so completely disregarded) as in the career of super queer, super talented Merrill Beth Nisker, who pushes the envelope and offends sensibilities at every turn. Also, she fights zombies with Iggy Pop—double swoon.—Kate Wertheimer

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“Michael” by Franz Ferdinand

With their sharp button-downs, clean cheeks, perfectly parted hair and Russian Constructivist artwork, Franz immediately stood out among the great unwashed masses of the aughties rock & roll revival. Lazily lumped in with the Hives and whatnot, the four Scots were far more concerned with the dance floor (rhymes here with "dance whore") than the garage. While his peers focused on sneers and riffs, Alex Kapranos zeroed in on sex. "Michael, you're the boy with the leather hips / Sticky hair, sticky hips, stubble on my sticky lips," he sings, as the band rips through disco-punk like a rush to unzip.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” by Sophie B. Hawkins

“I give you something sweet each time you come inside my jungle book,” coos omnisexual chanteuse Sophie B. Hawkins in this sensual 1992 hit, an explosive ode to unfulfilled desire that’s become a Pride staple. MTV banned the supposedly saucy video, but it’s the song that sizzles, as this fully clothed but still sexy version attests. —Sophie Harris

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“Wut” by Le1f

It's a rare (and brave) thing to be a gay hip-hop artist, but Le1f is unabashedly queer—and also incredibly talented. "Wut" (2012) was his coming-out single (pun intended?), featuring some insanely tongue-twisting verses and a lot of Le1f thigh in the music video. Is it the coming of a new banjee rap era? Perhaps. Though, as Le1f told Fader, "Gay rap…is not a genre. My goal is always to make songs that a gay dude or a straight dude can listen to and just think, This dude has swag." Mission accomplished.—Kate Wertheimer

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“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Bananarama

"He'll never love you / The way that I love you," the cool chicks of Bananarama sing in their 1983 pronouns-and-all cover of the Steam oldie. It would be easy to see the song as a bit predatory, but the postpunk trio delivers the lyrics with such casual affection that it comes across as refreshingly oblivious to traditional notions of sexuality.—Ethan LaCroix

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“Gay Bar” by Electric Six

“You! I want to take you to a gay bar.” Like many of the tracks on this Detroit dance-rock outfit’s 2003 debut (Fire), “Gay Bar” is infectious nonsense. But its hand-clappy, surf-rock vibe is good fun, and a tongue-in-cheek video, featuring singer Dick Valentine cavorting homoerotically around the White House with a cadre of scantily clad Gaybraham Lincolns, helped make the song a hit at the…you know.—Kris Vire

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“Make Your Own Kind of Music” by Mama Cass

Cass Elliott was a big, warm woman with a big, warm voice, and she didn’t fit easily into the sleek, cool world of pop music; she was unlucky in love, and died of a heart attack at 32. But these are the kinds of things that can make a gay boy love you even more. Part good-time gal pal and part maternal figure, she had credibility in 1969 when—having just ended her stint with the Mamas and the Papas, which forever tagged her as Mama Cass—she sang Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s words of encouragement and independence: “Make your own kind of music / Even if nobody else sings along.”—Adam Feldman

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40–31

“Hang with Me” by Robyn

Fuck buddies, open relationships, one-night-stands…gays don't have the market on casual sexuality cornered, but we certainly have it figured out a little better than our straight brethren. Critically adored pop sensation Robyn proved she could hang with the gays in 2010 when she released this single spelling out the pros and cons of friends with benefits.—Ethan LaCroix

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“Battle Cry” by Angel Haze

The young rapper, who identifies as pansexual, doesn’t directly address sexuality in this second single from 2013's Dirty Gold. But the track’s themes of working away from a repressive religious upbringing and relying on inner strength to overcome obstacles ("I realized I was a teacher, not just one of the heathens / I'm going to destroy the fallacies, start creating believers”), combined with a seductively uplifting Sia-sung hook, make for gold indeed.—Kris Vire

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“Sweet Transvestite” by Tim Curry

High-school and college boys looking for an excuse to wear sexy black lingerie in public found a perfect one in Richard O’Brien’s B-flick musical spoof and midnight-movie cult smash The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Tim Curry’s outrageous camp charisma as the antiheroic Dr. Frank-N-Furter—alien, mad scientist and deviant seducer in one gartered package—dragged cross-dressing out of the shadows and strutted it as a virtue. Shamelessness has never seemed so easy.—Adam Feldman

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“Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill

This muscular riot-grrrl anthem finds singer Kathleen Hanna straddling the line between platonic crush ("I think I want to be her best friend") and flat-out sapphism ("In her kiss, I taste the revolution!"). If you want to see a room full of gay girls (and more than a few boys) lose their shit, play this 1993 classic on the jukebox. —Ethan LaCroix

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“Teenage Dream” by Darren Criss

In 2010, Glee struck a chord among gay viewers (more so than usual, even!) when new cast member Darren Criss sang a cover of Katy Perry's pop trifle to another male character on the show. It was a sweet, mildly subversive moment, the cover became a Top Ten Billboard hit in the U.S.—and Criss became an instant sex symbol among gay fans.—Ethan LaCroix

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“Come to My Window” by Melissa Etheridge

Four years before Ellen declared, “Yep, I’m Gay,” on the cover of Time, Melissa Etheridge titled her 1993 album Yes I Am after publicly coming out as a lesbian at an inaugural event for Bill Clinton. The rocker won a Grammy for this single, an appeal to a lover that's steeped in tumult and possible secrecy. The terrific bridge—"I don't care what they think, I don't care what they say / What do they know about this love anyway”—seemed almost tailor-made to inspire gay listeners to come out with confidence.—Kris Vire

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“True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper’s spunky 1983 debut album, She’s So Unusual, overflowed with coded queer messages (including a reference to Blueboy magazine and a Prince cover that didn’t change the gender pronouns), but the title track of her 1986 follow-up endeared her even more to LGBT listeners tired of being judged for being different. “I see your true colors / And that’s why I love you,” Lauper sings in a voice of tenderness tinged with urgency. “So don’t be afraid to let them show / Your true colors are beautiful like a rainbow.” In her long history of gay activism—perhaps no other straight pop star has been more actively engaged on that front—Lauper has always been willing to speak colorful truth to power.—Adam Feldman

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“Last Dance” by Donna Summer

All good things must come to an end, and Donna Summer’s 1978 disco smash is an invitation to go out with a bang. Written for the movie Thank God It’s Friday by gay disco composer Paul Jabara—who won an Oscar for it—the number begins in a sleepy, reflective space, then rouses itself and its listeners to get back in the swing of things. Not surprisingly, it is often played as the final tune of a long night, offering one last shot to party like there’s no tomorrow (and then, tomorrow, to party again).—Adam Feldman

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“Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” by ABBA

ABBA may be synonymous with ’70s soft rock, but this galloping disco anthem proved the Swedes could also turn up the tempo. Singer Agnetha Fältskog wails about the frustration of being lonely (and maybe horny) late at night while parked in front of the TV. It's a familiar scenario to anyone who's ever spent a long night flipping through Grindr (or Scruff or Manhunt or whatever).—Ethan LaCroix

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“Tainted Love” by Soft Cell

Okay, the gay experience is not all about empowerment and acceptance and rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes it’s about toxic narcissists who break your heart, and Soft Cell’s 1981 single—a cover of a forgotten 1964 soul track by Gloria Jones—captures all the anger and hurt that unrequited love can bring. The confusion, too: “Don’t touch me, please / I cannot stand the way you tease” quickly relents into a “Touch me, baby” fadeout. And gay lead singer Marc Almond gave it a subtle edge of queer insider knowledge.—Adam Feldman

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30–21

“City Grrrl” by CSS

Bad girls and gay boys have always been besties, and this 2011 track from Brazilian combo Cansei de Ser Sexy is a loving ode to that special relationship. Lead singer Lovefoxxx looks back on adolescent fantasies of "being busy with my job and my gay friends, laughing and drinking with my one-night stands" in the "big city." Anyone who's ever felt trapped in a small town (and eventually escaped) will definitely relate. —Ethan LaCroix

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“Your Loving Arms” by Billie Ray Martin

Most gay dance anthems are packed with drama of both the lyrical and vocal variety. But in 1994, German singer Billie Ray Martin invaded clubland with this icy floor filler that's so calm she almost seems detached. Don't let that near-monotone fool you, though—Martin is a formidable vocalist, and when she finally cuts loose ("Burning inside, burning inside, yeah!"), it's a master class in the art of delayed gratification.—Ethan LaCroix

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“Viz” by Le Tigre

Before forming her dance-DJ-production project MEN, JD Samson stepped up to the mike as a member of this electro-rock trio. "Viz" (2004), about butch-lesbian visibility, offers an early glimpse of Samson's sly humor and her ability to make radical queer politics into dance-floor fodder. Bandmates Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman join in on the final chorus for a joyous feminist sing-along.—Ethan LaCroix

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“The Jean Genie” by David Bowie

The copper mullet, the lightning bolt across the face—in 1972, Bowie was at the peak of his androgynous alien phase, pushing Ziggy Stardust closer to the sun until he incinerated in a flash. A year before, in a Melody Maker interview, the glam rocker had declared himself gay. Though he later sloppily retracted the statement in a drug fog (he was living on a rumored diet of coke, milk and peppers), it remained a momentous occasion in pop music. As "Mannish Boy" echoed through Mick Ronson's dirty blues riff, the Jean Genie, or Aladdin Sane, or whatever Bowie's avatar might have been at the moment, proved you could growl through tough and gnarly rock while sporting perfectly applied lip gloss.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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“Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by C+C Music Factory

A gag in a 1997 episode of The Simpsons found a manly steel mill turning into a flamboyant gay club when this 1990 track came over the loudspeaker—an indication of just how thoroughly gay this song is. "Gonna Make You Sweat" is the second song on our list featuring the powerhouse vocals of Weather Girls singer Martha Wash, who never quite achieved mainstream fame (she was replaced in this track's video by C+C Music Factory member Zelma Davis), but has been beloved by the gay community for decades. —Ethan LaCroix

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“Raise Your Glass” by Pink

“Don't be fancy, just get dance-y,” instructs the chaotic force known as Pink in this rowdy 2010 toast to misbehavior. “Why so serious?” She’s the first one to honor her own advice. The song is a defiantly anticool anthem—a call to the underdogs of the world, the “loud and nitty-gritty dirty little freaks,” to ignore convention and just let loose. Before the final chorus, she even throws in a slyly self-undermining false start: "So raise your—(oh, fuck) / So raise your glass…" In the land of Pink, party foul is party fair.—Adam Feldman

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“Let’s Have a Kiki” by Scissor Sisters

In the summer of 2012, "Let's Have a Kiki" was so ubiquitous in New York gay bars and clubs that it nearly crossed over into annoying. By the time Sarah Jessica Parker sang it on Glee, we were officially over it. But after a brief break, it's time to accept this song for what it is: A hilarious primer on queer underground culture (as with "Vogue," the New York ball scene is the inspiration here), set to an irresistible techno beat. No wonder it got so big that your mom now thinks that MTA stands for "Motherfuckers Touching my Ass."—Ethan LaCroix

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“Groove Is in the Heart” by Deee-Lite

Try not to smile when this one comes on. A tall glass of sweet bubble tea, Deee-Lite’s 1990 dance hit offered an adorable version of New York club culture to the world, bouncing a message of love and good times on a bed of funky-psychedelic house music. Though a biological lady, frontwoman Lady Miss Kier brought more than a hint of winking drag-queen sensibility to her colorful retro style, and it was all in the spirit of togetherness—“Not vicious or malicious / Just de-lovely and delicious."—Adam Feldman

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“Supermodel (You Better Work)” by RuPaul

RuPaul, you are a goddess. The drag queen next door debuted this sassy hit in 1992, winning over not only gay fans, but an audience as wide as that of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, who cited the song as one of his favorites a year later. RuPaul is full of catchphrases ("lip-synch for your life," anyone?), but the ones in this song are by far her most widely known and most oft repeated. Sashay, shantay! Shantay shantay shantay.—Kate Wertheimer

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“Firework” by Katy Perry

Only a grinch of the highest caliber could dismiss the feel-good factor of this 2010 smash. Katy Perry's sweetest and most dazzling pop moment, "Firework" is a clarion call to the down-at-heart and disenfranchised. "Do you know that there's a chance for you?" sings Perry, as this rainbow anthem builds to its explosive chorus and the line "Come on, let your colors burst!" The enjoyably dramatic (and predictably firework-heavy) video features a tender gay kiss to boot.—Sophie Harris

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20–11

“Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera

A connecting link between Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” and Katy Perry’s “Firework” (both on this list), Aguilera’s 2002 power ballad—written and produced by 4 Non Blondes lesbian hit maker Linda Perry—proffers affirmation to those who feel they don’t fit in. In the video, these include young people with body issues, a goth punk, a (biological) man putting on women’s clothes and two guys tongue-kissing in public. “I am beautiful no matter what they say,” Aguilera insists on behalf of all these surrogates. “Words can’t bring me down.” But songs can lift you up, and this one is a musical antidepressant.—Adam Feldman

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“All the Lovers” by Kylie Minogue

The Australian pop princess may have scored her biggest dance-floor hit with “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” (or, ahem, “The Locomotion”), but euphoric, gorgeous disco swoon “All the Lovers” really captures the spirit of Pride. Minogue herself has said that the video is an homage to her gay audience; it features a human pyramid of pansexual smooching (in the style of naked-installation artist Spencer Tunick). For good measure, there’s also a galloping white horse, a dove, balloons and an inflatable elephant.—Sophie Harris

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“Where the Girls Are” by Gossip

We could’ve gone with a number of Gossip tracks; fiery frontwoman Beth Ditto has said the group’s later breakthrough hit “Standing in the Way of Control” was penned as a reaction to President Bush’s endorsement during the 2004 election cycle of a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, after all. But there’s something about the casual confidence with which the self-described “fat, feminist lesbian from Arkansas” introduces herself in this lo-fi come-on from the band’s 2000 debut: “When I’m right, I’ll say I’m right.”—Kris Vire

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“It’s Raining Men” by the Weather Girls

Gay icons Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Cher and Barbra Streisand all turned down Paul Jabara and Paul Shaffer's campy composition before the Weather Girls snatched it up in 1982. It's impossible to imagine any of those more famous singers diving into this ridiculous classic with the fearlessness and vocal pyrotechnics of former Sylvester backup singers Izora Armstead and Martha Wash, who take the song over the top in the best possible sense.—Ethan LaCroix

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“Smalltown Boy” by Bronski Beat

The openly gay English trio Bronski Beat was a pioneer in integrating explicit LGBT-activist messages into its music, including this 1984 debut hit. Frontman Jimmy Somerville, in a sensitive falsetto, sings about a lad who flees hometown bullying—“Run away, turn away” is the recurring refrain—against a steady, reassuringly numb background of rhythm and synthesizer. The song takes the pain of rejection and makes it danceable.—Adam Feldman

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“Believe” by Cher

Pop queen and gay icon Cher has been making records for six decades and has scored a No. 1 Billboard hit in each of those decades. But 1998 megahit “Believe” is the jewel in the crown, still one of the best-selling singles of all time. Hatched in the mold of “I Will Survive,” “Believe” matches its message of romantic courage to shamelessly trashy Eurodance backing and lashings of vocal Auto-Tune. Ridiculous? Yes. Empowering? Utterly.—Sophie Harris

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“Go West” by Pet Shop Boys

When the Village People got all Horace Greeley in 1979, it was most likely a wink and a nod to the growing gay utopia of San Francisco. By the time the Pet Shop Boys covered “Go West” in 1993, it was something altogether different. Coming at a moment after the most devastating years of the AIDS crisis, when the epidemic was better understood but its future was frustratingly unknowable, Neil Tennant’s melancholy reading of the song's hope-filled lyrics, with backing from a large, all-male choir, finds something unexpectedly moving in a cheesy artifact.—Kris Vire

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“Closer” by Tegan and Sara

The Quin twins may have become the world’s most influential lesbian sister act with the massive success of this lead single from 2013’s Heartthrob, which finds the ladies shifting away from fuzzy guitars and toward shimmery dance pop. It’s the most accessible entreaty to getting physical since Olivia Newton-John went to Dancercise; that Tegan and Sara’s young fans don’t give a shit about the gender of the “you” in “how to get you underneath me” puts us that much closer to fine.—Kris Vire

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“I Want to Break Free” by Queen

You’d never guess this emancipation anthem was written by Queen bassist John Deacon and not frontman Freddie Mercury, such is the relish with which Mercury belts it out: "God knows, I've got to break free!" The Brits didn’t bat an eye at the video—a parody of U.K. soap opera Coronation Street, which has the entire band in drag, Mercury as a horny housewife—but it was banned over here in the U.S. Par for the course.—Sophie Harris

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“You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” by Sylvester

A decade after Stonewall, openly gay musicians were still a rarity (being out is arguably a risky career move to this day). But flamboyant singer-songwriter Sylvester proved that queerness wasn't incongruous with chart success, thanks to this incredibly infectious 1978 disco classic, one of the most beloved songs of its era.—Ethan LaCroix

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10–2

“A Little Respect” by Erasure

“What religion or reason could drive a man to forsake his lover?” sings Andy Bell on this stirring synth-pop classic—a hit for British duo Erasure in 1988, and a perfect, piquant response to the British government’s outrageous Section 28 act. Word is that at the time, Bell would introduce the song onstage saying, “When I was a little girl, I asked my mummy, ‘Can I be gay when I grow up?’ She replied, ‘Yes, if you show a little respect.’”—Sophie Harris

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“Free” by Ultra Naté

A global smash for dance diva Ultra Naté in 1997, “Free” offers liberation not as a luxury but as an imperative: “You’ve got to live your life—do what you want to do,” urges the singer. The melancholy guitar riff that kicks off the song gives way to an ecstatic, celebratory chorus that’s the musical embodiment of throwing your hands in the air. So don’t hold back!—Sophie Harris

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“Born This Way” by Lady Gaga

No one has ever campaigned so openly for a gay fan base as Lady Gaga, and her 2011 hit "Born This Way" was her most obvious gift to our demographic. The song has its detractors—it's basically a rewrite of Madonna's "Express Yourself," it's got some questionable lyrics ("Orient"? Really?), and the concept of being "born" gay is kind of irrelevant and unsubtle. Still, it's hard not to be moved by its message of self-acceptance, and no other song composed in recent decades sounds better blaring from a float in a Gay Pride parade—and that's all you can really ask from a great Pride anthem.—Ethan LaCroix

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“Y.M.C.A.” by Village People

For any guy who's ever wanted to be (or sleep with) a cowboy, cop or leather-clad biker, the Village People reign supreme as gay-anthem chart toppers. Songs like "Macho Man," "Go West," "Cruisin'" and "In the Navy" are full of double entendres, and 1978's "Y.M.C.A."—which became one of the most popular singles of the 1970s—is no different. In fact, the Young Men's Christian Association was so appalled at the song's implications that it threatened to sue, until it noticed that membership had significantly increased in the wake of the tune's success. Turns out any press is good press—eh, boys?—Kate Wertheimer

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“Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed

With this dry, wry, bass-driven paean to sexual outlaws from his 1972 album, Transformer, Reed cemented his street cred as the epitome of New York cool. The subjects of his seen-it-all narration are five colorful characters from the crowd that Andy Warhol had declared, by fiat, “superstars”: early trans icons Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis, plus a couple of very irregular Joes (Dallesandro and Campbell). The song became a top-20 hit (though the radio edit scrubbed out a reference to backroom blow jobs), and helped raise the voltage bar on what was considered shocking.—Adam Feldman

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“I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross

Yes, this song is about that kind of "coming out." Chic's Nile Rodgers was inspired to write this funky 1980 gem for Diana Ross after seeing multiple drag queens dressed as the iconic singer at a gay disco in New York. For her part, Ross was in the process of extracting herself from her long relationship with Motown when "I'm Coming Out" arrived on the charts, giving the song additional significance for the music legend. Today, Ross still opens her shows with "I'm Coming Out," and the song remains a quintessential anthem of liberation—gay or otherwise.—Ethan LaCroix

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“Vogue” by Madonna

"Look around: Everywhere you turn is heartache." That's not exactly a fluffy opening shot for a dance-pop song—and that's the point. Recorded at the height of America's AIDS crisis and inspired by New York's underground gay ball scene (famously documented in the 1991 film Paris Is Burning), Madonna's deep-house–inflected 1990 smash commands you to leave the heavy stuff aside—if only for a few minutes—and find salvation on the dance floor. Nearly a quarter century later, this classic track from one of the most gay-beloved artists of all time sounds no less imperative.—Ethan LaCroix

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“Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland

For generations who grew up as “friends of Dorothy,” yearning to escape into a realm of Technicolor urban fantasy, the tacit gay national anthem was Garland’s wistful ballad from 1939’s The Wizard of Oz (with a gorgeous melody by Harold Arlen and touching lyrics by social activist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg). Garland’s later performances of the song on TV and in concert—older, battered by life, but still dreaming of a happier place—had even greater power. But even now that so many closet doors have opened, “Over the Rainbow”—and don’t you dare call it “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” lest someone threaten to revoke your gay card—still inspires pride and reverence. Listening to it feels like saluting the rainbow flag.—Adam Feldman

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“Freedom! ’90” by George Michael

Six years after scoring a No. 1 hit called "Freedom" with Wham!, George Michael crushed the charts with this tune of the same name. The redundancy was the point. Michael was destroying his past, writing over it, melting it away with acid house. In the video, the symbols of his "Faith" fame burned and crumbled—his leather jacket, the guitar, the Wurlitzer. The pop star didn't appear in the video himself, instead putting his words in the mouths of godly women from the golden age of supermodels—Campbell, Evangelista, Turlington, Crawford. The lip-synching proclaimed: Take this song, anyone, everyone, it is yours. (Though the less said about the Robbie Williams version, the better.)—Brent DiCrescenzo

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No. 1

“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor

It starts off slowly, shrouded in fear; then the beat kicks in, the song builds in confidence, and by the end, now backed by a string section, it’s a full-bore disco anthem of self-assurance. On its beautiful face, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” is about a woman getting over the guy who done her wrong; but in 1978, as gay liberation was gathering steam in heated nightclubs around the world, it also played like an declaration of hard-won pride (“I used to cry / But now I hold my head up high”) and independence from the hetero norm (“I’m not that chained-up little person still in love with you”). In the 1980s, when AIDS wiped out tens of thousands of those celebrants, the song took on new layers of resonance. Today "I Will Survive" carries all of that baggage, and lifts it up along with the spirits of anyone who hears its message. Did you think we’d crumble? Did you think we’d lay down and die? Think again. We’re going to dance.—Adam Feldman

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Listen to Time Out’s 50 best gay songs playlist on Spotify

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