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Pride Playlist: the best songs by LGBTQ+ artists and allies to celebrate Pride

What’s a Pride celebration without LGBTQ+ anthems to sing loud and proud?

Cam Khalid
Written by
Cam Khalid
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Similar to last year, Pride is looking different this year due to Covid-19 restrictions where all public events include Pride parties are to be cancelled or given a digital update. But that’s not stopping the LGBTQ+ community from coming together online or offline with a maximum of five people, and celebrating the freedom to love and be their ultimate selves. Virtual parties or IRL, you’ll need the stuff gay anthems are made of. And who better to play than LGBTQ+ artists and allies? Besides the usual suspects – Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive and Village People’s Y.M.C.A. – here are the songs to add to your Pride Playlist.

RECOMMENDED: The ultimate guide to Pride Month in Singapore and the best LGBTQ-friendly places in Singapore

There’s something special about listening to an empowering song full of hope on Pink Dot’s recent livestream. QYO’s live performance of her emotive debut single Waiting for a Change isn’t only fitting for the LGBTQ-affirming event but also pushes us to strive for the change needed to make Singapore a more inclusive nation. The local singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist shares that the song “symbolises the changes and challenges that people [herself included] have gone through in life, and how change is best embraced with optimism.” With powerful lyrics and even more powerful vocals, Waiting for a Change is the song you need to strengthen your Pride playlist.

This iconic queer masterpiece is our 2021 guilty pleasure. Whether you rate or hate the devilishly provocative music video (the Old Town Road star took the homophobic remarks of "going to hell" quite literally), you can’t deny the addictive, flamenco-like single, complete with trap beats and syncopated guitars and handclaps. Even the humming section following the hypnotic chorus sounds like a mating call. It’s the perfect song for the pole – or a lap dance with Satan.

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No Pride playlist is complete without Sophie. The late avant-garde artist brilliantly gives the pop formula of Madonna an electronic twist with distorted yet irresistible melodies and vocals, as if the song itself is throwing shapes. With self-affirming lyrics like “I can be anything I want”, the euphoric dance anthem simply transports you to a futuristic planet where you can just exist without unreasonable hatred or anyone judging you. While it’s exceptionally dancey, it also feels especially meaningful. 

For a dreamy indie-pop addition, look no further than the ex-Vampire Weekender’s track Bike Dream. Accompanied by blown-out drums and distorted guitars and synths, Rostam's casual, spoken-like vocals touch on young love and longing, with his sexuality front and centre. The saccharine track also puts a spring in your step – or in your wheels, if you will.

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Slow things down with this sweet, acoustic delight. In the stripped-down track, R&B-pop darling Kehlani treats romance as an escape, where sharing all of herself with a special girl serves as a sort of release. Honey is entirely made of hooks that are led by a string of silky smooth coos, with a sweet and short verse at its core.

The Kanye-esque track (and not because of the sampling of the Ponderosa Twins' Bound, which is also featured in Kanye West's Yeezus single) sees the rapper hinting at his possible bisexuality, with lyrics that liken his lover to a gun over glittery synths and keys. Plus, set in a plush mansion, the music video is a rich man’s wet dream.

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Who doesn’t like Prince? Kiss is the ultimate party starter – it’s funky, groovy, and topped with an impressively acrobatic falsetto that turns into a lust-racked scream towards the end of the song. While Kiss was initially a more bluesy number intended for the band Mazarati, Prince decided to strip off the bass and hi-hat, and added the iconic riff and his own vocals. We have to say it’s one of the best decisions Prince had ever made because there’s nothing quite like Kiss.

The Mother Monster is one of the most powerful LGBTQ+ allies in the world, and it’d be rude not to include her bombastic disco-metal smash, a gift to her LGBTQ+ fanbase. But despite bearing striking similarities to Madonna’s Express Yourself and including some questionable lyrics (“chola” and “orient”), the powerful anthem is ultimately about self-acceptance – no matter your race, gender, or sexuality.

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This song needs no introduction. Inspired by the underground drag ball scene in New York (famously documented in Paris is Burning), the Queen of Pop managed to bang out this deep-house-inflected track at the height of the AIDS crisis with a tight budget. And decades later, this classic track remains an iconic party starter for every Pride party.

The twin lesbian sisters enjoyed massive success with this shimmery dance-pop tune that shifted away from their alternatively dark and melancholy pop-folk sounds. The dancefloor-filler makes a great song to make out to or even to fantasise about getting closer and physical with that special someone.

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Set the mood with this laid-back number that’s unapologetically, openly queer – it’s a song about a woman selling herself to another woman in the name of fickle love. The smooth, Afro-futuristic trippy tone features singer Syd’s soulful croons and Kaytranada’s bouncy Neil Merryweather sample, and will have you melting upon pressing play.

You best believe gay icons Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Cher, and Barbra Streisand passed on recording Paul Jabara and Paul Shaffer's campy composition before the Weather Girls picked it up in 1982. With the duo's fearlessness and vocal pyrotechnics, the song turned out to be a major success, soundtracking every dry spell that begs the weather to be cloudy with a chance of men.

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As it says on the tin, it is a quintessential anthem of liberation. Penned by Nile Rodgers, the funky 1980 gem was written with Diana Ross gay fanbase in mind. He was also inspired after seeing multiple drag queens dressed as the iconic singer at a gay disco bar in New York. The track also doubles as a parting song as Diana Ross was in the midst of withdrawing from her long relationship with Motown when the track climbed into the charts.

This pop masterpiece about rejection resonates with most of us, especially those who are marginalised. There’s no denying that Robyn’s emotional delivery gives the song a visceral quality. But instead of rocking our tear-soaked selves to sleep, the heartbreak heroine sings alongside those iconic synth beats, reminding us to dance alone and for ourselves.

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Frontman Olly Alexander has never been shy about speaking openly about his sexuality, his struggles, and other pressing issues – and that’s reflected in his music. The remix features LGBTQ+ singer Tove Lo, and remains one the most evocative tracks in today’s music.

Getting two non-binary powerhouse vocalists together – Sam Smith came out as non-binary in 2019 while Demi Lovato did so early this year (they have previously described their sexuality as fluid) – is a no-brainer. The empowering song is beefed up with their emotive vocals, backed with a gospel-influenced chorus that’s altogether powerful. Plus, the single comes with a music video featuring queer Olympics.

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A worldwide hit in gay-unfriendly 1988, the stirring synth-pop classic was a response to the British government’s outrageous Section 28 act that definitely wasn’t gay-friendly. Back in the day, singer Andy Bell would introduce the song onstage with “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.’”

It’s no wonder RuPaul’s breakthrough hit skyrocketed upon its release – it brought together elements drawn from the experiences of the Black gay community and the drag scene. Not only did the mainstream approved of the track, but Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was a fan too. It also popularised the declarative taglines “sashay” and “shantay” in drag balls.

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Before coming out in a 1998 interview, the charming former Wham! frontman released the catchy single, addressing his struggles with identity, artistic growth and stardom in the best way he could – through music. In the music video, symbols of his Faith fame – leather jacket, guitar and the Wurlitzer – are in smokes, and instead of the star himself, you get supermodels. Nonetheless, the ageless classic has had a lasting cultural impact.

Around the time of the single’s release in 2004, San Francisco briefly issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriages, and issues like adoption for same-sex couples are pushing to the forefront. Scissor Sisters’ dancey track is about coming out to your mama, taking her out, and showing her a gay ol’ time.

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The band’s fiery frontwoman Beth Ditto – who’s openly lesbian – has said that their punk-disco breakthrough hit was penned in response to then US President Bush’s endorsement during the 2004 election cycle of a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. It’s no surprise this hard-hitting indie anthem has made its way into many TV shows, and even Pride playlists.

The penultimate track of Channel Orange, this heartrending ode to lost love flips the script of the film of the same name by having Frank Ocean channeling Jenny. Prior to the release of his debut album, the singer confirmed his sexuality on Tumblr, sharing his feelings for a guy when he was 19.

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Contrary to popular belief, this emancipation anthem was written by bassist John Deacon, and not frontman and gay icon Freddie Mercury. The release of the song in 1984 was accompanied by a music video that parodies British soap opera Coronation Street featuring the band in drag with Freddie Mercury as the horny housewife.

Frontman Ray Davies decided to redefine The Kinks’ comeback by taking a gamble on what was then forbidden love. This guitar-esque single takes listeners on a path of discovery and self-acceptance led by a man who finds himself falling for a trans woman who affirms his masculinity. Lola ultimately saved The Kinks’ careers.

The category is... Pride

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