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Best LGBTQ+ Pride Songs: 20 Anthems That Celebrate Inclusive Sexuality
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List & Guides

Best LGBTQ+ Pride Songs: 20 Anthems That Celebrate Inclusive Sexuality

From disco classics to transcendent pieces of modern pop, the best LGBTQ+ Pride songs have championed the cause and effected change.

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What makes the ultimate LGBTQ+ Pride anthem? A euphoric (usually female) vocal? The call to arms of emboldened identity or perhaps a powerful piece of evocative storytelling? Maybe just perfect timing – simply the right song at the right moment? These 20 best LGBTQ+ Pride songs all exemplify much of that list, but also deliver an extra special something that elevates their status from a worthy canon. Music can effect change, and this countdown is the narrative of a struggle that’s decades in the making, with so much achieved but still so much further to go…

Listen to 100 great Pride anthem here, and check out our 20 best LGBTQ+ Pride songs, below.

20: Lizzo: Juice (2019)

Bringing the Pride story almost bang up to date, the 2019 eyebrow-raiser Juice somehow transcends the standard parameters of a gay anthem while riffing on its 80s funk inspiration (most fabulously in the pop-culture smorgasbord of its video). Pride is as much a sense of attitude as anything more political, and Lizzo is the embodiment of sassy confidence and knowing sexuality at the forefront of a new generation of stars continuing the legacy of the best LGBTQ+ Pride songs. This saucy, self-aware package (and we’re talking both singer and song) is simply the hottest of its generation.

19: Chaka Khan: I’m Every Woman (1978)

The debut solo single from this R&B icon, I’m Every Woman is a dancefloor classic so revered that only Whitney Houston dared to tackle it (at the height of her powers, on the soundtrack to The Bodyguard). Despite Houston’s best efforts, Chaka’s version remains the definitive article. Having set the gay (and mainstream) club scene ablaze on its 1978 debut, it remains, to this day, a guaranteed floor-filler. Legendary producer Arif Mardin sprinkled his customary stardust on top, and this earworm, written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, sees his pop-soul tooling leaving space for Khan’s once-in-a-generation vocals to soar.

18: Tina Turner: The Best (1989)

First recorded by Bonnie Tyler, Tina Turner made The Best her signature song in 1989 when she recorded it for her Foreign Affair album, under the steer of the late Dan Hartman (who would likely appear on the next tier of this list). One of the best LGBTQ+ Pride songs of the 80s, it’s an everyman (and -woman) anthem that pulls no punches. Whether it’s heat-of-the moment magnetism or something that lasts longer than the weekend, this sentiment can feel the same. Who will forget the seminal moment when Patrick serenades David with a version of the song in Season Four of Netflix sensation Schitt’s Creek? Why The Best? “I always thought it was one of the most beautifully written pop songs in history,” admits series actor/writer/producer Dan Levy. Schitt’s Creek might have been the song’s watercooler moment, but we’ve all had our own with this track…

17: Village People: YMCA (1978)

Back in the late 70s, this global phenomenon could play out on TV screens without (hardly) anyone getting hot under the collar. A perennial entry among the best LGBTQ+ Pride songs, it’s one of pop’s most subversive moments: gay fetish culture marketed to the masses on Top Of The Pops. Look beyond the costumes (if you can) and there are these ever-so-knowing lyrics (vigorously denied, of course, at the time). It even features on an album called Cruisin’… but perhaps we should stop there. YMCA is one of the 40 biggest-sellers of all time, tops lists of the greatest dancefloor hits ever and can claim an omnipresent impact on pop culture, latterly earning its ultimate accolade: to be selected by the Library Of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry.

16: L Devine: Naked Alone (2019)

Olivia Rebecca Devine is a glorious example of a contemporary act whose sexuality is almost the least interesting thing about her. The unfolding tapestry of her work since her 2017 breakthrough, School Girls, is one of music’s most current must-watch narratives. Working with Charli XCX secured her some attention, but the sultry summer jam Naked Alone made waves on its own merits. “I feel like even saying the words ‘All I really want is some sex’ is even a bit taboo for a young girl like me to say,” she told Paper. “And that was also something that was really important: for me to own my sexuality and every sense of the word.”

15: Erasure: A Little Respect (1988)

Synthpop titans Erasure were at their commercial peak in the late 80s, and this melodic gem, understated in its way, has continued to build a stellar reputation as one of the best LGBTQ+ Pride songs. Ironically not the biggest of their many hits, A Little Respect is indisputably the duo’s finest hour, the partnership of Andy Bell and Vince Clarke making for the perfect balance of belting pop genius and old-school showmanship. In 2004, Andy announced he had been HIV-positive for six years, long after the song’s first issue, in 1988, when the devastating impact of that virus was first being widely felt. The message of this anthem was a beacon of positivity in the darkest of hours.

14: Candi Staton: Young Hearts Run Free (1976)

Emancipation and release was central to much of the theme of gay identity in the past, and this disco-soul rallying cry almost made it to the top of the UK charts on the eve of 1976’s scorching summer. Its sentiment remains evocative today, even if life is easier for some – but not all – LGBTQ+ people. A relatively modest stateside hit (it only made No.20 on Billboard, but did top the soul charts), Young Hearts Run Free proved the international peak of Staton’s up-and-down career, though You Got The Love would be a sizeable success in Europe more than a decade later.

13: Dua Lipa: Don’t Start Now (2019)

Dua Lipa has seized the Queen Of Contemporary Pop crown, and the sassy nu-disco banger Don’t Start Now launched her second album, Future Nostalgia, to staggeringly successful effect at the end of 2019. Lipa has managed to recycle the best of the old and mix it with a powerful cocktail of the new, kickstarting a broader revival in classic dance sounds and securing a brace of critical Grammy nominations. Relatively early in her career, her impact is nothing short of a phenomenon, and the LGBTQ+ community’s early adoption of this assured newcomer makes her the act to watch.

12: Dana International: Diva (1998)

What makes the annual Eurovision Song Contest like Christmas Day and the FA Cup Final all wrapped up in one for the LGBTQ+ community? The post-50 among us might blame Katie Boyle’s jaw-dropping eveningwear of the 70s or, more obviously, ABBA’s Waterloo breakthrough; 80s kids will signal Bucks Fizz and Making Your Mind Up’s skirt-ripping iconography; for anyone younger, Dana International’s 1998 victory for Israel is the answer. This is a camp classic with one hell of a powerful political punch. Transgender invisibility was the norm even in the late 90s but, one night in Birmingham, Europe voted for something more than just one of the best Eurovision songs.

11: Charli XCX: Boys (2017)

This 2017 slab of bubblegum pop might just be the grandchild of that 80s summer delight Boys (Summertime Love) by Sabrina, with whom it shares a similar call to arms. Its statement? Nothing more complicated than that celebration of being mad about the boy. This critically acclaimed smash was supported by one of the decade’s standout videos – check out the cast and see who you can spot. From Tom Daley to Joe Jonas and Diplo, it was less a Who’s Who, rather a “who’s hot?”, and led Boys to gold status in the US and yet another career milestone for this fabulous English act.

10: Sister Sledge: We Are Family (1979)

Another singalong standard from the golden age of disco, this is Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards at their creative peak in 1979. Despite the backlash against the musical genre that was just around the corner, We Are Family became the signature hit for the vocal harmony sibling group Sister Sledge and led to further success with singles such as Lost In Music. More than two decades later, the track cemented its reputation as one of the best LGBTQ+ Pride songs after it became the inspiration for the We Are Family Foundation, a New York-based not-for-profit with a mission to educate people about the need for respect, understanding and tolerance of cultural diversity. That sounds like our kind of family…

9: Tegan And Sara: Closer (2012)

This electro-pop belter comes from the Canadian duo’s seventh album and topped the US Billboard dance charts on its 2012 release. Seized by culture vulture Ryan Murphy for an interpretation in the hit TV series Glee – a show noted for its attention to diversity – the following year, Closer was elevated to classic status. Numerous features in TV soundtracks followed, but nothing can beat the euphoric original, which was selected by Canada’s answer to the Grammys as the Juno Single Of The Year.

8: Cher: Believe (1998)

Cher had always been a gay icon (those spectacular Bob Mackie outfits created for The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour – and the spin-off formats that followed – saw to that), but her forays onto the dancefloor were rare since that brief flirtation with disco at the end of the 70s and hits like Take Me Home. Twenty years later, the rock formula that had served her so well was running out of steam and a dancefloor-diva reinvention was suggested by her UK record label. Not only one of the best LGBTQ+ Pride songs of its time, Believe would go on to be the biggest hit of Cher’s lengthy career, reviving her fortunes in spectacular style for decades to follow. Anyone who was there at the launch event for London’s Heaven nightclub knew the tectonic plates of dance-pop had shifted forever.

7: Lady Gaga: Born This Way (2011)

Ignore the sniff of controversy that surrounded this seminal release (2011’s Born This Way may owe something to Madonna’s 1989 anthem, Express Yourself)… who can claim that much magnificent pop music isn’t above such restless reinvention? Beyond any doubt is Lady Gaga’s commitment to self-belief and identity politics. Such is the ferocity of her army of fans, billed Little Monsters, and the hypnotic brilliance of this freedom anthem that it became a cultural reference point of its own magnitude, seizing awards for its surreal video and securing phenomenal radio play and millions of digital sales.

6: Kylie Minogue: Better The Devil You Know (1990)

Saturday night at midnight, week in, week out, London’s legendary G-A-Y nightclub always erupts to one evergreen anthem. Kylie’s 1990 reinvention saw her emerge from the sensible chrysalis of her Teen Queen costume into startling Sex Kylie and the pop icon of the decades to follow. Long embraced as one of the best LGBTQ+ Pride songs, Better The Devil You Know was, in many ways, the ultimate coming-out, and this Stock Aitken Waterman masterpiece – one that even the Hit Factory’s harshest critics grudgingly concede has something – remains a PWL classic. One of the best Kylie Minogue songs of all time, it will continue to be a reliable highlight of her live shows in the years ahead.

5: Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive (1978)

The song that really fought to find its audience, I Will Survive first surfaced as the B-side to a long-forgotten single before eventually becoming a Studio 54 anthem beloved of hen-party singalongs ever since its 1979 breakthrough. Its status as one of the best LGBTQ+ Pride songs is tinged with sadness – arguably a last stand against the backlash of homophobia that would secure disco’s first demise and add so much extra suffering to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, then just around the corner. This transatlantic chart-topper would overwhelm Gaynor’s career but, as defining moments go, it’s in a class of its own.

4: Diana Ross: I’m Coming Out (1980)

Yes, the divas keep on coming – and so, too, do Bernard Evans and Nile Rodgers. Inspired the sight of drag queens in a New York City club impersonating the Motown icon, this 1980 classic was something of a risk for Diana, despite the obvious pedigree of the writers and the clear hit appeal of the song. I’m Coming Out inevitably topped the US club charts but proved something of a harder sell on the mainstream listings, failing to return her to the top of any of the international charts. It has been covered many times, but its sample in The Notorious B.I.G.’s Mo Money Mo Problems is perhaps its most famous reinvention.

3: Madonna: Vogue (1990)

Few acts have championed minority rights as loudly and proudly as Madonna, a trailblazer who tears through record books and the international zeitgeist, ripping up the rulebook as she goes. Inspired by the drag-ball subculture of the underground Black and Latin community, Vogue would go on to be the world’s best-selling single in 1990. Madonna has form with cultural referencing, but nowhere near as successfully as this. That club scene – and this, its indisputable anthem – was recreated in evocative glory for the TV series Pose, while Vogue revisits the dancefloor-liberation theme found in many of the best Madonna songs, including previous successes such as Into The Groove.

2: Bronski Beat: Smalltown Boy (1984)

The lo-fi impact of this uniquely British LGBTQ+ synth-pop titan cannot be understated. Smalltown Boy spoke directly to the experience of many thousands of UK teens and became a memorial to the search for identity and something better. Despite its national perspective, the song became an international success. The story was universal. Bronski Beat burned brightly after this unlikely breakthrough, but imploded after one seminal album, 1984’s Age Of Consent. After gifting us one of the all-time best LGBTQ+ Pride songs, lead singer Jimmy Somerville remained a cultural draw and juggled more hits while establishing himself as a figurehead for Act Up (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power).

1: Sylvester: You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) (1978)

How do you top a list as strong as this countdown of the best LGBTQ+ Pride songs? The force of nature that was Sylvester would likely rather keep us guessing, but the cultural – and, yes, political – impact of this single is beyond dispute. Sylvester’s then-controversial gender statement might have got him noticed in 1978, but this soaring soul-disco concoction needed no support cutting through. Its blazing self-belief, stoked by the utopian San Francisco scene from where it first emerged, launched Sylvester as an international star. AIDS took him far too soon (just ten years after this bold statement of empowerment), but the confidence of his moment lingered. At the close of that dizzying decade of liberation and advancement, no one could predict the horrors that lay ahead or the painful drip-feed victories of social justice that would test the most determined, but songs such as You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) helped, ever so slightly, to keep heads held high and one’s gaze fixed firmly somewhere over that proverbial rainbow.

Featuring many of the best LGBTQ+ Pride songs, the Pride 2021 compilation is out now. Pressed on rose-coloured vinyl, £1 from each sale will be donated to Stonewall in support of their work towards LGBTQ+ quality. Buy it here.

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