P!nk – Raise Your Glass (2010)
She’s currently riding high in the charts with seventh album Beautiful Trauma (among her best), which has us delving into P!nk’s back catalogue.
It’s got to be said, from Don’t Let Me Get Me to F**kin’ Perfect, her discography is full of empowering pop songs for anyone who deviates from the norm.
But the standout track from this sub-genre is the celebratory Raise Your Glass, which trumpeted the arrival of her first best of collection Greatest Hits… So Far!!!
Rocky, poppy and brassy, this is peak P!nk. Example lyrics: ‘So raise your glass if you are wrong, in all the right ways/All my underdogs, we will never be never be, anything but loud and nitty gritty, dirty little freaks…’
Lady Gaga – Born This Way (2010)
The apex of Gaga’s career (for now), Born This Way was the star’s ‘comeback’ single after the all-conquering The Fame/Fame Monster era.
In this moment, hers was a stardom not seen since 80s Madonna, or possibly late 90s Britney, and not seen since. With the eyes of the world on her, Gaga chose to make a political statement for which we’re forever grateful. Latter singles, and indeed albums, failed to reach its loft heights, but Edge of Glory? This was glory.
An epic call to arms for misfits and minorities, LGBTIs were invited to the party with stunningly direct lyrics: ‘No matter gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgendered life, I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive.’
Frank Ocean – Bad Religion (2012)
From brash, brazen pop to an exquisitely slight, soulful ballad. This pulses along minimally until the soaring vocals at the end, and it brings a tear to our eye every. Single. Time. We hear it.
It’s hard to fathom how a person so talented, intelligent and artistic – after all, Frank’s probably the most critically-acclaimed artist of the decade after Beyonce and Adele – could be as vulnerable and shaken as this. But such is his simultaneously private and confessional nature.
Grappling huge themes, Bad Religion details its protagonist’s struggle with unrequited love. But not just any kind of unrequited love – the kind where God doesn’t love you back because of your sexuality. That’s our interpretation, anyway.
‘I swear I’ve got three lives, balanced on my head like steak knives,’ confesses Ocean. ‘I can’t tell you the truth about my disguise, I can’t trust no one.’ Anyone who’s ever dealt with the pain of concealing their true selves – so, most of us – will relate.
Scissor Sisters – Let’s Have a Kiki (2011)
In the 00s, the Sisters released a slew of campy, eccentric disco standards. Filthy/Gorgeous, Take Your Mama and I Don’t Feel Like Dancing are naturally all beloved members of the queer canon.
The subsequent decade, however, has been lighter on hits. The band went on an indefinite hiatus following the relative commercial disappointment of 2012’s Magic Hour (although they recently released a single with MNDR).
However, 2011 did see the birth of Let’s Have a Kiki. It’s a disparate, near-parody of a song, up there with the best stuff they’ve ever done.
There’s no LGBTI subtext – it’s basically about having a party – but from the faux accents to the absurd lyrics, this screams queer. Oscar Wilde would’ve loved it.
Let It Go – Idina Menzel (2013)
We had to, OK? Whether it’s Elza, Demi or Idina singing it – the latter hit the top five hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with this, FYI – what’s important is the context. And the message.
This is a Disney Princess song. Usually the epitome of ‘safe.’ And while we adore the likes of Part of Your World and Colours of the Wind, this moved the conversation on, and with it, global cultural consciousness.
That the embattled Snow Queen Elsa is in fact a lesbian is the fan theory to end all fan theories. And who knows, could have a tangible influence when the Frozen sequel comes out.
While some will wish to debate its status as an LGBTI anthem, it’s certainly a feminist one. There’s not a love interest in sight, as Elza finds self-actualization and roars: ‘And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast, I’m never going back, the past is in the past…’
Years & Years – Desire (2015)
By the time Disney limped into the 21st century with its first confirmed gay character in this year’s Beauty and the Beast, pop music was already way ahead of the curve. Or at least one band was.
A few years back, synth pop pundits Years & Years, fronted by the openly gay Olly Alexander, exploded onto the scene. Their million-selling debut, Communion, was widely-praised for its gender-appropriate language, with Olly telling Digital Spy: ‘It’s sad we don’t have gay popstars using male pronouns.’
One of the best cuts on the album is the soaring dance track Desire, where Olly scrutinizes his uncontrollable urge to bed his lover. Or lovers.
The remix featuring Tove Lo was memorably accompanied by a video depicting scenes of sexual of hot young things stripping each other and making out indiscriminately.
Troye Sivan – Wild (2015)
Like Olly, Troye is one of a new generation of young LGBTI pop stars who have been out since the beginning of their careers. For that we salute him, as well as stars like George Michael and Ricky Martin who paved the way for him.
Troye is another who expresses his sexuality in his lyrics and videos as if it’s the most casual, commonplace thing in the world.
His debut Blue Neighborhood, arguably a concept album about growing up gay in suburbia, is bursting with emotions informed by burgeoning love and sexuality.
Wild once again details the pleasant pain of longing for a lover, with Troye’s creamy, elegant voice declaring: ‘Leave this blue neighbourhood, never knew loving could hurt this good, oh, and it drives me wild.’
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – Same Love (2013)
Released four years ago, Same Love song is still making headlines today.
An ode to sexual equality, Macklemore recently gave a politically-charged performance of this global hit at Australia’s NRL grand final, at a time when debate over same-sex marriage rages throughout the country.
Some might be dubious about the value of straight allies, but this warm, selfless song epitomizes its power.
‘When I was in the 3rd grade I thought that I was gay ’cause I could draw,’ sings Macklemore, adorably. ‘My uncle was and I kept my room straight; I told my mom, tears rushing down my face, she’s like, “Ben you’ve loved girls since before pre-K.”‘
Sia feat. Kendrick Lamar – The Greatest (2016)
Following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, openly bisexual Sia paid tribute to the 49 victims with a song.
But not with a sentimental torch song, but with this: a punchy, dancehall-infused that advocates strength in the face of adversity.
‘Oh-oh, running out of breath, but I, oh, I, I got stamina; uh-oh, running now, I close my eyes, but, oh, I got stamina,’ she insists with her trademark throaty, begging delivery.
The message is loud and clear, and imbued with wisdom given the trials and tribulations Sia’s faced over her life.
Tegan and Sara – Boyfriend (2016)
All hail the most underrated lesbian pop identical twin sister duo of all time!
Their folksy oeuvre of the 00s earned them a peripheral position on LGBTI music’s larger framework – as indie darlings, essentially – but their 2013 album Heartthrob saw them come into their own as a pop force to be reckoned with, reaching number three on the Billboard 200.
Their 2016 follow up refined their sugary product to perfection, of which Boyfriend – a song Taylor Swift would’ve killed for – is a prime example.
Over bubblegum beats and synths the girls lament their sexually confused lover, telling her: ‘You call me up like you want your best friend, you turn me on like you want your boyfriend – but I don’t want to be your secret anymore.’ Nightmare.
Kesha – We R Who We R (2010)
She recently returned with her raw, personal number one album Rainbow that was widely dissected for meaning online. The title track, for example – which pleads with the listener to practise self-love – was called a ‘queer anthem for self-realization’ by Out.
It would be nothing new for Kesha, who made a more explicit case for LGBTI anthem-creator status with the UK and US number one hit We R Who We R.
Like much of her output from this time, it’s fabulously infantile. The subject matter (partying), the repetition of syllables (‘DJ, turn it up-up-up-up-up-up-up!’) and the nonsense lyrics (‘Looking sick and sexified’?!).
If she hadn’t gone on record saying it was written in response to a spate of LGBTI teen suicides in 2010 we’d have struggled to locate the inspiration, but as an offer of escape, it’s irresistible.