Home Music Music Lists

25 Essential LGBTQ Pride Songs

From Sylvester to Perfume Genius to everyone in between, editors pick the most evocative, transformative songs

Is there an LGBTQ sensibility? What was it 40 years ago, before much of today’s language for gender and sexual identities even existed? Or, much more simply: Which songs best evoke the sex, drama, heartache, struggle, liberation and mindfucks of queer lives then and now? What follows is not a comprehensive (or ranked) list, but one that bridges the gap between post-Stonewall disco parties and gender-queer millennial rock of today. While some classics do appear on our list, others do not – sorry, Gloria Gaynor, Kylie Minogue, RuPaul, Britney and Cher, we still adore you – here are 25 essential pride songs from the 1970s to today. 

Play video

Perfume Genius, “Queen” (2014)

Seattle’s Michael Hadreas transforms from young man into queer menace in the sparkling video for “Queen.” Singing “No family is safe when I sashay,” he slinks into a conference room and gyrates his hips for a room full of suits – a sly riposte to the legions of homophobes who weaponize their fears against LGBTQ people, from within board rooms, in Congress, or out on the streets. In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Hadreas says: “I’ve always been very resentful of the fact that something I have no control over would make people uncomfortable. So with this song it was more of a ‘fuck you’ thing – I was hoping other people would feel uncomfortable for once, not me.” -SE

Play video

Against Me!, “True Trans Soul Rebel” (2014)

In her 2016 memoir, Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout, Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace recalls the time leading up to her transition, when she would disappear into motel rooms to practice wearing dresses. “You become more brave about presenting femme, but you’re still closeted, so you have nowhere to go,” she explained to Rolling Stone in 2014. “You end up in a weird motel in the middle of nowhere, wandering down halls, hoping nobody sees you.” Those days would inspire her song “True Trans Soul Rebel,” a punk-Western battle cry for trans women fighting to live. –SE

Play video

Shamir, “On the Regular” (2015)

In the tradition of fellow pop countertenors Prince and Klaus Nomi, 22-year-old Shamir Bailey stunned listeners with slinky, androgynous wordplay in his 2015 debut, Ratchet. That same year, Bailey tweeted that he identifies as genderqueer – “I have no gender, no sexuality, and no fucks to give.” He later clarified in The Advocate: “Ever since I was little I showed traits of both masculine and feminine energies. Androgyny was never something that I thought about or tried for.” As sweet as he may sound, he doesn’t dare hold back the swagger, especially not in the cowbell-inflected disco track “On the Regular.” “Don’t try me,” he croons, “I’m not a free sample.” –JP

Play video

Sia, “Alive” (2016)

In August 2013, Sia tweeted: “I’m queer. I don’t really identify as a lesbian because I’ve dated predominantly men. But I’ve certainly dated women,” putting those rumors to rest and basking in the adoration of fans in the LGBTQ community who love the hitmaker’s songs – she penned Rihanna’s “Diamonds” and Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts,” among many others – for their uplifting and empowering messages. Most of Sia’s singles from This Is Acting work as all-purpose anthems, and “Alive” features the singer-songwriter’s massive vocals on a track she co-wrote with Adele and Tobias Jesso Jr. “You took it all,” she declares, “But I’m still breathing/I’m alive.” –JP

Show Comments