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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. 

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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

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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

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