In a recent discussion, musicians and industry insiders explored what makes a song a queer anthem. Rather than a ranked list, the conversation yielded a collection of songs that hold special significance to the LGBTQ+ community. The artists shared their own personal experiences and memories attached to each song, highlighting the impact of the lyrics, sound, and cultural context on their connection to the music.
Frank Ocean: “Chanel”
Frank Ocean’s “Chanel” arrived in 2017 as a bisexual anthem, marking a bold step for the R&B singer’s queer identity. In the song, Ocean sings about a romantic partner who embodies both feminine and masculine qualities, and his attraction to both. The lyrics, “My guy pretty like a girl / And he got fight stories to tell,” and the chorus, “I see both sides like Chanel,” celebrate bisexual visibility and the duality of Ocean’s own experiences.
Lil Nas X: “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”
Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” was one of the most talked-about music videos of 2021, with its fiery depiction of queer desire and the artist’s bold lyrics. In the song, Nas X pines for someone with masculine pronouns and gave a hot, heavy performance on Saturday Night Live that centered gay sexuality. The video sparked controversy but also opened doors for other queer people to simply exist, as Nas X himself tweeted.
Troye Sivan: “Bloom”
Troye Sivan’s “Bloom” was hailed as a bottoming anthem for its lyrics that referred to a fantasy between two men. The song represented the experiences of a new generation of LGBTQ+ youth and Sivan’s commitment to championing queer identity in his music and acting career. The singer’s use of masculine pronouns and his open discussion of same-gender love made “Bloom” a fan-favorite and a statement of pride in the gay community.
Lady Gaga: “Born This Way”
Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” was a dance-pop devotional to the LGBTQ+ community and a resonant rally cry in 2011. The song celebrated the repeal of the homophobic law Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the legalization of marriage equality nationwide. Lady Gaga’s activism extended beyond the song with the establishment of the Born This Way Foundation, which supports the mental health of young people and promotes kindness, bravery, and self-acceptance.
Kim Petras: “I Don’t Want It At All”
Kim Petras’ “I Don’t Want It At All” is a pop banger that embraces Petras’ transgender identity and celebrates her transition. The song, which was a commercial success, was a moment of visibility and empowerment for the trans community and showcased Petras’ confident and unapologetic approach to her music and identity.
Years & Years: “King”
Years & Years’ “King” is an electronic pop song that celebrates gay love and desire. The lyrics, “I am a king, don’t you forget / Who I am, don’t you forget / So come on and lift me up / To my throne, carry me home,” were a powerful statement of pride for the LGBTQ+ community and an anthem for those who felt marginalized and forgotten.