There’s a gay anthem, and then there’s a pride anthem. Note the difference: a gay anthem like Cher’s “Believe” is taken in by the gay community and aggressively danced to with spirit. A pride anthem is felt from within, channeling the positive message centered around acceptance and love of self. Musicians earn points for actually mentioning gay topics without dancing around it. As Pride festivals are celebrated this weekend nationwide, including Chicago’s very own Halsted Street parade, it was essential to gather our favorite Pride anthems. Pride on, friends, and use these anthems as accompaniment to your rainbow party:
“Love Is Love” – Culture Club
Boy George’s androgyny and provocative attitude was certainly attention-grabbing, and in the film Electric Dreams, it provided context for a song about love simply having no gender: “Open up your eyes and you will see/Love is love is everything to me/You don’t have to touch it to be/Wrapped up in emotion like me.”
“True Colors” – Cyndi Lauper
This mid-‘80s motivator was the center of emotional empowerment in its time. Even if it didn’t include references to color, its message would’ve soared, but the official colors of gay pride include all of the above. So it was claimed by the gays. When Cyndi asks you not to be afraid to let your true colors show, you do it. We encourage you to do it this weekend.
“Take Your Mama ” – Scissor Sisters
The classic pop-rock legends take on definitive hard-hitting material as the band sings about coming out to your mother. It’s lovably brave.
“Born This Way” – Lady GaGa
Michael – Franz Ferdinand
Has subtext gone out the window? Franz Ferdinand’s lead singer, though only a straight ally, sings about a man-on-man lust from across the room in this alt rock anthem. He cries: “Michael, you’re the only one I’d ever want/only one I’d ever want/only one I’d ever want/…Beautiful boys on a beautiful dancefloor” and “This is what I am, I am a man/so come and dance with me Michael.” The words are outlandish, straightforward and boldly satisfactory. Somebody set these two up!
“Firework” – Katy Perry
Though somewhat nondescript, a la Christina Aguilera “Beautiful,” this song came about in a series of empowerment anthems back in 2010. Ke$ha’s “We R Who We Are” and even P!nk’s “Raise Your Glass” didn’t reach the bar that Perry set with this one. It’s probably because it’s so indulgently feel-good.
Diana Ross –“I’m Coming Out”
This song should be playing when any LGBT person steps out of the closet. “I’m coming out/I want the world to know/I’ve got to let it show.” Blast it as you step out to raid the streets for Pride. It’ll put some extra pep in your step.
“I Want To Break Free” – Queen
Alleviate the pain, escape the adversity and slam the perpetrators, all while rocking out. Classic Queen, fronted by Freddie Mercury, one of the greatest gay icons of all time, does it all with a positive and rock hard spin on a tough subject. Freddie lives. See also: every other Queen song.
“Boys Keep Swinging” – David Bowie
Bowie, a bisexual glam pioneer of pop, did exactly what any philanthropist might do: he raised eyebrows and generated a following of young folks who were invested in the future. Let’s take notes from him this weekend, and remember that a Bowie impersonation works best with a cape.
ABBA – Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)
Perhaps when the day grows long, this song will serve a better purpose. ABBA is full of pride and lust for life, and the right energy to accompany a full night of gay huzzah. At this point in pride’s celebration, it’s usually whoever you land your hands on in an end-of-the-night free-for-all. ABBA knows exactly what we’re talking about.
Gloria Gaynor – “I Will Survive”
“As long as I know how to love/I know I’ll be alive/I will survive.” Indifference, oppression, resistance to your is exactly what pride is about, and Gaynor encompasses this in her Disco classic. She probably had no idea it would inspire glitter-bombs and happy unicorns, but we imagine she’d be somewhat O.K. with its wide embrace.