Top 10 Gay Songs That Aren’t Gay
The concept of a “gay anthem” has normally disregarded its intended gender. As such, some songs that are explicitly gay, while they could be good, tend not to make for the best anthems. Through cultural history, most queer-related songs played during parades or protests were not originally intended for an LGBT-specific audience.
As such here is my ranking of these anthems. Note that for the purpose of this list, songs written solely for gay parades, inspired by the stories and struggles of gay people (like I’m Coming Out), or featured in gay musicals or movies (like Rent), are disqualified from the list. Also, I’m limiting myself to one song per artist.
10. I Kissed a Girl (Katy Perry)
Face it, I need to kick off the list with a modern, tongue-in-cheek song. Torn between Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, I decided to favor the former. Yes, the song itself is inherently lesbian. And, as most people know, gay men and lesbian don’t necessarliy have the best relationship. But what the song achieves is inherent campiness. Gay men love campy. It’s really such a playful song; who can hate it except for the most prude feminists? And, let’s face it, we’ve all changed the lyrics to “I Kissed a Boy” one time or another
9. Superwoman (Alicia Keys)
This one is not necessarily an anthem that would play on your next pride parade. It’s not that famous as a gay song. However, I really do love this song, and everytime I listen to it, I cannot help but feel that Alicia Keys’s anthem is just as (if not even more so) applicable to gay men as it does women. The idea that you can find strength within to battle the patriarchy is as much our struggle as it is women’s. Plus, we kinda want to have a vest with an S on the chest and be called Superwoman, don’t we?
8. Macho Man (The Village People)
I thought long and hard about this. YMCA is definitely the more well-known song, but I feel that “You can hang out with all the boys” is a little too explicitly gay. Perhaps even including the Village People on this list is akin to cheating, but I did double check the lyrics of Macho Man, and there isn’t an explicit reference to homoeroticism. In fact, all it does is celebrate the wonders of the male form. Yes, after typing that I realize that’s quite gay, but, all in all, a lovable anthem to the beauty of the masculine is something that simply has to be included in the list.
7. Hot Stuff (Donna Summers)
Of course, Hot Stuff will be in this list. Of course, Donna Summers will be on the list. Just like the previous entry, Hot Stuff is more an anthem of fun. What makes Hot Stuff a little higher up on the list is that it’s a little less campy and a little bit steamier than Macho Man. And in this case, it works really well. In other words, if you watch someone dance to Macho Man, you laugh a lot and get turned on a little, but when he dances to Hot Stuff, you laugh a little and get turned on. A lot.
6. Believe (Cher)
There simply has to be a dance song in this list. And while Rihanna and Beyonce are terrific singers, nothing tops Madame Cher. The song, just like Cher, is eternal. Yes, the texture of the song feels a little old, compared to what is pumped out at most clubs, but it’s still a tune that can be danced to. The beat, however, is classic among gay bars. Plus, do you believe in life after love? I think that question is something that we should ask ourselves, both in the literal and the existential manner. Cher is an existentialist.
5. I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor)
A crowd-favorite at karaoke or at drag performances, the narrative of moving on after a break-up takes a step back to the catchy beat and the overall theme of empowerment. The concept itself of “survival” is quite close to the gay man’s heart, who has to hold his head up high as somebody new against a world that expects submission. Being afraid and petrified at first is also the initial hindrances to most gay men before coming out of the closet. Inadvertently, Gloria Gaynor created a song that perfectly summarized gay life from the closet to the full-on queen.
4. It’s Raining Men (The Weather Girls)
Originally sung by two, rather big, black divas, then later covered by Ginger Spice — seriously? It’s ridiculously campy, yet it’s ridiculously fun. First of all, who doesn’t want it to rain men? Rough and tough and strong and lean — this is just like saying you like straight-acting gay men on Grindr. Tall, blonde, dark and mean? Please, have my address. Every gay man has moments in his life when he finds himself surrounded by lots of men, and the first thing he’ll say is Hallelujah. I’m not religious, but I’ll be on my knees later.
3. Defying Gravity (orig. Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth)
I am sad I cannot include Rent in the list, so I’ll settle for Wicked. OF COURSE, it had to be Defying Gravity, the defining song of the musical. Sang at the end of Act One, it shows Elpheba finally discovering flight, and using it (quite literally) to defy gravity, and, metaphorically, to defy convention. While most gay men cannot literally fly, the idea of transcending the mundanity of the temporal plane, and living together as the greatest team that’s ever been, is just too good to be true. At the, this is the goal, to be rid of material baggage, and say, “No wizard that there is or was is ever going to bring me down!”
2. We Are Family (Sister Sledge)
If you’ve seen The Birdcage (props if you’ve seen La Cage aux Folles), then the reason why We Are Family is so high up this list makes so much sense. While it was originally meant to symbolize the relationship between the singers, We Are Family has been used, at least in the gay sense, to signify solidarity to the cause. This is such a wonderful concept, saying that I got all my sisters with me. It’s like saying your problems are my problems, but that together we flock together. In terms of a gay community, this is the perfect song.
1. The Trolley Song (Judy Garland)
You could literally put all gay songs together into one big super-gay montage, it would still be straighter than The Trolley Song. I mean, jeez, “Clang, Clang, Clang, goes the Trolley.” It’s (sadly) not as popular now as it had been, but there’s literally nothing gayer in the history of the music industry than Judy Garland in The Trolley Song. There’s absolutely nothing gay happening in the song (or even in the movie it came from), but the catchy beat, the repetition, and, dear god, the onomatopoeia spell out everything gay in this world. I do have to give mentions to Garland’s Somewhere Under the Rainbow (especially for making the Rainbow iconic), but, yeah, “Zing, Zing, Zing, went my heartstrings” tops this chart.
It would be fair to name some Honorable Mentions that sadly did not make the cut:
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper)
These Boots Were Made for Walkin’ (Nancy Sinatra)
Open Your Heart (Madonna)
Tell Him (Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion)
Anything Justin Bieber does.
Agree or disagree with the list? Let your voice be heard in the comments section!