Gay anthem

A gay anthem is a popular song that has become widely popular among, or has become identified with, the gay community, particularly gay men, although some of these songs may also become anthems for the rest of the LGBT community. Multiple top-charting popular songs, such as "True Colors" by Cindy Lauper, "For Once in My Life" by Mel B, "Ride It" by Geri Halliwell, "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry, "Raise Your Glass" by Pink and "We R Who We R" by Kesha, have become a "refuge of unambiguous support for gay rights".[1] Not all songs labelled as "gay anthems" were written with that purpose, but they are included in this subgenre of popular music if they have become particularly popular among the gay community.

The lyrics of gay anthems are often marked by themes of perseverance, inner strength, acceptance, pride, and unity.[2] Ten elements were identified by the editors of the 2002 book Queer, which they claim describe themes common to many gay anthems: "big voiced divas; themes of overcoming hardship in love; “you are not alone;” themes of throwing your cares away (to party); hard won self-esteem; unashamed sexuality; the search for acceptance; torch songs for the world-weary; the theme of love conquers all; and of making no apologies for who you are."[2]

According to Popular Music, a music journal, the song most commonly identified as a gay anthem is "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor.[3] The song is described as "a classic emblem of gay culture in the post-Stonewall and AIDS eras and arguably disco’s greatest anthem." UK LGBT rights charity Stonewall named Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" the most empowering song of the 2000s decade for LGBT people,[4] and Elton John predicted it would replace "I Will Survive" as the pre-eminent gay anthem.[2]

Village People's "Y.M.C.A."[5], The Weather Girls's "It's Raining Men"[6][7], Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"[8], ABBA's "Dancing Queen" are classics gay anthems.[2]

Ultra Naté's "Free", Janet Jackson's "Together Again", Cher's "Believe", Jessica Simpson's "I Think I'm in Love with You" and "A Public Affair", Kylie Minogue's "Spinning Around" and "Can't Get You Out of My Head", Geri Halliwell's "It's Raining Men" and "Ride It", Dannii Minogue's "I Begin to Wonder", Melanie C's "Never Be the Same Again" and "Think About It", Tamar Braxton's "Hot Sugar" and "My Man", Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" and Ariana Grande's "Break Free" are considered as gay anthems for the new generation.[2]

Famous soundtracks as "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston from The Bodyguard, "There You'll Be" by Faith Hill from Pearl Harbor, "Can't Fight the Moonlight" by LeAnn Rimes from Coyote Ugly, "It's Raining Men" by Geri Halliwell from Bridget Jones's Diary, "Lady Marmalade" by Christina Aguilera, Mýa, Lil' Kim and Pink from Moulin Rouge!, "We Can" by LeAnn Rimes from Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, "Almost Home" by Mariah Carey from Oz the Great and Powerful and "The Star" by Mariah Carey from "The Star", are considered as gay anthems.[2]

The main single of I Turn to You by Melanie C, which became a gay anthem, was released as the "Hex Hector Radio Mix", for which Hex Hector won the 2001 Grammy as Remixer of the Year.[9]


Although every song is individual, the criteria for what makes a gay anthem has shown a trend among the years. In the book Queer, the following ten main themes were listed that are common among many, if not all gay anthems:[6]

  • Big-voiced divas
Rather than particular songs, this area of gay anthems is more akin to a cult of personality of a large gay male following for some particular diva-style pop music vocalists who are almost always female gay icons. Modern examples include Cher, Cyndi Lauper, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Kylie Minogue, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, Ariana Grande, Geri Halliwell, Evelyn "Champagne" King, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Tamar Braxton.
  • Overcoming hardship in love
Usually a narrative of a wronged lover who comes back stronger than before.
  • You are not alone
Songs about coming together as a community or reassurance to the lonely that there are others like them out there.
  • Throw your cares away
A carefree narrative about putting your troubles aside and partying.
  • Hard-won self-esteem
Here, the theme involves fighting through oppression, darkness or fear to gain freedom, beauty or self-esteem.
  • Celebrating unashamed sexuality
The theme here is of transcending cultural shame to celebrate one's sexual nature.
  • Search for acceptance
Songs about a welcoming promised land where the dream of acceptance and belonging and hope lives.
  • Torch song for the world weary
A narrative about being used, abused and surviving to tell the tale of lament.
  • Love conquers all
Tales of not giving up on love despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
  • No apologies
Here, the theme revolves around defiantly living one's life despite what others may want.

List of historically significant gay anthem songs

Year Released Song Title Artist(s) Gay anthem reference
1920 "The Lavender Song (Das Lila Lied)" Lyrics by Kurt Schwabach [10]
1939 "Over the Rainbow" Judy Garland [11][7]
1954 "The Man That Got Away" [12]
1957 "Somewhere (There's a Place for Us)" From the musical West Side Story [6][7]
1960 "As Long as He Needs Me" Shirley Bassey [6][7]
1966 "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" Dusty Springfield [6]
1970 "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" Diana Ross [6]
1972 "All the Young Dudes" Mott the Hoople [13]
1975 "Sweet Transvestite" Tim Curry from the Motion Picture The Rocky Horror Picture Show [14]
"I Was Born This Way" Valentino [15]
1976 "Dancing Queen" ABBA [6][7]
"Turn the Beat Around" Vicki Sue Robinson [6]
1977 "I Feel Love" Donna Summer [16]
1978 "I Will Survive" Gloria Gaynor [7][17][18]
"Glad to Be Gay" Tom Robinson Band [19]
"You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" Sylvester [7]
"Macho Man" Village People [20]
"Y.M.C.A." [21]
1979 "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) ABBA [7]
"Boys Keep Swinging" David Bowie [7]
"We Are Family" Sister Sledge [22]
"No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" Donna Summer & Barbra Streisand [6]
"Go West" Village People [7]
1980 "I'm Coming Out" Diana Ross [7][23]
1982 "I've Never Been to Me" Charlene [14]
"Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" Culture Club [7]
"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" Jennifer Holliday [6]
"It's Raining Men" The Weather Girls [6][7]
1983 "So Many Men, So Little Time" Miquel Brown [6][7]
"I Am What I Am" From the musical La Cage aux Folles [7][24]
"Holiday" Madonna [6]
1984 "Smalltown Boy" Bronski Beat [6]
"Why?" [25]
"You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" Dead or Alive [14]
"I Want to Break Free" Queen [14]
1985 "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves" Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin [6]
1986 Don't Leave Me This Way" The Communards [26][27]
"True Colors" Cyndi Lauper [28][29]
1987 "Boom Boom (Let's Go Back to My Room)" Paul Lekakis [14]
"Express Yourself" Madonna [14]
1988 "A Little Respect" Erasure [6]
1989 "I Want That Man" Deborah Harry [14]
"Closer to Fine" Indigo Girls [30]
1990 "Vogue" Madonna [7]
1991 "Finally" CeCe Peniston [6]
1992 "Constant Craving" k.d. lang [14]
"Supermodel (You Better Work)" RuPaul [14]
"I Will Always Love You" (theme from the movie The Bodyguard) Whitney Houston [14]
1993 "Come to My Window" Melissa Etheridge [30]
"Yes I Am" [30]
"This Is It" Dannii Minogue [14]
"I'm Every Woman" (theme from the movie The Bodyguard) Whitney Houston [14]
1994 "Put Yourself in My Place" Kylie Minogue [14]
1995 "I Kissed a Girl" Jill Sobule [31]
1997 "Young Hearts Run Free" Kym Mazelle [14]
"Free" Ultra Naté [6]
"Together Again" Janet Jackson [6]
1998 "Outside" George Michael [7]
"Believe" Cher [32]
1999 "Strong Enough" Cher [14]
"New York City Boy" Pet Shop Boys [14]
"Mi Chico Latino" Geri Halliwell [14]
"It's Not Right, But It's Okay" Whitney Houston [14]
2000 "Proud" Heather Small [14]
"Bag It Up" Geri Halliwell [14]
"I Think I'm in Love with You" Jessica Simpson [14]
"Never Be the Same Again" Melanie C [14]
"I Turn to You" Melanie C [14]
"How Many Licks?" Lil' Kim featuring Sisqó [14]
"Can't Fight the Moonlight" (theme from the movie Coyote Ugly) LeAnn Rimes [14]
"Spinning Around" Kylie Minogue [14]
2001 "Your Disco Needs You" Kylie Minogue [7]
"Can't Get You Out of My Head" [33]
"It's Raining Men" (theme from the movie Bridget Jones's Diary) Geri Halliwell [6][7]
"Murder on the Dancefloor" Sophie Ellis-Bextor [34]
"Lady Marmalade" (theme from the movie Moulin Rouge!) Christina Aguilera, Mýa, Lil' Kim and Pink [6][7]
"There You'll Be" (theme from the movie Pearl Harbor) Faith Hill [6][7]
2002 "Beautiful" Christina Aguilera [35][36][37][38]
"Shined on Me" Praise Cats [6][7]
"Dove (I'll Be Loving You)" Moony [6][7]
2003 "Defying Gravity" Introduced by Idina Menzel, from the musical Wicked [39]
"I Begin to Wonder" Dannii Minogue [40]
"Don't Mess with My Man" Nivea [40]
"We Can" (theme from the movie Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde) LeAnn Rimes [7]
2004 "Take Your Mama" Scissor Sisters [7]
2005 "Ride It" Geri Halliwell [40]
2006 "A Public Affair" Jessica Simpson [40]
"I Belong to Me" Jessica Simpson [7]
"Nothing in This World" Paris Hilton [7]
2008 "I Kissed a Girl" Katy Perry [7]
2009 "Fuck You" Lily Allen [41]
"Bad Romance" Lady Gaga [42]
2011 "Born This Way" Lady Gaga [43]
"Think About It" Melanie C [7]
2012 "Same Love" Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert [44]
"Party or Go Home" Trina Braxton [7]
2013 "For Once in My Life" Melanie Brown [45][46][47][48]
"Hot Sugar" Tamar Braxton [49]
"Woman's World" Cher [7]
"Limpido" Laura Pausini and Kylie Minogue [7]
"Almost Home" (theme from the movie Oz the Great and Powerful) Mariah Carey [7]
2014 "Break Free" Ariana Grande [50]
"Born An Angel" Afida Turner [51][52]
"Fancy" Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX [7]
"Sledgehammer" Fifth Harmony [7]
"Let Me Know" Tamar Braxton [53]
2015 "If I Don't Have You" Tamar Braxton [54]
"Black Magic" Little Mix [7]
"The Way We Are" Alesha Dixon [7]
2017 "My Man" Tamar Braxton [55]
"Angels In Chains" Geri Halliwell [7]
"The Star" (theme from the movie The Star) Mariah Carey [7]

See also


  1. Hawgood, Alex (November 5, 2010). "For Gays, New Songs of Survival". New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Casserly, Meghan (February 11, 2011). "Lady Gaga's Born This Way: Gay Anthems and Girl Power". Forbes. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  3. Hubbs, Nadine (May 2007). "'I Will Survive': musical mappings of queer social space in a disco anthem". Popular Music. 26 (2): 231–244. doi:10.1017/s0261143007001250.
  4. "Media: Current Releases". Archived from the original on 16 September 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  5. Jeff Perlman. ""Y.M.C.A." (An Oral History)". Spin magazine. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Simon Gage, Lisa Richards, and Howard Wilmot. "Queer". pp. 26-7. ISBN 1-56025-377-0. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 "The pink hit parade: Sing if you're glad to be gay". The Independent. London. 1 November 2006. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  8. "25 Essential LGBTQ Pride Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  9. Boucher, Geoff (January 4, 2001). "Grammys Cast a Wider Net Than Usual". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. p. 13. Retrieved April 29, 2011.
  10. Sarah Lippek. "Disrupted Values, Erupting Culture: Cabaret and the Sexual Persona in Weimar Berlin". Social Science Research Network. p. 13. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  11. Richard Dyer. "Judy Garland and Gay Men". Queer Cinema ed. Harry M Benshoff and Sean Griffin. p. 162. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  12. Michael Bronski. Culture Clash: The Making of Gay Sensibility. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  13. "All The Young Dudes". July 26, 2012.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 "And the Gayest Songs Of All Time Are..." March 7, 2008. Archived from the original on May 12, 2011. Retrieved May 21, 2011.
  15. "Valentino...he was born that was Carl Bean". QMH. June 2002.
  16. Benjamin Genocchio (19 February 2006). "Exploring the Effects of Disco's Beat" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  17. Elizabeth Kaminski and Verta Taylor. "We're Not Just Lip-synching Here: Music and Collective Identity in Drag Performances". Identity Work in Social Movements, p. 58. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  18. Nadine Hubbs. "'I Will Survive': musical mappings of queer social space in a disco anthem". Popular Music, 26 , pp 231-244. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  19. Peter Tatchell. "Not Glad to Be Gay?" Archived 2011-06-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. Tris McCall (August 23, 2013). "Macho, macho men: The Village People are back, and they're bringing the '70s with them". New Jersey On-Line.
  21. Jeff Perlman. ""Y.M.C.A." (An Oral History)". Spin magazine. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  22. Sasha Roseneil. "Queer Frameworks and Queer Tendencies: Towards an Understanding of Postmodern Transformations of Sexuality". Sociological Research Online, vol. 5, no. 3. Retrieved 26 April 2009.(subscription required)
  23. Andrew Dawson. "The mining community and the ageing body". Realizing community Ed. By Vered Amit, European Association of Social Anthropologists. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  24. Verta Taylor and Leila J. Rupp. "When the Girls Are Men: Negotiating Gender and Sexual Dynamics in a Study of Drag Queens". Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2005, vol. 30, no. 4. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  25. "Looking forward to..." 2012-07-03. Retrieved 2012-09-22.
  26. "THE COMMUNARDS – "Don't Leave Me This Way"". 2010-01-05. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
  27. "Guilty pleasures". 2010-05-15. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
  28. "Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles -anti-bullying music video". Performing Arts Live. 2012-05-24. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  29. "Pink, Katy Perry and Ke$ha songs all angle to become gay anthems, but will they?". Archived from the original on 2012-07-19. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  30. 1 2 3 "Top Lesbian Songs". 2013.
  31. Stephen Elliott (July 30, 2009). "The Rumpus Interview with Jill Sobule". The Rumpus.
  32. "The 50 best gay songs to celebrate Gay Pride!". TimeOut. 2018-05-24. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  33. Llewellyn, Caspar (2 November 2006). "Reveal your gay anthems to the world | Music |". London: Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  34. "Murder on the dance floor: a quick tango with Sophie Ellis-Bextor". The Standard. Retrieved October 21, 2013.
  35. Hawgood, Alex (5 November 2010). "Ke$ha and Katy Perry Sing for Gay Rights". The New York Times.
  36. "Christina Aguilera tops 'empowering' song poll". 7 April 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  37. Savage, Dan (2 April 2011). "It Gets Better: Columbus Gay Men's Chorus and Columbus Children's Choir". Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  38. Siegel, Joe. "State House Vigil held in wake of Gay Suicides" Archived 2013-12-24 at the Wayback Machine. The Rainbow Times. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  39. "Gay Anthems: Singing it loud and proud | Celebrity Features | Bollywood Celebs Features". Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  40. 1 2 3 4 Top 50 gay icons. Retrieved 17 January 2008. Archived January 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  41. "Song: Fuck You by Lily Allen and Stevie Bee Bishop – Anti-Hate Collab Music Video". Gays Without Borders. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  42. Gaga thanks Gays for Remakes
  43. Vena, Jocelyn (11 February 2011). "Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way': The New Gay Anthem?". Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  44. McKinley Jr, James C. (June 30, 2013). "The New York Times". Retrieved 2014-02-01.
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  50. "8 Reasons Ariana Grande Is the Gay Icon of Her Generation". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-06-07.
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