June is Pride Month – a global celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and its culture – a reminder not only of how far we've come and the distance we must still travel on the road to true equality.
When you think of LGBTQ+ anthems, old-school bangers by glamorous pop divas might come to mind. But while those songs have a much-deserved place in our hearts, minds and dancefloors, we take a look at some other popular LGBTQ+ themed tracks from recent years.
Rina Sawayama - This Hell
Imagine if Shania Twain's That Don't Impress Me Much and Lady Gaga's Born This Way met in a dark alleyway and decided to go clubbing and you're just scratching the surface of Rina's poptastic new single, This Hell.
A turbo-charged banger, the song is, in Rina's own words, "dedicated to community and love in a time where the world seems hellish." If Hell is this fun, sign us up!
Dove Cameron - Boyfriend
One of the biggest breakout hits of the year, Dove Cameron's first-ever UK Top 10 single is a menacing, sinister tune indebted to the likes of Lana Del Rey, all about Dove telling her same-sex love interest that "I can be a better boyfriend than him."
In our interview with Dove earlier this year, she spoke about the need to make authentic music as a queer artist - and how Boyfriend is inspired by queer-coded villains and femme fatales of Old Hollywood.
Baby Queen - Colours Of You
Especially written for Netflix's Heartstopper series (which itself contained a series of brilliantly queer-focused pop hits that experienced a massive uplift in the UK) Baby Queen's delicate ode to the relationship of characters Nick (Kit Connor) and Charlie (Joe Locke) will melt your heart, instead of stopping it.
Pale Waves - She's My Religion
The first song in which Pale Waves frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie opened up about her sexuality, She's My Religion mixes obviously religious iconography with lyrics that are soul-bearing in their honesty about the light and dark shades that make up the intricacies of real relationships, whether they be straight or queer.
Lil Nas X - Montero (Call Me By Your Name)
We mean...of course.
Janelle Monae – Make Me Feel
During the campaign for her Dirty Computer album in 2018, Janelle was uncompromising in her discussion of sexuality and gender. Pynk was a love letter to all things feminine, and in the stripped-back, hot and heavy funk of Make Me Feel, and its accompanying video, Janelle acknowledged there was more than one way to get off, thank you very much.
Troye Sivan – Lucky Strike
If there's one thing Australian YouTuber-turned-popstar Troye Sivan is good at, it's writing deep, catchy and uncompromising songs about sex, boys, and romance that everybody loves, whatever their orientation. The title track of his latest album Bloom is a celebration of sexuality, and it doesn't take too long to decipher the lyrics to work out exactly what he's on about.
In the video for recent single Lucky Strike, Troye finds himself in the midst of a summer romance, while on the song, he confesses to his lover all of the reasons he finds him so attractive.
Years & Years - Sanctify
Olly Alexander has been making more and more queer-centred music as Years & Years since going solo (recent Number 1 album Night Call is chock-full of them!), but his most daring statement as a queer artist has to be Sanctify, which re-imagines a sexual encounter with a straight-curious man as something approaching religious ecstasy.
Sam Smith and Normani – Dancing with a Stranger
Sam Smith has always sung about relatable situations like heartbreak, unrequited love, being James Bond (OK, maybe not that one). Recently, Sam has embraced the dancefloor more, following their chart-topper with Calvin Harris, Promises. Sam has been more open about their gender identity and came out as non-binary in 2019. That same year, Sam released Dancing with a Stranger, teaming up with Normani for a moody, end of the night moody banger.
Halsey & Lauren Jauregui – Strangers
On the surface of it, this is just another (very good) song about a couple who don't want hooking up to turn into anything more serious. The difference? It's about two women and, the bonus part, sung by two LGBTQ artists. Fifth Harmony's Lauren Jauregui came out as bisexual in 2016, in an open letter to Donald Trump supporters, and has been overwhelmingly supported by fans.
MUNA – I Know A Place
American trio MUNA all identify as queer, and wrote this song in response to the shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, where 49 were killed at a club night for Latinx people. I Know A Place talks about the importance of spaces where you can be yourself, among people you can trust.
Sia – The Greatest
She may not have shown her face on stage for a while, but Sia has always been open about her sexuality. Perhaps that's why so many of her biggest hits – both her own and those she's penned for other artists – are about overcoming adversity, having faith in yourself, or being a little worried you don't fit in. The emotional video for The Greatest, which featured Kendrick Lamar, was widely acknowledged as a tribute to the Pulse nightclub shootings. See all Sia's hit singles and albums in her UK chart archive
Hayley Kiyoko – Curious
"Did you take him the pier in Santa Monica, forget to bring your jacket wrap up in him 'cos you wanted to?" Hayley Kiyoko had her sight's set on pop stardom with Curious, and it shows. Thrillingly written, produced, and performed, it ribs on the notion of sexual experimentation, while never actually passing judgement. Also points for an easy to learn dance routine!
Frank Ocean – Chanel
When Frank Ocean took to Tumblr in 2012 before the release of his debut album Channel Orange and released an open letter where he admitted that the LP's biggest hit (Thinkin Bout You) was written about his relationship with a man, he changed hip-hop forever.
Frank's honesty about his relationships and sexuality continued throughout his magnum opus Blonde, but for once queerness is front and centre on the one-off single Chanel. "My guy pretty like a girl," Frank sings. "I see on both sides like Chanel." Take a look at Frank Ocean's UK chart archive
Oliver Sim - Hideous
Just released, Oliver from The XX has used the launch of his solo album to open up for the first time about his HIV diagnosis as a teen. New track Hideous speaks to the stigma and fear still around HIV/AIDs in the gay community, and how important it is for everyone to see how far we have come (U=U!) and to erase the stigma around HIV for good.
Mabel - Let Them Know
Apparently inspired by Mabel's love of the landmark documentary Paris Is Burning and several binges of Drag Race during lockdown, we would like to thank her for her service to the queer community here. Let them know!
Christine and the Queens – Tilted
Also known as Heloise Letissier, the French singer found herself a global star when Tilted became an unexpected hit in 2016. The "tilted" of the title refers to not quite fitting in and gradually becoming comfortable with it rather than worrying. "It's about embracing who you are," says Heloise, who identifies as pansexual. With follow-up album Chris, Heloise explored gender and attraction even further, starting with brilliant lead single Girlfriend.
MNEK – Tongue
The singer-songwriter-producer, who's been behind tracks by Beyoncé, Madonna, Little Mix and Stormzy, among others, preferred not to make a big deal about his sexuality until he was asked. Once out – and very proud – he's produced a number of LGBTQ anthems, including Tongue, which he found liberating. "Now I’m not afraid to touch on relationships and on my sexuality in my videos," he said in an interview with Billboard. And he certainly isn't – the video is a wildly colourful scene of gay seduction.
Tegan and Sara – Boyfriend
Openly gay Canadian duo Tegan and Sara have a knack for turning serious issues into danceable pop songs, and Boyfriend's theme will be familiar to millions of LGBT people. Experimenting with sexuality, the pain at being somebody else's secret, and standing up for yourself – it's got everything!
Listen to all our picks for modern LGBT+ anthems in our playlists on Spotify below: