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 "I Think I'm in Love with You" by Jessica Simpson, "The Boys are Back in Town", "True Colors" by Cindy Lauper, "For Once in My Life" by Mel B, "Mi Chico Latino", "It's Raining Men" and "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". 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. 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."
According to Popular Music, a music journal, the song most commonly identified as a gay anthem is "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor. 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, and Elton John predicted it would replace "I Will Survive" as the pre-eminent gay anthem.
Mariah Carey's "Hero", 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.
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! and "We Can" by LeAnn Rimes from Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde are beloved by gay community and are considered as gay anthems.
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:
- 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, Whitney Houston, Céline Dion, Kylie Minogue, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, Evelyn "Champagne" King, Tamar Braxton, Geri Halliwell, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Jessica Simpson, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Adele, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande.
- 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
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- Casserly, Meghan (February 11, 2011). "Lady Gaga's Born This Way: Gay Anthems and Girl Power". Forbes. Retrieved August 13, 2014.
- 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.
- "Media: Current Releases". stonewall.org.uk. Archived from the original on September 16, 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
- Jeff Perlman. ""Y.M.C.A." (An Oral History)". Spin magazine. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
- Simon Gage, Lisa Richards, and Howard Wilmot. "Queer". pp. 26–7. ISBN 1-56025-377-0. Retrieved April 26, 2009.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
- "The pink hit parade: Sing if you're glad to be gay". The Independent. London. November 1, 2006. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
- "25 Essential LGBTQ Pride Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
- Boucher, Geoff (January 4, 2001). "Grammys Cast a Wider Net Than Usual". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. p. 13. Retrieved April 29, 2011.
- Sarah Lippek. "Disrupted Values, Erupting Culture: Cabaret and the Sexual Persona in Weimar Berlin". Social Science Research Network. p. 13. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
- Richard Dyer. "Judy Garland and Gay Men". Queer Cinema ed. Harry M Benshoff and Sean Griffin. p. 162. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
- Michael Bronski. Culture Clash: The Making of Gay Sensibility. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
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- "Valentino...he was born that way...so was Carl Bean". QMH. June 2002.
- Benjamin Genocchio (February 19, 2006). "Exploring the Effects of Disco's Beat" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
- 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 April 26, 2009.
- Nadine Hubbs. "'I Will Survive': musical mappings of queer social space in a disco anthem". Popular Music, 26 , pp 231-244. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
- Peter Tatchell. "Not Glad to Be Gay?" Archived 2011-06-16 at the Wayback Machine
- 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.
- Jeff Perlman. ""Y.M.C.A." (An Oral History)". Spin magazine. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
- Sasha Roseneil. "Queer Frameworks and Queer Tendencies: Towards an Understanding of Postmodern Transformations of Sexuality". Sociological Research Online, vol. 5, no. 3. Retrieved April 26, 2009.(subscription required)
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- "Pink, Katy Perry and Ke$ha songs all angle to become gay anthems, but will they?". Archived from the original on 2012-07-19. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
- "Top Lesbian Songs". TopGaySongs.com. 2013.
- "11 Mariah Carey songs every gay boy needs in his life". The Gay UK. May 13, 2017.
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- "The 50 best gay songs to celebrate Gay Pride!". TimeOut. 2018-05-24. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
- "40 top gay anthems for Pride". The Gay UK. May 13, 2017.
- Llewellyn, Caspar (November 2, 2006). "Reveal your gay anthems to the world | Music | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved September 1, 2010.
- "Murder on the dance floor: a quick tango with Sophie Ellis-Bextor". The Standard. Retrieved October 21, 2013.
- Hawgood, Alex (November 5, 2010). "Ke$ha and Katy Perry Sing for Gay Rights". The New York Times.
- "Christina Aguilera tops 'empowering' song poll". digitalspy.co.uk. April 7, 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
- Savage, Dan (2 April 2011). "It Gets Better: Columbus Gay Men's Chorus and Columbus Children's Choir". slog.thestranger.com. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
- Siegel, Joe. "State House Vigil held in wake of Gay Suicides" Archived 2013-12-24 at the Wayback Machine The Rainbow Times. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
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- Gaga thanks Gays for Remakes http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1647670/lady-gagas-bad-romance-nabs-best-pop-video.jhtml
- Vena, Jocelyn (February 11, 2011). "Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way': The New Gay Anthem?". mtv.com. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
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- Azzopardi, Chris. "Panic! Frontman On Being A Little Gay, Bisexual Anthem & Getting Naked". Pride Source. Retrieved 2019-03-21.
- Holmes, Linda (13 December 2013). "NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour". National Public Radio. 3:10 through 4:55. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
- "Top Comments: A Queer Perspective on Disney's Frozen". Daily Kos. 21 February 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
- "8 Reasons Ariana Grande Is the Gay Icon of Her Generation". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-06-07.
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- Norris, John (2014-06-30). "Demi Lovato Really, Truly Has Pride". Retrieved 2014-06-30.
- "Demi Lovato and Cher Lloyd combat anti-gay protesters in 'Really Don't Care'".
- "Little Mix's new song 'Secret Love Song, Pt II' is an LGBT anthem".
- "Ariana Grande's 'Thank U, Next' Video Is Gay Rights".