Sick of hearing Europop at the parade? Queer it up with Le1f, Peaches, Sleater-Kinney... and Miley Cyrus
It’s been an incredible year for LGBTQ visibility so far: Caitlyn Jenner had the most glamorous breakout moment of all time when she appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, Krystal Frasier then started the hashtag #MyVanityFairCover to shine a spotlight on all the trans women who don’t get asked to be on the front of glossy magazines, Ireland voted YES for same sex marriage, UK’s political parties finally took notice of gay and trans people in their manifestos (except for UKIP), Miley Cyrus launched an LGBTQ homeless charity with Joan Jett, and trans voices became more prominent in the media with the help of Dazed favourites Laverne Cox, Hari Nef and Andreja Pejić. And that’s without mentioning all the personal stories of LGBTQ people in their day-to-day lives around the world.
To celebrate Pride in London week, and the parade this Saturday, we’ve collated an alternative LGBTQ pride playlist for those of you who are sick of hearing Kylie's Greatest Hits or another screeching rendition of Cher’s “Believe”. Don't get us wrong – we like getting glittered up and dancing to "Vogue" as much as the next person – but here are ten pro-Pride tracks that also deserve their moment to sparkle.
BRONSKI BEAT – “SMALLTOWN BOY”
If this track doesn’t remind you of a sticky, amyl nitrate-scented basement disco at 4am then you’re not doing it right. “For the answers you seek will never be found at home, the love that you need will never be found at home”, sings Jimmy Somerville in his glimmering, disco-style falsetto over a synth-soaked melody that could only have come out of 1984. "Smalltown Boy" spoke to a generation of young LGBTQ people who felt lonely and rejected in their small, British hometowns, and longed for what they would later enjoy.
SONIC YOUTH – “ANDROGYNOUS MIND”
Contrary to what the likes of Cosmopolitan might have you believe, I reckon most of us have androgynous minds, it’s just some are more masculine or feminine than others. In this spiky 1994 Sonic Youth offering, Thurston Moore screams “Hey hey it's okay, hey hey it's okay, hey hey it's okay, hey hey it's okay” over heavy, distorted guitar riffs and arrhythmic, thrashing drums. It’s an ode to the bubbling frustration of being boxed in, with the anger eventually exploding into a crashing, chaotic and sexy crescendo.
JAYNE COUNTY – "ARE YOU MAN ENOUGH TO BE A WOMAN?"
Jayne County was the original riotous, trans punk who you don’t get to read about in the history books. “I was the first completely full-blown, in-your-face queen to stand up on a rock'n'roll stage and say, 'I am what I am, I don't give a damn,” she said, and this track is one of her best, simply for its ‘stick a middle finger up’ message, which was considered completely outlandish in less tolerant times.
THE MAGNETIC FIELDS – "ANDREW IN DRAG"
If you want to drag it up without looking like Jiggly Caliente, the music video for this track doubles up as a handy how-to guide. But it’s the wry, winking lyricism, delivered with Stephen Merrit's distinctive drawl that makes this track such a gem. “So stick him in a dress and he’s the only boy I’d shag”, he sings. “The only boy I’d anything is Andrew in drag”.
SHAMIR – "SOMETIMES A MAN"
As one of the many artists in pop starting a genderqueer dialogue, Shamir has become a role model for many young LGBTQ fans. “I don’t like to identify strictly as a male, (and) I don’t like to identify as a female,” the singer told Dummy. “I don’t feel tethered to a gender like that, you know?" That’s not the only reason this stylish, club-ready track is on the list, of course – "Sometimes a Man" has the makings of an anthem all over it.
Against Me! vocalist and trans punk icon Laura Jane Grace and Miley Cyrus – who founded the Happy Hippie Foundation last year – make a powerful duo in this acoustic backyard version of Against Me!’s “True Trans Soul Rebel”. “Transgender Visibility is so important,” Laura Jane Grace told us in an interview earlier this year. “It’s about showing young people that it’s possible to have a happy adult life.”
PEACHES – "I U SHE"
“I don’t have to make the choice, I like girls and I like boys”, Peaches speak-raps in her characteristically sexy tones in this fun and freeing slice of electro. She makes the concept of a clearly defined sexuality something to yawn at, reducing it in one throwaway line before adding: “Whips, crops, canes, whatever, come on baby let’s go”.
LE1F – "SODA"
Le1f’s vogue-worthy, club-rap hybrids, music videos full of fit men and sex-positive lyricism have garnered him a loyal following of LGBTQ fans, although this doesn’t mean his music is ‘gay’. “I am gay, and I'm proud to be called a gay rapper, but it's not gay rap. That's not a genre,” he told the The Fader. “My goal is always to make songs that a gay dude or a straight dude can listen to. I get guys the way straight rappers get girls.” This track from Le1f and Boody is about how delicious fizzy drinks are. It's definitely not about anything else.
SLEATER-KINNEY – "ONE MORE HOUR"
“I'll hold you close before I leave, don’t say another word about the other girl”, sings Corin Tucker over circular, distorted guitar and an erratic bass line, her voice quivering as if she’s on the edge of tears. And whilst this iconic break-up song is about two queer women, the bittersweet feeling it conveys is utterly universal.
GRACE JONES – "SLAVE TO THE RHYTHM"
Apparently this gay club fixture by the reigning queen of androgyny was meant for Frankie Goes to Hollywood as a follow-up to “Relax”. As if this 1985 anthem wasn't already crying out to be played at a Pride afterparty! “Breathe to the rhythm, dance to the rhythm, work to the rhythm, live to rhythm, love to the rhythm, slave to the rhythm", Jones throatily intones over a seductive drumbeat and rich, sweeping strings. Plus, she's possibly the only artist who can pull off panpipes – put to excellent use here.