As the month of June comes to an end so comes the awful realisation that some people think the LGBTQ+ community disappears with it. To keep the rainbow flag flying here is a collection of songs either written about or by someone in the community. Whilst some highlight the hardships many people still face today, others are a celebration of all that has be won.
Queen – I Want to Break Free: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4Mc-NYPHaQ
A huge icon in the LGBTQ+ world ‘I Want to Break Free’ encapsulates the struggle many homosexual people faced during British rock band Queen’s era as well as staying as a reminder of the fight still going on. The powerful vocals of Freddie Mercury penetrate to a personal level inside all of us to the desire that we all want more than what we have. The music video challenged social norms at the time by having all the band members dressed in women’s clothing to represent how people are made to be something they are not. When first released the song was controversial in America and banned by MTV but now can be viewed as a constant reminder of fighting against oppression.
Rocky Horror – Sweet Transvestite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQRjhZyXJFg
The 1975 cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a personal guilty pleasure of mine with its catchy tune and brilliant lyrics. The performance of Tim Curry perfectly portrays the famous Dr Frank-N-Furter as he reminds us all not to ‘judge a book by its cover’ in the sensual and sexual song. More than just a homosexual anthem, ‘Sweet Transvestite’ stands for anyone deemed “different” facing oppression with an ‘I don’t give a damn attitude’.
Troye Sivan – Blue Neighbourhood Trilogy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xCMF7jsDJI (Viewer discretion: there are scenes of physical abuse some may find upsetting).
When an artist creates a story it is impossible to isolate something that comes together so beautifully. Unlike the first two tracks mentioned this collection of songs does not hide its message of oppression in an upbeat rhythm. The raw and stripped back sound of the songs reminds us all that people cope with things in different ways but also sometimes it can be too much. The Blue Neighbourhood Trilogy follows the story of two childhood friends who grow up and apart, their friendship turning into something more that becomes too much for one. The shocking and upsetting message is a reminder of what can happen when people don’t have the right support and are lead to believe they will never be accepted.
RuPaul – LGBT: https://soundcloud.com/rupaul1/lgbt-feat-chi-chi-larue
RuPaul has famously been quoted with ‘if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?’ The world famous drag queen has always been a spokesperson for the LGBTQ+ community and the song’s title speaks for itself with the message of accepting yourself before expecting others to do the same. With the lyrics following the belief that you can be who you want to be as long as you let me be me. The song calls out listeners to rise up and be themselves as RuPaul sings, ‘come on let me see you rock this town/come on let me see you tear it down.’ The message of always fighting whilst explaining the true ideal of the community: ‘LGBT you be who you wanna be.’
Kinky Boots – Raise You Up/Just Be: https://soundcloud.com/originalwestendcastofkinkyboots/raise-you-up-just-be
Coming from another iconic LGBTQ+ musical Kinky Boots’ ‘Raise You Up/Just Be’ speaks of support and making sure to always look out for one another during hard times. The musical marked the debut of Cyndi Lauper as a musical song writer with her lyrics of ‘if you hit the dust/let me raise you up’ reminding everyone they are not alone. The whole production surrounds the message that no one should be left to struggle alone and everyone deserves a helping hand. The song also reminds those who have managed to make it through hard times that they cannot forget those still fighting their own battles. The summary of the song being that people can face whatever threatens them and beat it with help from others who understand and that giving up is never an option.
Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HRa4X07jdE
When written for fantasy/comedy musical The Wizard of Oz who would have thought the impact the song would create in the LGBTQ+ community. The term ‘a friend of Dorothy’ became a way for gay men to identity to one another without revealing themselves during a time when it wasn’t safe. Since then the song has become a gay anthem of having faith for something better to come along, and keeping the hope that eventually it will. Although the lyrics originally related to a young farm girl’s dream of wanting to escape where she grew up the idea of ‘somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly/oh why, oh why can’t I?’ has become about not understanding how some people can be accept when others are not.
Christina Aguilera – Beautiful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAfyFTzZDMM
The pop and R&B ballad speaks of inner beauty and the importance of improving self-esteem over looks. The music video is a visual representation of the different kinds of people who exist in the world and how there is nothing wrong with them being themselves just because it is something others do not understand. With people still facing prejudice for things that harm no one ‘Beautiful’ is an emotional and uplifting song reminding people that they are accepted even if they don’t feel like it. That it’s okay if someone else thinks you’re “ugly” due to the way you are because they are wrong and you truly are ‘beautiful in every single way’. A true song for anyone struggling with accepting themselves no matter who they may be.
Pink – Raise Your Glass: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjVNlG5cZyQ
Like Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’, Pink’s ‘Raise Your Glass’ supports the differences in everyone in this song of celebration. Asking you to ‘raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways’ because there is no wrong way to be you. Pink’s music has always been about staying strong and understanding who you are so others cannot tear you down. ‘Raise Your Glass’ rallies everyone who has ever faced oppression because of who they are in a toast to them for not letting people tear them down. The simple and comical lyric of ‘what’s the dealio?’ questions those who see the differences in others as wrong and embodies the whole idea that prejudice has never made sense and will continue to be beaten.
Cyndi Lauper – True Colours: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPn0KFlbqX8
Already having one on the list for her inspiring writing in Kinky Boots, Cyndi Lauper lends her own voice to the song ‘True Colours’. A beautiful and moving song about not only being accepted because of your differences but being loved because of them too. ‘True Colours’ encourages people to be who they are because they will always find love with those who understand and accept them. The song also embodies the idea that you should never hide who you truly are because ‘your true colours come shining through’ and you should never try to darken yourself to please others.
Lady Gaga – Born This Way: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wV1FrqwZyKw
The pop artist Lady Gaga has been an outspoken supporter for underdogs through her entire career and has always put forward the belief that we are made to be who we are. The song born this way challenges those who believe that some people are made unnatural by saying, ‘I’m beautiful in my way because God makes no mistakes/I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way.’ Gaga sings about how as long as you are being who you were born to be there is nothing you are doing wrong.
Whether you belong to the community or are a supporter, continue to always love and support each other no matter what.
By Skye W.Winwood