Now that we’ve had a while to process Lady Gaga’s new single, “Born This Way,” we have to admit we don’t love it. Because hey, we liked “Express Yourself” 20 years ago when Madonna did it. It won’t stop us from adoring Gaga and supporting the song’s message. But when Elton John starts calling it “the new gay anthem,” worthy of replacing the immortal “I Will Survive,” we’ve got to put our foot down. For one thing, there are plenty of much better new, queer anthems out there. Our list of ten strong candidates, all of which have come out in the 21st century, are after the jump.
MEN — “Who Am I to Feel So Free”
Talk About Body, the recently released debut album by JD Samson’s new crew MEN, is chock full of queer and feminist anthems. But the one that will bounce you from pride rally to dance floor is “Who Am I to Feel So Free,” a cheerleading chant of liberation. “Gay power,” indeed. For a bonus dose of Samson, check out “Viz,” the butch liberation track she sang in her last band, Le Tigre.
The Hidden Cameras — “Ban Marriage”
We can always count on some gleeful, Canadian subversion from Joel Gibb’s delightful Hidden Cameras. And we’re madly in love with their solution to the same-sex union quandary: ban marriage outright. (More suggested Hidden Cameras listening: “Music Is My Boyfriend.”)
Rufus Wainwright — “Gay Messiah”
Sure, it’s more than a little tongue-in-cheek. But this portrait of the gay messiah is wonderful through and through, “wearing tube socks with style and such an innocent smile,” and showing up “on the sand of Fire Island’s shore.” So follow the gospel of “Rufus the Baptist” and get yourself baptized in… well, listen and find out.
Gossip — “Standing in the Way of Control”
Nothing says liberation like Beth Ditto screaming, “You gotta live your life! Survive the only way that you know!”
Scissor Sisters — “Take Your Mama”
In case you’ve never bothered to listen to the lyrics to one of Scissor Sisters’ breakthrough singles, it’s about coming out to your mom by bringing her along for an evening of homo-tastic debauchery. So what if your “girl’s gone missing” and the wedding is off? Just get mama “jacked up on some cheap champagne” and “let the good times all roll out.”
Gravy Train!!!! — “You Made Me Gay”
“Listen up, ladies. I like guys and hate babies.” That’s the rallying cry of Gravy Train!!!!, who are getting mighty sick of women trying to get in their pants. And if you still don’t get the message? “I made up my mind, you silly ho. I’m gay!” Definitely one to put on the mixtape for the lady who thinks she’s gonna be the one to win you back to her team.
Yo! Majesty — “Club Action”
There’s no shortage of gay club anthems. But what’s a lady supposed to play at a lesbian dance party? For starters, try throwing on Yo! Majesty’s “Club Action.” And then do as the sapphic rappers advise: “Instead of running from the truth/ Man, just be you/ I’m gonna be me.” Amen, ladies.
Matmos — “Steam and Sequins for Larry Levan”
A few years back, experimental duo Matmos released The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of the Beast, and album-length tribute to notable queers in history, from Darby Crash to Valerie Solanas to Wittgenstein. But if you’re looking for something to get an old-school dance party going, the clear choice is “Steam and Sequins for Larry Levan.” Not only is it a post-disco masterpiece, but it celebrates the legendary Paradise Garage DJ who paved the way for the past three decades of dance music.
Christina Aguilera — “Beautiful”
In general, we’ve tried to stay away from your typical pop diva fare with this list. But the 21st century has given us one sappy gay anthem so unstoppable we couldn’t leave it out. In 2002, Christina Aguilera took a moment off from being “dirrty” to tell us we’re beautiful no matter how weird or goth or anorexic we are — even if we’re lonely drag queens! She even included a hot, lengthy gay kiss in the video to cement the song’s place in the queer canon.
Girls — “Lust for Life” [NSFW]
When you call your song “Lust for Life,” you’ve ensured that everyone is going to compare it Iggy Pop’s master work of the same name. But you know what? Christopher Owens actually pulled it off. His song kicks off with the lament, “Oh, I wish I had a boyfriend/ I wish I had a lovin’ man in my life” and then expands beyond the realm of queer anthem to describe just about everyone’s aimless, 20-something existence: “I wish I had a beach house/ And we could make a big fire every night/ Instead I’m just crazy.” Perhaps Girls’ biggest gift to the LGBT community is the NSFW version, which features a whole lot of full-frontal, pansexual canoodling.