21 Songs to Kick-start Your Pride Playlist

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21 Songs to Kick-start Your Pride Playlistcourtesy of artists

Pride Month is officially upon us, and this year, it hits a little different. Retailers are pulling back on rainbow merch, brands are backing away from sponsorships, and some of our fair-weather friends are failing to stand up to even a light wind. This year, the forces of shame and ignorance and intolerance think they have the momentum. This year, we’ve got a real fight on our hands.

But that’s okay, because we know how to fight, because we’ve been here before. In 1970– barely a year out from the Stonewall Uprising, with homosexuality still listed as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association and a population openly hostile to the existence of gay people, much less our equality–a group of Los Angeles activists planned a happening. Should it be a protest? A march? A demonstration? “No,” said Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church. “We’re gay and this is Hollywood; we’re having a parade.”

This year’s Pride parades are going to be marches and protests and demonstrations, too. They’re going to need our fury and fierceness, our resilience and resolve, our glee and grit and gumption. Music can help: It can lend you the words to the feeling you can’t express, it can give you something to shout and dance along to, it can bond you with a friend or a lover or a stranger. Here are twenty-one songs to put the wind in your sails all month long.

“uhoh” — Kim Petras

Why: The defiance of young queer love in a hostile straight world has been depicted
in song before, but Petras does it better and more economically with one simple
couplet: “Baby, put your hand on my waist / Lady, get the fuck out the way.”

“Espresso” — Sabrina Carpenter

Why: Carpenter does not, to our knowledge, identify as queer. But this song is absolutely a thirty-two-year-old gay man who has very recently come out of a long-term relationship and has bought himself a ten-pack of Barry’s Bootcamp classes. Support him.

“Lipstick Lover” — Janelle Monae

Why: Monae’s latest album, The Age of Pleasure, didn’t make the mark her 2019 classic, Dirty Computer, did, but let’s not let this banger pass us by. (Put it back to back with Dirty Computer’s “Crazy Classic Life” if you want. There are no longer any rules.)

“Every Emotion” — Bright Light Bright Light

Why: Slow and steady wins the race. Welsh dance-pop artist and DJ Rod Thomas has grown his profile bit by bit over the past dozen years, and his new album, Enjoy Youth, is his finest yet. This track—with an assist from dance legend and Pride-festival fixture Ultra Naté–evokes 1992-era dance floors so thoroughly you can almost taste the Zima. (Please do not taste the Zima.)

“LUNCH” — Billie Eilish

Why: Billie, this is what you were made for. The newly out artist takes a quick break from collecting awards to focus on a summer crush, and guess what: Along with everything else, she is the best at having a summer crush.

“New London Boy” — Pet Shop Boys

Why: “Skinheads will mock you, call you a fag / Last laugh is yours, there’s a brick in your bag” is the kind of energy which we need this year. Pet Shop Boys are as vital as ever on this year’s Nonetheless, and this account of Neil Tennant’s years as an out gay man in late seventies London combines the near-rap of “West End Girls” with the epic storytelling of “Being Boring.”

“HOT TO GO!” — Chappell Roan

Why: I judged this book by its cover, and I was dead wrong. I saw the dour expression on the album cover and the Big Looks in the thumbnails of the live performances and thought Roan’s work would be all try-hard theater-kid art-pop. Nope: This is the most infectious and addictive pop song I’ve heard in ages. Snap and clap and touch your toes.

“Freedom ’90” — George Michael

Why: As bold a coming out as was available to an artist of George Michael’s magnitude in 1990, and a jam that holds all the way up to this very day. One can’t help but wonder how he would have fared if he’d been allowed to be as gay as he wanted to be from the jump, but the tension made for some great music.

“Honey” — Troye Sivan

Why: Troye has been as gay as he wanted to be from the jump, and we are here for it.

“Good Life” — Inner City

Why: The mixtapes Keith Haring used as his painting soundtrack have been turned into Spotify playlists, and they’re ready to inspire your creative endeavors all summer. This house track from 1989 is one of the most powerful antidepressants on the market.

“Ya Ya” — Beyoncé

Why: ’Cuz she’s a clever girl. Cowboy Carter is destined to be played at pool parties all summer long. No skips allowed, but if you’re going to skip back and give a track a second listen, make it this one.

“It’s a Bitch” — John Grant

Why: From his upcoming album, The Art of the Lie, the cult singer-songwriter lets his hair down and explores the discreet joy of “looking for hot heshers playing Robotron.” (Ask a Gen-Xer.)

“Dizzy” — Olly Alexander

Why: The UK’s Eurovision entry for 2024 is a banger, with a staging that was not so much homoerotic as homographic. It got zero points from the public. Public, get the fuck out the way.

“Karma” — JoJo Siwa

Why: JoJo’s post–coming-out bad-girl rebrand has been a real highlight of my year. It is the Chromatica Ball sponsored by Michaels. It threw the first snack-size bag of Teddy Grahams at Stonewall. It is quite simply a completely new kind of camp. You’ve got to hand it to her. (And then you’ve got to take it back from her and put it somewhere safe, because she is drunk.)

“I’m Back” — girl in red

Why: It is long past time to retire “We stan,” but first: We stan a pop artist who prioritizes self-care.

“Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of One Another” — Orville Peck and Willie Nelson

Why: Fun fact: I went to a cocktail reception and dinner party hosted by Orville Peck to celebrate the reopening of the Los Angeles Paul Smith store, and I can reveal that Peck has a whole other mask for meals. (It’s two braids, one on either side of his mouth, for easier fork access.) Anyway, how about Willie Nelson being on two of the year’s gayest albums?

“Pretty Persuasion” — REM

Why: The band’s second major-label album Reckoning turns 40 this year, and is a flawless summertime record. Another fun fact: With this track from that album, Michael Stipe invented bisexuality.

“No One Knows We’re Dancing” — Everything but the Girl

Why: A roll call of guests at the secret Sunday-afternoon dance party you will make it your business to get invited to. (EBTG are straight, but Sunday-afternoon dancing is queer-coded.) And “Fiat Cinquecento” turn out to be really fun words to sing out loud.

“See a Little Light” — Bob Mould

Why: In 1989, Husker Du lead singer Mould lightened things up—a little—on his solo debut, Workbook, and gave us a track whose defiant optimism we could really use in 2024.

“ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” — Tyler, the Creator

Why: Listen, we don’t know where in the alphabet Tyler lands, and his recent appearance on Jerrod Carmichael Reality Show didn’t clear anything up. But this track has the hot, woozy, Saturday-evening magic-hour vibes that are the real sounds of the summer. The perfect complement to the perplexing relationship in your life.

“I Know a Place” — MUNA

Why: It’s hard not to feel like the pendulum is swinging back against full acceptance of queer people. It’s hard not to notice how much meaner the world seems to be getting. It’s hard not to feel like the toughest battles are still ahead. But we still have each other. Let’s not forget that.

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