Best Gay Anthems of 2017: Critic's Picks

do not reuse
Patrick Crowley
      

It’s been one hell of a year for the LGBTQ community. President Donald Trump’s attempt at a ban on transgender soldiers in the military and his administration's symbolic removal of the LGBT page on the White House website are just a couple attacks the queer community have been forced to withstand, but on a brighter note -- and maybe as a response to this political climate -- LGBTQ artists are thriving. Not only did we see critical acclaim for albums from queer artists like Kelela, The xx and St. Vincent, but several LGBTQ artists and allies released empowering songs to help resist these dark times.

Before we look forward to what 2018 has in store (A double helping of Drag Race! A new Troye Sivan album! New music from Kylie Minogue and Madonna!) here are the best gay anthems from the past year.

10. Tove Lo, “Disco Tits”

“I’m fully charged/ Nipples are hard, ready to go,” declares the Swedish sex kitten on this eccentric US Dance Club Songs chart-topper. With its throbbing beat and Tove Lo’s coaxing coo, this is what any seedy gay bar worth its glitter should sound like at 2 a.m.

9. Riton, MNEK & House Gospel Choir, “Deeper”

English house DJ Riton (née Henry Smithson) enlisted the multi-talented MNEK for this undeniable empowerment anthem. With an Aretha Franklin sample, an undulating disco beat and literal chanting of the word “PRIDE!,” this song was tailor-made for LGBTQ festivities until the end of time.

8. Charli XCX, “Boys”

Charli knows what The Gays™ want, as evidenced by her new mixtape, Pop 2 -- which features a stacked line up of features guests including Carly Rae Jepsen, CupcakKe, Kim Petra and Mykki Blanco. But before that dazzler of an album, she proved her allegiance with her video for “Boys,” which featured a bevy of baes from Brendon Urie to Riz Ahmed to Connor Franta. The song left an undeniable mark on queer culture, spawning its own unofficial Grindr remix, and a version from a male’s perspective by queer upstart Sakima.

7. Hayley Kiyoko, “Feelings”

Kiyoko earned one-to-watch status with this groovy, all-too-relatable jam about overthinking a blooming relationship, with lyrics like “I over-communicate and feel too much/ I just complicate it when I say too much.” And not only did the singer help pen this song, but she directed its accompanying music video, which shows her pursuing a lady with the confidence usually reserved for male stars like Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber.

6. RuPaul, “Call Me Mother”

Was there a more hardworking entertainer in 2017 than RuPaul? It’s hard to say, but given the sudden attention to RuPaul’s Drag Race (which turns 10 next year) paired with cameos on Broad City and Girlboss, and a skit at the Emmys, Mama Ru was everywhere. And though she’s best known as a television personality these days, Ru has more than ten albums to her name, including this year’s fiesty American. The album’s ballroom-inspired standout “Call Me Mother” was performed on So You Think You Can Dance -- and soundtracks the teaser for All Stars 3, premiering in January. Werk!

5. MUNA, “I Know A Place”

This synth-pop standout was technically released in 2016, but it garnered more attention with the release of its powerful video, accompanied with a message from the band: “We wanted this video to be a depiction of the fact that acknowledging the humanity of your enemy can be the most powerful battle tactic of all. Lay down your weapon.” Given their opening slot on Harry Styles tour, expect to hear more from this talented trio.

4. Dua Lipa, “New Rules”

Dua Lipa may not identify as LGBTQ, but this track, combined with her outspoken allyship, is enough to secure her an honorary gay card. Nearly six months before its ascension to the upper tier of the Billboard Hot 100 (it reached a new peak of No. 14 this week), gay clubs adopted this track into regular rotation thanks to its slicky-choreographed video. Several months and an all-male parody later, we’re still listening to the gospel according to Dua: “because if you’re under him, you’re not getting over him.” Amen!

3. Halsey (feat. Lauren Jauregui), "Strangers"

This obvious standout from Halsey’s excellent hopeless fountain kingdom hasn’t seen the radio glory it deserves, but that doesn’t make it any less groundbreaking. Halsey insisted that her duet partner also be queer, creating an authentic track about lady love -- one where her feathery vocals compliment the rawness of Jauregui’s delivery.

2. Kehlani, “Honey”

Kehlani prefers to avoid labeling her sexuality, but this breezy, acoustic ballad is an undeniable ode to women: “I like my girls just like I like my honey/ Sweet, a little selfish.” The R&B vixen explained on Instagram why she specifically chose Aariana Johnson to play her love interest in the sun-soaked video: “this song was inspired by an androgynous woman, and I wanted to find someone who fell in line with that, who was “hard” yet so so soft (yes, like a bee).”

1. Sakima (feat. YLXR), “Daddy”

We’re incredibly lucky to live in a time when artists like Sam Smith, Tegan & Sara and Troye Sivan can thrive, but their songs’ narratives are generally PG. Meanwhile, a quick look at the Hot 100 top songs and you have Cardi B bragging about riding d--k and making fiancé Offset “c-m more when I see him less” on “MotorSport,” while Post Malone gloats about hooking up with groupies in “Rockstar.” Hetero artists are celebrated with chart success when they sing about sexual conquests, while queer artists are expected to keep it family-friendly -- an unspoken rule that Sakima refuses to abide by.

“I’m not doing it for the sake of it or because I’m a horny fucker,” the singer, born Isaac Sakima, told Billboard. “I’m doing it to represent gay people. We’re so underrepresented in pop music, especially when it comes to sexual expression. I want queer people to feel more connected to the mainstream culture.” And while both his releases this year, Facsimile and Ricky, are filled with innuendo, it’s the seductive, YLXR-assisted “Daddy” that deserves regular rotation at gay hot spots.

Given that Sakima was inspired by the sexual essence of Fifth Harmony’s “Work From Home” (“I wanted to take that and make it queer”), it wouldn’t be a stretch to hear his brand of electro-R&B on the dancefloor between club staples by Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga.

Billboard Year in Music 2017

 

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.