What makes the perfect queer anthem? Is it a song that instantly has us beelining for the dance floor? A track that captures the LGBTQ+ experience like nothing before it? A rallying cry we hold dear to our hearts as we push forward, yet another year, toward the freedom and equality we deserve?
We can ponder and debate this until the sun comes up (trust us, we have), but the answer ultimately depends on the person pressing PLAY. The best Pride anthems are the ones that strike a chord with us, the ones that soundtrack our parties and weddings, the ones that get us through our darkest days and become a part of us forever.
This decade was full of these types of songs. The proliferation of queer music by LGBTQ+ musicians was unprecedented. More and more artists came out, wrote unabashedly about queer longing and lust, and often had a blast doing it. Their messages of self-love and acceptance have encouraged a new generation to wear their sexual orientations and gender identities like a badge of honor.
Below, we’ve pulled together 18 of our favorite queer anthems from the 2010s. While this list is by no means comprehensive, it is certainly representative of the diverse voices that have spoken to and for us these past 10 years. Here’s to another decade of excellent tunes and even greater visibility. Thank you for the music.
Robyn – “Dancing on My Own” (2010)
If there’s one image that stands out in Robyn’s shimmering synth-pop masterpiece, it’s that of stilettos traipsing over broken bottles. Could there be a more fabulous metaphor for resilience, for soldiering through the heartbreak and rejection and messy bullshit and somehow—somehow—rising above it? The Swedish diva’s beloved disco banger (which has only gotten better and more popular with age) isn’t overtly queer, but like its iconic foremother “I Will Survive,” it’s the tale of a wounded, isolated soul who finds her agency and independence only after she’s relegated to the sidelines. “Dancing on My Own” is also about survival, about seeing the beauty in the pain and the light beyond the “big black sky.” That’s a message that will always resonate with us. —Jason Lamphier
Lady Gaga – “Born This Way” (2011)
Three years after clawing her way into the pop music circuit with 2008’s “Just Dance,” Lady Gaga gave her Little Monsters exactly what they wanted: the definitive, impossible-to-misconstrue LGBTQ Pride anthem of the 2010s. While her second studio album’s feel-good chart-topping title track might have been a bit on the nose (“No matter gay, straight, or bi / Lesbian, transgender life / I’m on the right track, baby, I was born to survive”), what the she lacked in lyrical sophistication she easily made up for with a soaring (possibly lifted) chorus and the song’s zombie-fied surrealist video. With “Born This Way,” a superstar used her platform to tell the world that, yes, queer people were different—and all the better for it.—Sam Manzella
Rihanna – “We Found Love” (2011)
With a hook the size of her wardrobe budget, Rihanna delivered one of the most thrilling moments in 21st-century pop music, introducing a then relatively unknown Scottish DJ in the process. Written and produced by Calvin Harris, it became the longest-running No. 1 single of 2011 and the Barbadian singer’s biggest (and still best) song to date. Accompanied by a visually striking video that commented on Rihanna’s very public breakup with Chris Brown, the track managed to be both triumphant and tragic. That kind of emotional complexity, married to a beat so epic it deserves its own prequels, endeared “We Found Love” to many a queer heart. —Lester Fabian Brathwaite
Frank Ocean – “Forrest Gump” (2012)
In “Forrest Gump,” a highlight from Frank Ocean’s thrilling debut studio album, Channel Orange, the R&B visionary takes a classic embodiment of American masculinity—the football game—and turns it on its head. The result is queer in every sense of the word, from the churchy retro organ that opens the song, to the twangy surf-rock guitar that snakes around his vocals, to the fact that he choses a quirky 1994 Tom Hanks character as a stand-in for the man he’s fallen for. As cheerleaders chant behind him, Ocean details the joys and pangs of first love candidly, but simply. “You run my mind, boy,” he croons, adding, “I know you wouldn’t hurt a beetle, but you’re so buff and so strong.” Nothing sounded like this in 2012, and if there’s an undeniable ache in his delivery, the track is still the most celebratory thing Ocean has ever written—a moving, soulful addendum to the most important Tumblr post of the decade. —JL
Scissor Sisters – “Let’s Have a Kiki” (2012)
A song so big and crazy, it broke up the Scissor Sisters? The band’s frontman, Jake Shears, has said that after the success of “Let’s Have a Kiki” he felt there was nothing left for the band to achieve. Fair. Where do you go when you’ve released a bonkers ode to dressing up, going out, and getting your ass groped only to decide that the best party in town is back at home with your bitchy, high-heel-wearing friends? Also, props to the Sisters for teaching a few more straight people what the hell hunty means. —Christopher Rudolph
Kacey Musgraves – “Follow Your Arrow” (2013)
Nowadays, pop stars waving rainbow flags and yelling “gay rights” to their legions of fans feels like an essential part of branding, but it was a different story back in 2013, when Kacey Musgraves released “Follow Your Arrow,” the second single off her major-label debut. It was brave for a country singer to write a tune encouraging listeners to kiss boys or girls “if that’s what you’re into,” and to chose their own paths regardless of the restrictions placed upon them. Thanks to this earnest, straight-shooting gem, we were on Team Kacey long before she mounted that “High Horse” or sauntered onto RuPaul’s Drag Race. —CR
Tegan and Sara – “Closer” (2013)
With the lead single off their 2013 album Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara Quin cemented their transition from offbeat, moody indie rockers to pop’s essential sister duo (it was their first song to crack the U.S charts). The pair’s bright, sweet harmonies soften the frenzy of a track that is, all things considered, very horny (“All I dream of lately / Is how to get you underneath me”), and their massive, synth-fueled choruses sound equally at home blasting from your personal playlist as they do from the speakers of a club. Either way, this one is meant to be played loud. —SM
Perfume Genius – “Queen” (2014)
“Queen” is not so much a celebration of queerness as it is an act of defiance. As singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas transforms himself into a sardonic emblem of gay panic—a heaving, peeling, diseased monster looking for “an ass to break”—scenes of bigotry and trauma flash before our eyes. This is how much of the world has perceived queer people for decades, how it justified ignoring the AIDS crisis and why it is still trying to strip away our rights today. History has not always been kind to us, but Hadreas knows that sometimes the best way to effect change is to fight fire with fire, to be garishly and outrageously proud. When he utters the track’s most memorable line—”No family is safe when I sashay”—and that glam-rock squall of a chorus kicks in, he is daring homophobes to hate him. Because he knows he’s going nowhere. —JL
RuPaul – “Sissy That Walk” (2014)
RuPaul’s Drag Race has an actual theme song, but if the mainstreaming of drag that occurred this past decade could be summed up in a single anthem, it would be “Sissy That Walk.” Not only is it empowering, reminding the listener that life is about flying and falling, but it also begs you to stomp the runway—whether you’re at happy hour or alone in your room in the wee hours. It doesn’t hurt that it was heavily featured in what many consider the fiercest installment of Mutha Ru’s juggernaut competition show: Season 6. Fly, fly, fly! —CR
Against Me! – “True Trans Soul Rebel” (2014)
“God bless your transsexual heart,” Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace sing-screams in “True Trans Soul Rebel,” a fervid track off the group’s 2014 concept album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Grace’s smoky, impassioned vocals pair perfectly with the band’s harsh drum- and guitar-heavy production, and her position as a trans woman in punk rock—a genre still largely dominated by cisgender, heterosexual men—makes this cut all the more monumental. If it offers three rousing minutes of catharsis for listeners still struggling to sort out their identities, it also serves as a call to action for those who should be standing behind them. —SM
Carly Rae Jepsen – “Run Away With Me” (2015)
The saxophone intro to this now-iconic CRJ track has become a siren call to her queer fans. You hear those opening bars and you instantly know you’re home—and about to dance your ass off. When she reaches the refrain, brace yourself—it may be the closest you ever come to witnessing gay people mosh. Four years later, it still gets us so E•MO•TION-al. —CR
Hayley Kiyoko – “Girls Like Girls” (2015)
Kiyokos’s pop track arrived at precisely the right moment in history. In June 2015, marriage equality had just been legalized in America, and the country at large was warming up to the idea of same-sex couples pronouncing their relationships; hell, we’d even begun to have a national conversation about the state of transgender equality. With “Girls Like Girls,” Lesbian Jesus (as the singer was lovingly anointed by her fans) graced us with a teen-friendly soundtrack for those glorious, life-affirming summer days. The song is simple, catchy, and sugary-sweet, its message loud and clear: “Saw your face, heard your name / Gotta get with you / Girls like girls like boys do, nothing new.” Its pastel-hued music video packs a punch, too. (Pun intended.) —SM
Beyoncé – “Formation” (2016)
Who else can release a song on a Saturday and have everyone know its lyrics by Sunday? No one but Beyoncé, who dropped the video for this game-changing beast ahead of her second Super Bowl appearance of the decade. The lead single to her magnum opus Lemonade, “Formation” was immediately embraced as an anthem for women, black people, queer people, and, really, anyone who came to slay. —LFB
Charli XCX – “Boys” (2017)
“I was busy thinking ’bout boys,” an auto-tuned Charli XCX sang in 2017, effectively setting the bar for LGBTQ allies somewhere in the stratosphere. The British avant-pop singer had been putting out solid tracks for six years, but with “Boys” she kicked off a new stage in her career: one in which she would champion and collaborate with queer artists, from “Bloom” singer Troye Sivan to Chris of Christine and the Queens to Brazilian drag singer Pabllo Vittar. While she flies solo here, blending straightforward lyrics with a particularly gratifying “cha-ching!” sound effect (is she offing guys in a game of Super Mario or ignoring them as they blow up her phone?), the unbearably charming music video comes stocked with a warehouse-full of famous eye candy, including several queer men. Gay rights, bitch! —SM
Troye Sivan – “Bloom” (2018)
A song about bottoming? We have no choice but to stan. Okay, so maybe it’s not about bottoming, at least according to the young gay Aussie pop sensation known as Troye Sivan, so we’ll leave that up to you, the listener (psst… it’s about bottoming). “Take a trip into my garden, I’ve got so much to show ya… I’ve been saving it for you,” he sings on the seductive, pulsing title track of his second studio album. Good news: “Bloom” was well worth the wait. —CR
Kim Petras – “Heart to Break” (2018)
While Kim Petras’ ascent to stardom has left some wondering just how political a contemporary trans pop singer should be, one thing is certain: Girl brings the bops. Released on Valentine’s Day 2018, “Heart to Break” joins a long line of classics in which smitten heroines throw caution to the wind in the name of love (see “Lovefool” and “Heart of Glass,” Petras’ inspirations for the song). “Even if I end up in shatters, baby, it doesn’t matter,” Petras wails over a sparkling, bubble-gum chorus, knowing that she’s in way too deep to resist. The video—in which she plays a modern-day Rapunzel who descends from her tower for a dance-off with the object of her affection, only to splinter into pieces when they finally come together—adds to the proceedings, encapsulating the wily, winking, meta-pop persona she’s crafted over the past two years. The fact that it was cast with an inclusive group of LGBTQ performers is just the cherry on top. —JL
Janelle Monáe – “Pynk” (2018)
Hayley Kiyoko wasn’t messing around when she deemed 2018 20GayTeen. She also clearly spread the word: Pansexual icon Janelle Monáe broke the internet when she dropped “Pynk,” a super-sapphic single from her Grammy-nominated album Dirty Computer. The upbeat pop track is heavy on the hooks and light on the subtlety, with the singer slyly paying homage to her lover’s nether regions (“Pynk like the inside of your… Baby”). See also: its yonic AF music video, featuring her ex-bae, Tessa Thompson. —SM
King Princess – “Cheap Queen” (2019)
The “Pussy Is God” singer (née Mikaela Straus) teased her rabid superfans mercilessly before dropping Cheap Queen, her full-length debut, this October. And the album doesn’t disappoint: From top to bottom, it flaunts silky-smooth vocals, playful lyrics, and a sophisticated polish. The 21-year-old Mark Ronson protégée turns in a particularly standout performance on its rhythmic title track, which oozes with youthful abandon: “I can be good sometimes / I’m a cheap queen / I can be what you like.” With her clever come-ons and up-for-anything sex appeal, the new princess of queer pop is giving us exactly what we like. —SM
Listen to all the queer anthems from this list on our LogoTV Spotify playlist.