In celebration of Pride Month, we asked a few of our favorite LGBTQ notables to choose their all-time favorite anthems and tell us why. Below, check out 25+ queer party essentials and stream them all on our exclusive Spotify playlist:
Beth Ditto: "Young Hearts Run Free" by Candi Staton
"Come on. Candi Staton? It’s so good. It's a true jam."
Rufus Wainwright: "My Baby Just Cares For Me" by Nina Simon
"It's a great love song. Plus, it mentions Liberace."
Perfume Genius: "Flower" by Liz Phair
"I heard it when I was 12. I knew I was gay, but I’d never had sex. I was only starting to think about sex, and it was a source of deep shame for me. And then to hear her talking about it—to sing 'dick' and specific sex acts and shit with no apologies, no shame—that was really powerful for me. She was in control."
John Cameron Mitchell: "All the Time" by Barry Manilow
"I loved him as a kid. My favorite was 'All the Time,' a non-hit solely written by him. The big hits were often written by other guys. But this and 'You Are My Child' were straight from the heart. The lyrics, 'All the time I thought there's only me / Crazy in a way that no one else could be / I can't believe that you were somewhere too / Thinking all the time there's only you. It's a somewhat bitter celebration of love that is so compartmentalized and hidden that it passed like 'Ships in the Night'—another great Barry song—but it resonated hard for me growing up closeted in Kansas. All the time they were right there. Fear triumphs again, but not anymore. Barry's finally out. Time for new songs, Barry."
Lady Bunny: "Keep on Dancing" by House of Wallenberg
"I'm going to shamelessly choose a little known song co-written by me. It's called 'Keep On Dancing' by House Of Wallenberg, featuring Jwl B and myself on vocals. The song was written in response to the Pulse shooting in Orlando and its sales benefit the One Orlando Fund. Jwl B actually lost friends in that tragic event. The song's chords are a little melancholy, because it's in response to a tragedy. But what I like about it is that the lyrics urge us to fight or 'resist' anything which threatens our community. With a new vice president who favors conversion therapy and the rise of the homophobic alt-right internationally, this message is still timely. It's both [a] stirring call to action and a soulful celebration."
Daniel Lismore: "I Am What I Am" by Gloria Gaynor
"I had a fling with a drag queen at 16. She took me to her gig and sang this song to a group of burley straight people. I then knew what I was."
Love Bailey: "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" by Whitney Houston
"Her song with the voice of an angel takes me to church and that moment all the pain fades. I feel love from head to toe and my spirit just wants to dance the night away."
Garrett Swann: "Freedom" by George Michael
"Not only did this song made me want a bust a move, it signified the release of the clutches of pain. It was an assurance of escape. Letting go. Letting lose. It made me feel empowered and God knows I wanted to be Linda Evangelista cat walking a hallway. So dramatic."
Fran Tirado: "Dancing Queen" by ABBA
"The narrative incident of this song follows a 17-year-old girl gathering the courage to go out and dance, but the pronouns allowed for me (at 17) to put myself in her shoes. ('Getting in the swing / You come to look for a king.') I love that the song tells a happy story, one where a girl forgets the troubles of the world, just for one night, yet the melody has this bright melancholy to it that is honest and distinctly queer. Just for this moment, she is her utmost self, confident and glittering. She is a queen."
Tommy Dorfman: "Million Dollar Bill" by Whitney Houston
"This song came out soon after I did. At that time, I was sneaking into gay bars in Atlanta, and this song was playing everywhere. Whenever it comes on now, I'm always brought back to that summer of finally feeling free and in my own skin."
Tanner Cohen: "Friends" by Bette Midler
"If there was a song that played every time I walked into any room anywhere, I'd want it to be this song. My fanfare. It makes me proud to be alive on this blessed ass planet, which is exactly what it's about: life and survival alongside the people you love."
Ben Bauer: "Can't Get You Out of My Head" by Kylie Minogue
"This song was playing when I met my first boyfriend at my first Pride in Portland, Oregon. Every time I hear it all the feels come rushing back and I'm just a baby gay dancing my damn face off."
Andrew Morrison: "World Princess Pt. II" by Grimes
"Do you like to wander around the city alone with your headphones on? If so, try it while playing this song."
Jonny Pierce (The Drums): "All is Full of Love" by Björk
"I grew up in a household where love between two men or two women was viewed as not just a sin—but an abomination. These people who made me hate who I was for so many years—they know nothing about what real love is. I like to think that my real education started when I moved to New York City. This was the place where I started to come alive, started to finally begin the process of loving myself, and ultimately be able to properly love others. When I look at the pride movements going on now, whether it be a parade, a protest or a party, I really do see how easy it is to tap into real-deal-type-of-love. But it all begins with loving yourself—very fitting that the music video for this song is two robots with the same 'Björk' plastic face kissing each other."
Ryan Fitzgibbon: "Express Yourself" by Madonna
"Look no further for an invitation to be free than Madonna's 'Express Yourself.' For someone who never felt comfortable being their queer, young, and fabulous self, this 1989 hit gives you full permission to live openly. It’s a great reminder that holds up every time I listen today."
James Whiteside: “I Know a Place” by MUNA
"Sometimes you just need a swift kick in the ass. This song is exactly that. It tells us to take our sadness and frustration, and turn it into something beautiful—to take solace in love, kindness and perseverance, not to mention a killer dancefloor bop."
Betty Who: “Gimme More” by Britney Spears
"'Gimme More' by Britney Spears came out when I was a sophomore. It was my first year at arts school and, particularly coming from an all girls religious boarding school, it felt like I had finally found a home and community with this group of insanely talented young people. Everybody wanted to be different and authentically themselves. We'd throw dance parties every weekend and this song was probably played 10 times a night, every Saturday, all. Fucking. Year. It was our anthem."
Conrad Ricamora: “Freedom” by George Michael
“I think I was a kid when I first heard it and I didn't fully know what he was talking about. But something about the word ‘freedom’ being sung over and over again was really inspiring. Later on in life, I realized that the song perfectly embodies the pressure that society puts on us to be the ‘lies’ that they want us to be. And I love how the song empowers people to be their authentic selves.”
Daniel Franzese: “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga
"It's one of the most energetic and happy celebrations of being who you are. It still never fails to get me emotional thinking of all the young LGBTQ kids that can cover themselves in the blanket of this message as they literally repeat 'Baby I was born this way'— a mantra many need to hear. I was Grand Marshall of Portland PDX pride and I remember the entire LGBTQ rainbow dancing to the song. And I knew how important my decision was to celebrate who I am regardless of what anyone else thought or felt about it."
Sasha Velour: "I Am What I Am" by La Cage aux Folles
“It's probably the old queen in me, but Pride is the season when I listen to every recording of ‘I Am What I Am’ from La Cage aux Folles. It's a classic, totally overly sentimental song about being a drag queen, or any kind of unapologetic queer! My Russian grandmother used to listen to it around the house while she cleaned. She was Zaza in every way. My favorite lyric is, 'Some think it's noise, I think it's pretty.’ I love that reminder to set your own rules for how to live life, how to be you, and how to be gorgeous!"
Nicola Formichetti: "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga
"Do I really need to explain?"
Eureka O’Hara: "Proud" by Martha Wash
“When I was competing in a national pageant, I almost wanted to quit, and I heard this song. The lyrics, ‘I'll make you proud of loving me’ told me what I needed to hear. It reminded me of all the people that love and support me which makes the people that discriminate and not love or care for me, not matter at all. Because I have a family and a troop that loves and supports me in my LGBT community, and it gives me pride. My ultimate goal is to make those people proud of loving me.”
Alexis Michelle: "I Am What I Am" by Gloria Gaynor
"It was on a compilation CD I had called Dancing Queens, and as soon as I heard it, I could see myself doing the number. I performed it with two of my best friends back-up dancing for me at my end of the year outdoor party, senior year of high school. I was nervous doing it in front of the head of our theatre department, and after he said, ‘You're really good at that!'"
Charlie Hides: "You Make Me Feel Mighty Real" by Sylvester
"I remember dancing to it at my very first Pride Block Party in 1982. The crowd was electric and jubilant. At the time, there were ominous news reports and rumors in the community about a nameless new disease affecting gay men, but on that day, we young and alive and happy. That song always transports me back to that joy filled day."
Boy Radio: "It’s Not Right But It’s Okay" by Whitney Houston
"It’s hands down, one of my favorite songs that always gets play during Pride in NYC. There aren't too many songs that hype up a crowd seconds after it starts, so I generally lose my composure whenever this plays. Whitney blessed the world with a ‘show me the receipts’ anthem and the confidence to sing ‘I'm gonna make it anyway’ in spite of the drama.”
Darren Stein: "Dancing Queen" by ABBA
"I was going to NYU in 1992, and I found this little restaurant in the West Village called Universal Grill. It was the gayest place in the world with this camp decor and the most amazing comfort food. It was somebody’s birthday and they blasted Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’ on vinyl, and the entire staff danced over to the table with a tiara and jangling tambourines, singing along with the entire jam-packed restaurant. I remembered the song from Muriel’s Wedding, but this was the moment it became a queer anthem to me —it was like the musical equivalent of queer unbridled joy."
Jonathan Groff: "I’m Coming Out" by Diana Ross
"I was going through a big Diana Ross phase this past summer, for whatever reason. I was just listening to the song ‘I’m Coming Out’ over and over. I always liked that song, but I kind of knew it from the '90s when Notorious BIG did it on 'Mo Money Mo Problems.' And my friend told me I needed to drop back in with the original one because it’s so fucking good. And then I learned that it’s like the only Top 40 song with a trombone solo. It’s just so fucking good. The more I listen to it, the more I love it."
Tyler Oakley: "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga
"It perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Pride, is by my favorite artist of all time, and is an actual timeless bop."
Leon Else: "I Feel Love" by Donna Summer
"This makes me want to shake my arse—makes me feel like I want to lose myself in the music. It always makes me feel like I want to dance and lose my shit. Throw you bag, throw your weave and just lose yourself in the music dancing on your own."