Music videos, for many, have served as a creative escape; a form of art that allows an audience to absorb creative visuals of their favourite song or album. Across the years, LGBTQ+ listeners have gravitated to instant classics. From Britney Spears’ Toxic to Beyonce’s Single Ladies, we have eagerly latched onto a form of art that they have an affinity with. The Millenial, often white cis gay male, generation found solace in P!nk, Shania Twain, and Kelly Clarkson delivering lyrics that empowered their queerness.
That’s not to say LGBTQ+ artists didn’t exist or their artist wasn’t valued. The imprint left by the likes of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie can only be reimagined. The opening sequence of I Want To Break Free has numerously been parodied, imitated and paid homage to. Bowie’s D.J and Boys Keep Swinging were equally ramped with allusions to the singer’s fluid identity. The singer’s queer character, often described as an alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, took the nation by storm. Likewise, artists such as George Michael, Boy George and Pet Shop Boys have left their mark on the music world, especially in videos. Whether it be gender-defying drag outfits or releasing music inspired by the gay dance club scene, these musicians have redefined mainstream music.
However, at times, there has been something of a creative dissonance when it comes to finding artists that we could truly see ourselves in. Past generations of creatives still service as icons for younger listeners and remain relevant today, but, now, a new era of artists (alongside the iconic past) are recreating visibility in fresh ways. GAY TIMES have picked out 10 of our favourite music videos that have shaped the modern image of queer music. These videos (and artists) are unapologetic in their art and that’s how it should be. So, from Raveena to Hayley Kiyoko, you can check out our list of game-changing LGBTQ+ artists below.
MUNA – Silk Chiffon
An addictive modern-day hit, Silk Chiffon is the queer pop earworm that everyone has been unable to shake. This newly released music video riffs off the cult classic film But I’m A Cheerleader (1999) which sees the band parody its conversion therapy inspired plot. Believe us, it’s not as bleak as it sounds! The reimagined music video sees the band celebrate the song’s uplifting lyrics and shameless queerness. A playful queer anthem that can cure any bad day, this iconic single, featuring Phoebe Bridgers no less, is here to stick around.
Rina Sawayama – Bad Friend
A trailblazer in her own right, Rina Sawayam’s self-titled sophomore album, Sawayama, is a nuanced compilation of tracks tackling identity. The singer doesn’t stray away from big topics or even bigger lyrics. The music video for Bad Friend proves exactly that. The Brit-nominated artist steps into male drag for the video as, we, observe a how toxic dynamic between two men as a Japanese bar unfold. A shart portrayal of how masculinity can translate into friendship and social settings, Sawayama delivers an effortless image of how Bad Friend stands for much for than a platonic breakup banger.
Perfume Genius – Queen
Seattle-based pop artist Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius steals the show in his music video for Queen. The track, taken off his third studio album, Too Bright, is a confident pop-infused retaliation at hate thrown towards the LGBTQ+ community. Flamboyantly dressed, Hadreas fearlessly explores the expression of gender, image, and unfiltered queerness. If you haven’t seen it already, the music video for Queen is a must.
Lil Nas X – Call Me By Your Name
If there’s a music video that we had to hail as the most instrumental this year, it would be this. Lil Nas X has shaken up the industry with back to back music videos causing a stir across the scene. While I’m sure the comments will argue That’s What I Want or Industry Baby deserved a spot (and we don’t disagree), nothing caused a moment like Call Me By Your Name. Single-handedly the young artist outraged Republicans, global businesses, and basically everyone on the internet. Maybe it was the strip pole descending into Hell or the Satan lap dance, we’re not quite sure, but for that alone, it’s a video worth crediting.
Hayley Kiyoko – Girls Like Girls
It would be amiss to overlook the impact Girls Like Girls has had on the community. Released in June 2015, the song took off going viral on social media and across the fandom for its open, vulnerable portrayal of romance between two friends. Equally, the video candidly rewrote the queer “punchline” ending (a trope historically used in videos e.g. Olivia Newton-John’s Physical or on a lesser gimmicky take Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe.
Moreover, the comments below the video reaffirm the impact of the video with many commenting how it helped them acknowledge their own sexuality or appreciate allyship as a part of the community. Either way, both the video and track remain popular hits and it’s easy to understand why.
Raveena – Temptation
American R&B artist Raveena is known for her carefully curated imagery and soothing song quality. In her daydream visual for Temptation, we see the singer act out a Bollywood-style video that explores the details of personal temptation. A wonderful collage of bold colours, the music video challenges how desire can be perceived and flips the typical heteronormative male gaze in which we see sexual fluidity and sexuality. A thoughtful delicate display of joyful QPOC intimacy, Temptation needs to be added to your list.
Lady Gaga – Born This Way
A queer staple, Born This Way has stood the test of time and it would be slanderous not to include it. From its days of being massacred by the early season of Glee to its longevity online, Born This Way’s reputation is well deserved. Let’s not forget its influence on today’s generation either. In fact, earlier this year, internet sensation JoJo Siwa famously used the song to publicly come out as LGBTQ+ to fans. But, lyrics aside, its visuals serve equal campness. After all, we’re talking pink triangles, Mother Monster, aliens and space — sounds queer to us. As of 2021, Born This Way celebrates its 10th anniversary and it’s to say it was a song (and music video) ahead of its time.
Zolita – Somebody I F*cked Once
A newfound fan-favourite, Somebody I F*cked Once has chalked up over 8 million views in less than a month. Leading with an all-too-familiar high school backdrop, Zolita’s coming-of-age style single unpacks a young queer romance as a high school cheerleader starts questioning sexuality. To say its intensely queer narrative (and happy ending love story) has been well received is an understatement. The newly released track has gone viral on social media, particularly with LGBTQ+ fans on Tik Tok recreating scenes of the video and lipsyncing the lyrics. So, if you don’t want to miss the Gen Z hype, check out the song below.
Troye Sivan – Angel Baby
A provocative unfiltered video, Angel Baby is a synth-laden ballad set against a cinematic film, showcasing mutual romance and yearning. A new 90s-inspired hit, the song embodies a true sense of confidence and comfort, which is refreshing to see. Sivan’s video slips into the caste of being quietly powerful for its doting representation and absence of shame or trauma. It’s a purely positive music video with an accompanying visualizer to match.
Tove Stryke – Sway
Released in 2018, Trove Stryke was pushing the frontier of colourful Scandinavian pop. As the likes of Sigrid, Anna of The North, Zara Larsson swirled across the charts and playlist, Stryke churned out her own sonic landscape. Most notably, the young artist gave us Sway. An album with the same name, the opening track, was an uplifting introspective look into chemistry. Undoubtedly catchy single, the music video gave way to further interpretations and meaning. We watch a duo of male skaters freely cruise through the streets sharing a seamless bond together. It isn’t until the track’s bridge, with Stryke singing: “I don’t see nothing wrong / With you and me getting along”, that we see this platonic relationship quickly flip into a spontaneous make-out session between the two boys; a tension that visibility built through the video with quick glances and stares. Together, the video and track stands as an artful homage to the community.