Taste the rainbow with these gay anthems at your next karaoke party
Across the country and even the world, the month of June is recognized by many as Pride month for the LGBTQ community. With its origins dating back to the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York, pride celebrations have quadrupled in size and popularity over the years. And yes, it’s usually a big party, but it’s also an important time to demonstrate activism for equal rights. And over the years, music has played a vital part in keeping LGBTQ awareness and the party alive. Here we have outlined twenty essential LGBTQ anthems that are perfect for any karaoke party, especially during Pride season.
And for your viewing and listening pleasure, we have done most of the work for you by supplying vids to karaoke versions powered by karaoke resources like Karafun and SingKingKaraoke. Now go and do your homework, so you can slay the house down.
“Somebody to Love,” Queen
As difficult as it is to sing anything with Freddie Mercury leading, the music of Queen remains a karaoke go-to. But when it comes to LGBTQ anthems, the heartwarming “Somebody to Love” probably registers the most for its meaning. It’s still a complex song, full of harmonies and capturing the essence of flamboyant rock gospel. But like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it stands out as karaoke gold. America’s Got Talent contestant and openly gay singer Brian Justin Crum even wowed the judges with his hair-raising cover during his season 11 audition.
“Don’t Leave Me This Way,” Thelma Houston
Hands down, this disco remake from the Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes songbook ranks as one of the greatest disco songs of all time. It might be the only thing Thelma Houston is known for, but it’s dancing perfection. Discos ate it up then, and with its infectious four-on-the-floor action, sweeping strings, soaring chorus and powerful churchy vocals from Houston, it remains a big draw in karaoke land. Big careful when performing this Grammy-winning hit though, especially if it’s the longer version. As memorable as it is in films like 54 and The Martian, and being revived by Jimmy Somerville, it’s clearly not designed for amateurs.
“This Is Me,” Keala Settle
This Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated standout in the motion picture musical The Greatest Showman has quickly become a favorite in karaoke world. And thanks to its gospel flavoring, its self-empowering force (“I know that there’s a place for us/For we are glorious”) and pop finesse, it emerges as one of the biggest gay anthems of the 21st century. Pop icon Kesha also recorded a version of the song on its official soundtrack.
“Dancing Queen,” ABBA
“You can dance, you can jive/Having the time of your life,” the foursome of ABBA sings on the perennial “Dancing Queen.” Gay audiences ate it up, as a tongue-in-cheek design for flamers. Thanks to its charming singalong prowess, it’s easily become their most requested song at karaoke bars. It’s also an overall classic in most karaoke strongholds. And with the arrival of Mamma Mia! and Glee, it’s probably going to stay that way.
“Brave,” Sara Bareilles
With remnants of Katy Perry’s “Roar” in place, the feelgood spirited “Brave” is also a self-empowering pop gem, pushing people to live their lives to its fullest: “Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out/Honestly, I want to see you be brave.” But the true story behind the song’s inspiration comes from one of Bareilles’s closest friends struggling to come out as gay. And thanks to its rapturous chorus, one can easily expect booming singalongs at karaoke.
“Dancing On My Own,” Robyn
Electro-pop icon Robyn treated us with this pounding dance workout focusing on the loneliness of rejection. Gays easily related to it, claiming it as a long, gruesome chapter in queer nightlife. It was more personalized when openly gay UK singer Calum Scott embraced the song in an acoustic ballad form and turned it once again into a critical chart smash.
“If I Could Turn Back Time,” Cher
Cher is a gay treasure, and plenty of songs echo from karaoke chambers across the country, even the globe. But this 1989 pop-rock hit penned by pop songwriting royalty Dianne Warren probably incites the most singalong action. The song singlehandedly re-launched her career at a time when she needed a music comeback. And thanks to the ever-popular music video, where she’s singing in a sexy one-piece fishnet bathing suit on a naval ship with seamen, the song earned a very special place in gay video bars and drag shows.
“Born This Way,” Lady Gaga
When it comes to gay anthems, it’s hard to eclipse the forward love letter of “Born This Way.” A Number One hit single, Lady Gaga brightens up the LGBT rainbow with this loud-and-proud declaration for queer pride. “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen,” she echoes on a synthpop smash that ironically sways like Madonna’s “Express Yourself.” Despite the controversy of ripping off Madge, Gaga creates a song that stands up against her greatest singalongs of “Bad Romance,” “Poker Face” and “Just Dance.”
“I Am What I Am,” Gloria Gaynor
Taken from the musical La Cage Aux Folles, Gloria Gaynor manages to pull off yet another gay anthem with this disco-powered cover. It’s more electro, leaning on the edges of Amii Stewart’s “Knock on Wood.” Other than the fact that the song was actually penned by gay Broadway composer Jerry Herman and features an astonishing set of self-empowering lyrics, the 1983 Eurodisco take handled by producer Joel Diamond was enough to turn this dance track into a sweaty knockout in gay discos. Other versions by John Barrowman and Dame Shirley Bassey are out there, but if you want to put some pep in your step, go for Gaynor.
“Supermodel (You Better Work),” RuPaul
Drag icon RuPaul has produced a number of gay club-worshipped anthems, particularly “Sissy That Walk” and “The Realness,” but the now-iconic 1993 dance hit has become a pop culture phenomenon. It’s been heard on King of the Hill, used for lip-synching glory on Lip Synch Battle and used in multiple films. Because of its influx of popularity, karaoke platforms have opened up its doors to the runway party jam, allowing the Shantayes of the world to sashay away.
“You Make Me Feel Mighty Real,” Sylvester
With a splash of San Francisco techno and lavish gaiety, Sylvester became one of the kings of the disco (or queens, depending on who’s talking). Although he remains one of the most unsung artists in pop music, “You Make Me Feel” continues to rise as a statewide phenomenon. It’s been used heavily for TV commercials, sitcoms, movie soundtracks and remade by dozens of acts (including Byron Stingily, Jimmy Somerville and Jennifer Hudson). But none of those versions eclipse the freshness and soulfulness of the original. Having said that, it’s always a fun time when this is pulled out for karaoke. It screams gay!
“Beautiful,” Christian Aguilera
“I am beautiful no matter what they say/Words can’t bring me down,” a soulful Christina Aguilera sings on the glowing chorus of “Beautiful,” a piano-heavy ballad showcasing an uplifting journey about self-empowerment. From the jump, it was fully embraced as a positive resource for the LGBTQ community, even earning a GLAAD Media Award. It helps that it’s penned by out singer/songwriter Linda Perry. It remains one of Aguilera’s signature tracks and a favorite at karaoke. Even bars that fear ballads in a busy party setting are cool with this selection.
“True Colors,” Cyndi Lauper
This dreamy uplifting pop ballad from beloved pop-rock icon Cyndi Lauper is ‘80’s FM gold. It was a Number One hit then, and it remains a Number One hit in the hearts of so many LGBTQ people. In its lyrics, she sings “true colors are beautiful like a rainbow.” It’s just one of the obvious eye winks to her queer fans. Lauper is also an advocate and glowing ally for the community, developing the non-profit True Colors Fund to help erase LGBTQ youth homelessness in New York. If you’re looking for a more rhythmic version, look to the lovely Babyface-produced version performed by Phil Collins.
“Holding Out for a Hero,” Bonnie Tyler
With its derivative ‘80’s dance-pop rhythms, “Looking for a Hero” sweats like a gay club classic. Over the years, this gem from the Footloose soundtrack has been licensed for Arby’s commercials and for rounds of TV ads. But in the world of drag, the Bonnie Tyler classic is a soaring theatrical knockout. Many queens have touched it for the late-night performances and in pageants, but the late Tandi Iman Dupree, dressed as Wonder Woman, may hold the title for dropping the most jaws. Now viewable on YouTube and viewed over a million times, Dupree’s opening entrance and the effortless choreography during the 2001 Miss Gay Black America pageant is the epitome of top-tier bucking drag.
“It’s Raining Men,” The Weather Girls
Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes, former background singers for out and proud disco singer Sylvester, strutted their stuff on this composition penned by Donna Summer lyricist Paul Jabara and Dave Letterman musical director Paul Shaffer. Although overwhelmingly campy (especially its music video), the song became a crowd favorite and even soared to number one on the UK charts. And thanks to its overtly male anatomy worship and compounding it with praise to Mother Nature, it rises above sea level when it comes to epic gay anthems.
“I Will Survive,” Gloria Gaynor
The powerful words of survival and self-awareness coming from Gloria Gaynor provided much strength and solace during the last days of disco and the early days of the AIDS crisis: “Do you think I’d crumble, did you think I’d lay down and die?/Oh no, not I, I will survive.” This musical prayer, delivered by one of the greatest divas of disco, gives more life than Sunday morning sermon. Almost every culture, background, gender and race has embraced this Grammy award-winning anthem, elevating it as one of the greatest karaoke singalong staples ever.
“And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” Jennifer Holliday
Without question, gays love showtunes, and there’s a world of Broadway anthems they thoroughly plow through on the regular. But “And I Am Telling You,” the 1982 dramatic power ballad sung by Jennifer Holliday in Dreamgirls, may surpass all of those song choices at karaoke. For starters, there’s the anguish that the character Effie White goes through that the oppressed and marginalized gay community understands. And with the AIDS crisis being in peripheral view, claiming the lives of the song’s co-author Tom Eyen and Dreamgirls choreographer Michael Bennett, the song had new meaning. As a single, it rocketed up the Billboard charts at number 22 (#1 R&B), establishing Holliday as a pop and R&B singer. It also won Holliday a Tony and Grammy, a somewhat unusual feat for Broadway selections. And with Jennifer Hudson touching it for the film adaption, it garnered larger-than-life attention in pop culture.
“We Are Family,” Sister Sledge
Easy, breezy and fun: That’s the best way to describe this joyful disco celebration. It ranks up there with Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” as being one deliberate party starter. Penned by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic, this ageless pop and R&B hit has been used at numerous sporting events and grown to become both a gay and women’s anthem. And with its catchy singalong chorus (“We are family, I got all my sisters with me), it’s easy to understand why. In 2017, an electro-house UK Pride version designed by Disco Fries and Reigns was released.
Madonna’s homage to ballroom culture and vintage fashion became an inescapable rite of passage for queer youth in the early ‘90’s. But with the goddess powers of Madonna, she reels everyone in for the lyrical bait: “It makes no difference if you’re black or white, if you’re a boy or a girl/If the music’s pumpin’ it will give you new life/You’re a superstar, yes that’s what you are.” Today, it ranks at the very top of Madonna’s most requested hits. Thanks to a perfect concept video placed in heavy rotation and Shep Pettibone’s supporting production, house dance clubs are powerless if they aren’t equipped with this classic. And it bears a jubilant chorus that has sing-along superpowers.
“I’m Coming Out,” Diana Ross
Nile Rodgers explicitly wrote “I’m Coming Out” alongside Chic partner Bernard Edwards with the purpose of making an anthem dedicated to Diana Ross’s devout gay following. At the time, Ross had strong concerns, observing that the song might sabotage her career since she wasn’t gay. After some convincing, the song landed on her Diana album and was released as the follow-up to “Upside Down.” Gays and discos quickly embraced the song, and still do. And with a joyful Ross on lead, coming out has never sounded so good. Today, she almost always opens her concerts with “I’m Coming Out.”
If you’re looking for the original recording of these songs, we’ve got you covered. Check out our Pride Anthems playlist on Spotify.