Two years ago, just before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage equality nationwide, we asked “Where are all the same-sex love songs?” Turns out that they’re not that easy to find, mainly because LGBTQ musicians tend to sing love songs without using same-sex pronouns; that makes the songs more appealing to mainstream audiences, but decidedly less queer.
So we’ve created the ultimate queer love playlist filled only with songs that use same-sex pronouns—love out loud! The end result is a wide-reaching list filled with artists and genres spanning from the ’70s to the current day. We hope you enjoy them with the people you love.
Oh, and please let us know if we missed any of your favorites!
1. “She Keeps Me Warm” by Mary Lambert
Whether you’ve ever heard of Mary Lambert or not, you’ve more than likely heard her lyrical hook on Macklemore’s “Same Love”. It goes, “I can’t change, even if I tried, even if I wanted to.” The lyric came from this song recounting a woman’s experience of slowly falling in lesbian love.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “She says I smell like safety and home / I named both of her eyes forever and please don’t go / I could be a morning sunrise all the time, all the time yeah”
2. “Papa was a Rodeo” by the Magnetic Fields
Addressed to a guy named Mike, “Papa was a Rodeo” features openly gay singer Stephen Merritt slowly crooning about how his broken upbringing has left him damaged goods. The song sounds like a bummer until its final lyric when his lover of 55 years sings the exact same thing back to him.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “I like your twisted point of view, Mike / I like your questioning eyebrows / You’ve made it pretty clear what you like / It’s only fair to tell you now / that I leave early in the morning / and I won’t be back till next year / I see that kiss-me pucker forming / but maybe you should plug it with a beer.”
3. “Just Some Guy” by Anthony Rapp
You might know Anthony Rapp better as Mark Cohen from the original Broadway production of Rent. Rapp apparently makes coin now by creating music of his own, including this love song about a modest guy who has captured a lucky man’s heart.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “And he’s holding me, now, even tighter, and he’s breathing me in / And he’s telling me again that he loves me, and he’s tracing his fingertips over my skin”
4. “Beautiful Day” by Brett Every
Sydney-based gay singer-songwriter Brett Every has four albums out; his third, Tales of Ten Men, included this a song about two guys getting hitched. It’s a simple, unpretentious song whose love comes from the groom, friends and family members alike.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “‘What a beautiful day’ / My mom said, “If your dad was alive / He’d be beaming with pride / Though he would jokingly say ‘Son, tell me, when two men get married /
Who carries, and who’s carried?’ / But you know my son, well that he knows- / That, with all his belief, the answer is both.'”
5. “Hold Each Other” by A Great Big World
The New York duo of A Great Big World got a big break when their song “This is the New Year” got performed on a 2013 episode of the TV musical series Glee. Their 2015 single “Hold Each Other” comes off as a bit bisexual since it acknowledges a female lover in its first half and a male one in its second.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “He keeps my heart from getting broken / When the days get short / and the nights get a little bit frozen / We hold each other”
6. “Real” by Years and Years
Olly Alexander, the gay frontman for Years and Years, once said, “It is kind of sad to me that we don’t have gay pop stars singing about men using a male pronoun,” and so he set out to change that. He often sings openly about his same-sex feelings including in this tune in which he wonders what it takes to get another guy to love him back.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “And I’ll do what you like if you’ll stay the night / You tell me don’t think you should / You do it boy, well…. I itch all night / I Itch for you / You’re just my type / What’s a boy to do?”
7. “Forrest Gump” by Frank Ocean
When Ocean came out on American Independence Day (July 4. 2012, music critics speculated the impact his gayness would have on American hip-hop. He’s certainly the most visible openly gay hip-hop artist around and songs like “Forrest Gump” have kept his same-sex feelings above water; he even performed it at the 2013 Grammys.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “But you’re so buff, and so strong / I’m nervous Forrest / Forrest Gump / My fingertips, and my lips, they burn / From the cigarettes / Forrest Gump you run my mind boy”
8. “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” by Sophie B. Hawkins
Fans of ’90s music will undoubtedly remember Hawkins’ romantic hit, but they may not remember its expression of lesbian desire late into the tune. One could interpret the song as sexually ambiguous, but Hawkins’ real-life omnisexuality should demonstrate her song’s romantic applicability to either gender.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “I sat on the mountainside with peace of mind / I lay by the ocean making love to her with visions clear / Walked for days with no one near / And I return as chained and bound to you”
9. “Michael” by Franz Ferdinand
While everyone remembers “Take Me Out” from this Scottish band’s self-titled 2004 debut album, few folks realized that there was a gay love song hiding just six tracks away from their hit single. The lyrics of this fast-paced dance floor romance get pretty steamy too.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “Michael you’re the boy with all the leather hips / Sticky hair, sticky hips, stubble on my sticky lips”
10. “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill
It wasn’t easy being in Bikini Kill, the radical feminist band that became known as forbearers of the early 1990s riot grrrl movement; male concert goers hated the band for their unapologetic pro-female politics and, later on, some female punk rockers hated the band for allegedly selling out to media misrepresentations of the movement. No matter how you felt about their positioning, their scuzzy and in-your-face lesbian love song still feels as dangerous and sexy now as it ever was.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “When she talks, I hear the revolution / In her hips, there’s revolution / When she walks, the revolution’s coming / In her kiss, I taste the revolution”
11. “Night Drive” by Gotye
Gotye had his breakthrough hit with 2011 single “Somebody I Used To Know” but the Grammy-winning Belgian-Australian musician had actually released two albums before that song blew up. On his second album, Drawing Blood, he released “Night Drive”, a song that sounds a bit like Peter Gabriel and has a before-and-after take on a memory of cheering up a lonely friend.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “Such a quiet joy / Knowing that I’m your pick-up fix / And you’re my favorite boy.”
12. “Kingdom Come” by The Hidden Cameras
Joel Gibb, the gay frontman from The Hidden Cameras, is also the band’s creative engine, as he writes and composes all their music and designs their art. The band’s songs have all been unabashedly gay with a sort of acoustic, church-pop sound—their first album The Smell of Our Own is actually a queer masterpiece with songs about HIV transmission, golden showers and man-smells—but “Kingdom Come” from their fifth album explores the uncertainty of love; is loving someone a heavenly experience or just a hell of uncertainty?
Best tell-tale lyrics: “Does he come today or do I wait and wait for him to come? / I might be lost but he is on the way. And when he comes, if he comes, will he have the key to the lock of Kingdom Come? / I’ve likely always been lost at sea.”
13. “I Try To Talk To You” by Hercules and Love Affair
The gay neo-disco group tackles a wide range of issues obliquely in this song. At first glance, it’s just a song about a guy wanting to take away his lover’s pain, but a deeper listen reveals that the pain could be any sort of stigma, whether from being gay, HIV-positive, flamboyant or any other flavor of queer.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “You let them use you good / Then they turned around and said you’re sick / Is this what you deserve / You’re just a man, you are a human being / And will you listen now / This doesn’t have to be the way things end”
14. “Let Me Be Him” by Hot Chip
One could argue that the gayest song from this electronic pop group is actually their mournful 2008 song “Boy From School”, but we chose this lesser known 2012 hit because it’s about self-love (albeit a self with a male pronoun). It also provides a reminder of the importance of having loving, romantic relationships with yourself—the most important relationship of all.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “Let me be him / My soul, my love, / Is running away with me / And I won’t leave it all to you”
15. “Lola” by The Kinks
Finally! A song for men who love male cross-dressers. While many folks are familiar with this 1970 hit, few people fuss over the fact that it’s a gay love song about a queer person of color who is also a gender nonconformist—nice!
Best tell-tale lyrics: ” Well I’m not the world’s most masculine man / But I know what I am and I’m glad I’m a man / So is Lola.”
16. “Song Against Sex” by Neutral Milk Hotel
Neutral Milk Hotel had their breakthrough with their 1998 album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (an album that many people interpret as being based on the diary of Anne Frank). But two years before that, they released On Avery Island which contained a rollicking song about loving a gay fisherman. It ends up on a down note with some unfulfilling and embittered sex, but love’s like that sometimes, isn’t it?
Best tell-tale lyrics: “And when I put my arms around him / I felt the blushing blood run through my cheeks / And an eeriness surrounded when his tongue began to speak / And he said…Oh boy you are so pretty / Enough to wrap tight in rice-paper string. / And when I finally kissed him the whole world began to ring”
17. “When A Man is in Love with a Man” by Of Montreal
The band best known for “Wraith Pined to the Mist”, a song that got widespread play in Outback Steakhouse commercials, actually found their uniquely offbeat sound in their third album entitled The Gay Parade. And yet, two albums before The Gay Parade, they released “When A Man is in Love with a Man”, a fondly unabashed celebration of homosexual romance.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “Men are usually fighting each other that’s / Why I think it’s so special when a man and / A man are in love / It’s so good / It’s so special”
18. “He’s My Star” by The Poster Children
In 1995, the DIY indie-rock band from Illinois dropped their fifth album, Junior Citizen, which contained this heartfelt song. It’s about a young adult remembering an unknown boy who helped him get through his worst days at high school.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “I saw him every week / Driving down the street / A savior in a brand new car / Shining like a star…. He’s my star.”
19. “Booty Klap” by Yo Majesty
Forget the flowers and chocolates! The lesbian rappers of Yo Majesty are here to get down and dirty on the dance floor with a tune that should be in any serious twerker’s rotation. And while the first part of the song commands everyone to start shaking their butts, the song’s second half has Shunda K and her rap partner Shon B getting it on with a big-assed girl—lust is on the loose!
Best tell-tale lyrics: “Gurl, you so nasty in them shorty shorts / The way your ass hanging out / make a nigga think about / I’m gonna tear that pussy up / I’m gonna bounce back, gonna bounce back, gonna bounce back.”
20. “Diplomat’s Son” by Vampire Weekend
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the chamber pop group has a gay love song; after all, openly gay Iranian member Rostam Batmanglij is one of the band’s two main songwriters. “Diplomat’s Son” is a surprisingly upbeat song with a tropical feel that recounts a guy’s attempts to seduce his best friend; it ends wistfully, but anyone who has ever pined for their bestie can relate.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “That night I smoked a joint / With my best friend / We found ourselves in bed / When I woke up he was gone / He was a diplomat’s Son / It was ’81”
21. “I’m Still Your Fag” by Broken Social Scene
This 2002 song is so gentle, earnest and low-key that it’s easy to miss its deep sense of devotion and its none-too-subtle lyrics on masturbation and drinking piss. In it, a gay man sings to his former flame who has since married and had kids. “Fag” gets used as a sentimental (if not somewhat self-effacing) term of endearment rather than a hateful slur.
Best tell-tale lyrics: “I’m still your fag / It’s a possibility to live without lips / Kleenex love to fill right up with all the broken kids / I swore I drank your piss that night to see if I could live”
(Featured image via Brayden Summers’ All Love is Equal)