By Kris Kielich
If there’s one thing I’m damn good at, it’s making lists of things I’m passionate about. Whether I’m compiling the top five psychological thrillers set in outer space that my best friend needs to see, or dissecting ten reasons why Steven Wilson is the greatest musician of all time (just sayin’); I’m all about getting my priorities out there for the world to see. So this list, and hopefully many more to come, fit right into my niche as both a writer and a person. With October being National Coming Out month, and falling right in line with what Punk Out stands for first and foremost, I decided to make a list of my top favorite songs by LGBT+ artists and why they can emotionally resonate with anyone. No matter who you are, you have the power to create music that can stir anyone and everyone. Just a disclaimer here, there are bands with LGBT+ singers that would absolutely make this list, but I’ve purposefully chosen to leave them off. Queen, Judas Priest, and R.E.M., you guys are obviously incredible but I have to let you sit this one out I’m afraid. So let’s get the ball rolling:
5. “Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t Go to the Party” – Courtney Barnett
“I wanna go out but I wanna stay home.”
If that lyric isn’t the rallying cry of millennials then I don’t know what is. And that’s really what makes this song so good. What’s not to love about a track that deals with arguing with your friend about the merits of partying hard vs staying in and being comfy? Courtney Barnett was nominated for best new artist at the Grammy’s earlier this year, and it’s precisely because of the songwriting that’s on display here. She’s sarcastic, ironic, melodically deadpan (if that makes sense), and totally in touch with eccentricities that make up the DNA of the millennial generation. With a ripping guitar riff and a sunny garage rock chorus, this is a song that anyone can feel great rocking out to. It’s a song that’ll make you go “If that ain’t me…” It’s a kind of appeal usually found in memes and YouTube videos, but when it’s captured in a song, that’s something special.
4. “Montauk” – Rufus Wainwright
“One day you will come to Montauk and see your dad trying to be funny and see your other dad seeing through me.”
Rufus Wainwright has one of the best singing voices in the business, and 2012’s “Montauk” is living proof of that. This wonderful ballad about Wainwright’s own relationship with both his partner Jorn Weisbrot and his daughter Viva Wainwright Cohen. It demonstrates that the moments that make up a loving life between two people are the same no matter their sexuality. It’s a beautiful love letter to his daughter in which he asks her to continue to love both him and his partner, even though she may have other people tell her their relationship is wrong. All of this over weeping piano arpeggios…this is Rufus Wainwright in top form, and it’s a powerful look at how in love, we’re all the same.
3. “I Was A Fool” – Tegan and Sara
“Do you remember I searched you out; how I climbed your city’s walls? Do you remember me as devout; how I prayed for your calls?”
I loved Tegan and Sara’s last album, Heartthrob. It struck a chord with me from the first note, and combined two things I adore: synthpop and female vocals. But oof does this song hit home in terms of breakups. When a relationship ends, the notions of “look at all the things I did for you” and “look how much I loved you” come to the forefront of the coping process. You try to reconcile why the other person would break up with you after you feel that you’ve proved your devotion to them time and time again. That’s precisely what this song deals with, and the feeling of being foolish for ever letting yourself fall in the first place, as well as staying in a relationship that, when you look back on it, was falling apart. The piano throughout the song is gorgeous, the harmony in the chorus blows me away every time. Sad songs let you know you’re not alone, and I think this song in particular is a perfect example of that.
2. “The End of the World” – Pet Shop Boys
“It’s just a boy or a girl. It’s not the end of the world.”
As much as I really, really wanted to put the Pet Shop Boys’ covers of “Always on My Mind” or “I Started a Joke” on this list, I decided to keep the theme of original songs only. But these guys have always been my favorite of the trifecta that includes Depeche Mode and New Order. I’ve always thought they have a better ear for melody, and let’s face it, Neil Tennant’s voice…get out of here. It’s so good. This was actually the first song I’d ever heard by the ‘80s synthpop duo, and to this day I believe it’s their best. The beauty lies in the simplicity of the message. Breakups hurt, but at the end of the day, it’s just a boy or a girl, and the most important thing left is for you to love yourself. A lasting love will come to you one day, and heartbreak most certainly is not the end of the world. I think we all need to be told this every once in awhile, whether from a friend or from music. In terms of melody, it’s probably the catchiest song on their 1990 masterwork “Behaviour,” which immediately appeals, but it’s also one of the fastest paced, which makes it extremely danceable if you’re in a retro mood. All in all, if you’re looking for a pick me up if you’re feeling lonely, this is the one for you.
1. “I Wish We Were Leaving” – Bright Light Bright Light (feat. Elton John)
“One day you’ll be so good for somebody, and one day you’ll make somebody so happy.”
Looks like went on a synthpop/heartbreak kick on this list, but what can I say? Most of the best songs ever written deal with relationships. I’ve also covered double ground with my last pick, with English synthpop artist Bright Light Bright Light (Rod Thomas) AND Elton John. This song has everything I’m looking for in a synthpop track: lush, sweeping textures, incredibly emotional vocal delivery, and hooks for days. Despite the title of the record that this song is from, “Life is Easy,” this song is about something that is anything but: dealing with the fact that a partner no longer loves you, has left you, or simply doesn’t have mutual feelings. Either way you slice it, it’s about a mighty blow to the heart. The lyrics here are both devastating in the way they deal with what could have been and what we all want out of love, but graceful in their admission of letting the object of our affection go and live a beautiful life of their own. Thomas’ singing will give you chills with its clarity and honesty, and Elton John is always a legendary addition. He’s still got it, by the way. The choral background is heavenly and gives the song an angelic feeling that carries it right to its gentle end. This is a must hear if you haven’t yet.
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