10 Synth Pop Songs for Pride Month

10 Synth Pop Songs for Pride Month

June is Pride Month. Apart from Rainbow Flags every­where and Pride Parades in every major city, this means that DJs world­wide dig deep into their reord col­lec­tions to play their favour­ite tracks by both noteble LGBTQ*-artist and so-called Gay Icons.

The music busi­ness has always been a home for queer tal­ent, think such illus­tri­ous people such as Noel Coward, Little Richard, Freddy Mercury, Boy George, Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, Years and Years and many more. The Synth Pop scene of the 80's surly had its fair share of queer artists, as did related generes such as Hi NRG, Disco and House. And where would pop music be without its gay icons such as Madonna, Kylie and Lady Gaga?

So, without fur­ther ado I present to you my Pride Month playlist:

1. Pet Shop Boys – Try it (I'm In Love With A Married Man)

Pet Shop Boys - Try it (I'm In Love With A Married Man)

Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe are of course bet­ter known as Pet Shop Boys, Britains most sucess­ful pop duo ever. Their hits "Westend Girls", It's A Sin" or "Suburbia" grace many 80s com­pil­a­tions. Their cov­er ver­sions, such as "Always On My Mind" or "Go West" are as pop­u­lar, but they also include some odd choices. Such as this song, which was first releast by girl-group Oh Romeo in 1983. Bobby 'O' Orlando, who pro­duced PSB's first ver­sion of "Westend Girls", was the pro­du­cer of this out­fit, so maybe it is not totally sur­pris­ing that the boys chose this song for their Disco 3 album. The PSB ver­sion deb­uted on the BBC's legendary John Peel Show in October 2002.

2. Holly Johnson – Legendary Children (All Of Them Queer)

Holly Johnson - Legendary Children (All Of Them Queer)

Holly Johnson will forever be known as "The Voice of FgtH". Which is not a bad thing, after all FgtH shook up the 80s even though they only released two albums.

Still, Holly released four albums on his own. You may remem­ber 1989's Blast, which con­tained hit singles "Love Train", "Americanos" and "Atomic City". The fol­low-ups, Dreams That Money Can't Buy and Soulstream did next to noth­ing com­mecially but after 15 years of silence, Holly did sur­prise us with the excel­lent Europa album back in 2014. It's worth check­ing out, if you like a bit of retro sounds and some fun, old-fash­ioned pop songs.

Legendary Children was ori­gin­ally released as a one-off single and cel­eb­rates the gay com­munity, not only with its lyr­ics but also with a flam­boy­ant video.

3. Divine –  You Think You're A Man

Divine -  You Think You're A Man

Believe it or not, but at the time Divine was the best known drag queen on b0th sides os the Atlantic. He starred in sev­er­al films by film maker John Walters, the best known of those is no doubt Hairspray. In the early to mid-80s, Divine also became some­thing of a cult-clas­sic in the Disco/Hi NRG scene when he released a num­ber of singles and albums, some of which were pro­duced by Bobby O.

You Think You're A Man how­ever was the first single pro­duced by Stock Aiken and Waterman to reach the UK Top 75 singles charts in 1984 where it peaked on No 16 in August of the same year.

4. Freddie Mercury – Living On My Own

Freddie Mercury - Living On My Own

Freddie Mercury really needs no intro­duc­tion. Everybody remem­bers the flam­boy­ant and cha­ris­mat­ic lead sing­er of Queen, the band who gave the world mas­ter­pieces such as "Bohemian Rhapsody" or "Who Wants to Live Forever?".

This song was fea­tured on Freddie's first solo album, Mr Bad Guy, which was released in 1985. As a single it only rached num­ber 50 in the UK charts, but a remixed re-release in 1993 finally made the song more pop­lar and sucessful.

5.  Gossip – Heavy Cross

Gossip - Heavy Cross

This single was the first inter­na­tion­al sucess for amer­ic­an band Gossip, who claim to havee been influ­enced by Donna Summer and Siouxsie and the Banshees, thereby cre­at­ing their unique blend of music that some describe as Dance Rock or Dance Punk.

In Germany the song spent 97 weeks in the single charts without ever reach­ing the Number One spot and sold 4500.000 cop­ies, for which the band received triple gold.

6.  Sylvester & Patrick Crowley – Do You Wanna Funk?

Sylvester & Patrick Crowley - Do You Wanna Funk?

Sylvester was an amer­ic­an sing­er-song­writer, who was best known for his Disco/Soul/Funk singles in the late 1970s and 1980s. His trade­mark was his fal­setto voice and his andro­gyn­ous, flam­boy­ant appear­ance. He was often referred to as the "Queen of Disco", and was par­tic­u­larly well-known in San Fransisco. He was even giv­en the Keys to the City.

Sylvester, who was HIV pos­it­ive him­self, became an act­iv­ist, fight­ing against the spread to the vir­us. He sadly died in 1988, due to com­plic­a­tions from an AIDS related ill­ness, aged 41. He left all his future roy­al­ties to San Fransisco-based HIV/AIDS charities.

7.  Madonna – Vogue

Madonna - Vogue

Madonna does not need an intro­duc­tion. At the time she was pos­sible the biggest and cer­tainly most con­tro­ver­sial female pop artist. Right from the start, Madonna had been a so-called Gay Icon. Which shouldn't come as any sur­prise, as queer club cul­ture always loved their female divas.

Madonna talked openly about sex, promis­cur­ity and oppos­ing com­monly held con­ven­tions. And then there was "Vogue". In case you don't know, Vogue is a dance style that has its roots in the Ballroom Scene  of New York City, which was an African-American and Latino under­ground LGBTQ* sub­cul­ture. The single reached the Number One spot in Germany, the UK and the USA in 1990.

8.  Kylie – All the Lovers

Kylie - All the Lovers

Kylie is the best-selling female Australian sing­er of all time, hav­ing sold about 80 mil­lion records world­wide. This achieve­ment surly was a long way off when she star­ted her way to fame in the Australian soap opera Neighbours, in which she starred as Charleen, the car mech­an­ic and ended up being mar­ried to Jason Donavan. Well, his TV alter ego anyway.

British Hi NRG/Pop pro­du­cers Stock Aiken and Waterman recor­ded four LPs with her. They included Top Ten hits such as "The Locomotion" or "I Should Be So Lucky".

The music video to "All the Lovers" was banned in sev­er­al Asian coun­tries due to its sexu­al nature.

9.  Lady Gaga – Born This Way

Lady Gaga - Born This Way

Controversial. Bizarre. Epic. These are only three of many adject­ives which have been used to describe Lady Gaga and her videos. Whatever you think of her, one thing she ain't and that's subtle.

You could argue that Lady Gaga picked up where Madonna left off, pro­du­cing dance­able pop made sexy with more than just a little naked skin.

This song asks us to accpt our­self as we are, because we were born this way. A notion that the LGBTQ* com­munity embraced since Gloria Gaynor first released her single "I Am What I Am" in 1983.

10. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax

Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax

You can­not com­pile a list of Gay Anthems without includ­ing FgtH's "Relax." The open­ing chords and the baseline are instanty recog­niz­able even 40 years after it was first released as a single back in 1983. It had been pro­duced by Trevor Horn for ZTT and reached Number One in the UK after it had been banned by the BBC for being too obcene.

The video is pretty drastic in its depic­tionof the gay leath­er club scene, even by today's stand­ards. When I was grow­ing up in the 1980s, it was all over MTV and it found it utterly fas­cin­at­ing, even though I only under­stood what it was all about many, many years later.

Bonus track: Year and Years – Starstruck

Year and Years - Starstruck

Fast for­ward to 2020 and the leg­acy con­tin­ues with British band Years and Years, which lead sing­er Olly Alexander con­tin­ues as a solo pro­ject since 2021.

Olly was bul­lied at school for being gay from a very young age. It caused him all sorts of prob­lems; from anxi­ety and depres­sion to an eat­ing dis­order and low self-esteem. In this light, his often pro­voc­at­ive per­form­ances can be seen as a form of self-validation.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down the glit­ter-and-fairy­dust-covered memory lane. And remem­ber: Pride is not just about the party, it's about equal rights, anti-dis­crim­in­a­tion and respect.


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