“I’m Coming Out”: The Rise of the Queer Pop Anthem

An illustrated collage with a black background and rainbows in the top left and bottom right corners. A stylized photograph of Diana Ross, with a photograph of Chappell Roan behind her. Large white text spans from top to bottom around the images, reading: "I'm Coming Out: The Rise of the Queer Pop Anthem"
Graphics by Milan Grass

By Avieana Rivera, Music Coordinator

With the recent outbreak of gay pop taking the music industry by storm, artists like Chappell Roan and MUNA are making names for themselves by bringing their pride into their music. With this resurgence of queer pop, I think it’s important to take a stroll down memory lane and remember the roots of the genre. The songs that defined queer pop not only created the space for the songs of today, but also set the scene sonically, proving that the 80s sound and queer pride are a match made in heaven. Taking it back to the 1980s, we remember the hits that paved the way for today’s queer pop anthems.



The first song on our list is Diana Ross’ 1980s hit, “I’m Coming Out.” Written for Ross by Chic founders Bernie Edwards and Nile Rodgers, the song was inspired by a Drag show. Now, it is one of the most famous queer anthems, and is played proudly every June. Even though Diana Ross herself is not part of the queer community, the song has been celebrated for its contributions to the queer community, and Ross along with it. Its dynamic sound and authentic lyrics celebrate the joy in reclaiming your sexuality and being able to show the world your true self. The chorus proudly repeats “I'm coming out/ I want the world to know, I got to let it show”. This line, along with the act of repetition, affirms the freedom that comes with coming out and owning your true self. This song has a famous energy and an almost gospel sound. It’s best described as a chorus of celebration, with a symphony of music behind it. 



1983’s “Karma Chameleon” was written and performed by Boy George, along with his band Culture Club. Boy George was a queer icon throughout the ’80s, embracing his androgynous style no matter what others said about him. Even before Boy George publicly came out, his authenticity solidified him as an icon in the queer community. The song “Karma Chameleon” speaks to this. Boy George claims that this song is about a fear of alienation. He claims that if you fear being yourself and standing up for what you believe in, then cosmic justice will come your way. In the song, he uses a chameleon as a metaphor for someone who is catering to what other people want them to be, and sings about the struggles of loving someone who can’t even be true to themselves. This song is smooth, fun, and flows through the punny lyrics. It’s calmer than typical 80s pop, but the message still shines through. 



Since Wham!’s co-founder George Michael came out publicly in the late 90s, it’s brought into question whether many of his songs were written about and possibly even for gay audiences. While I don’t think that this necessarily matters, I do think that it highlights a very important subgenre of the gay anthem, that being the assumed gay anthem. Oftentimes, queer people aren’t being represented in the music they’re listening to and it’s up to them to find a deeper meaning that resonates with them. I think that “I’m Your Man” definitely qualifies as an assumed queer anthem. The lyrics are written in the first person and directed towards an elusive “you”, rather than any gender specific pronouns. This allows queer people the freedom to see themselves in the song, regardless of whether it was directed towards them or not, and possibly even gave George Michael the freedom to express himself while he was writing it. 



Clairo’s early indie bedroom pop seems to be a gateway drug for louder and prouder queer anthems. “Sofia'' works through the feelings of wanting to love a woman, and not letting fear hold you back. Clairo sings “I think we could do it if we tried if only to say you’re mine/ Sofia, I know that you and I shouldn't feel like a crime”. This song perfectly encapsulates the feelings of falling in love with a woman for the first time. Being both scared and excited and not really knowing what's going to happen but also not caring because it could be a good thing if you let it. This song also takes on a calmer sound while still playing around with some 80’s beats and synth sounds. 



MUNA, a queer and nonbinary pop band, has made it a point within their music to celebrate queer joy. Their song “Solid” does just this. Singing loudly and proudly about a lesbian romance, this song embodies loving a woman. The lyrics illustrate a partner that is steady and grounding, and ready to take control of the relationship and treat their partner like they deserve. “Solid” embraces queer love and the joy that comes along with it. The song repeats the lyrics “She’s so so so solid”, echoing “My baby’s so solid”. This song represents Lesbian pride, outwardly loving a woman and allowing it to be and feel good. In this song, MUNA uses ’80s influence, bringing in bass and synth sounds to go along with their dynamic pop melodies. 



Chappell Roan has taken the pop-world by storm since the release of her debut album The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess last september. Many songs on that album grapple with themes of owning your sexuality and becoming your truest, hottest, and most unapologetic self. “Good Luck, Babe” came as a single after her debut, and talks about the struggles of loving someone who is still in the closet, and unable to proudly claim you as their lover. This experience is all too common in the queer dating scene, and in this song, Roan remains secure in her identity, choosing to move on to better things and wishing her ex good luck as she continues to deny her true self. In this song, she sings “I think I’m gonna call it off, even if you call it love. I just want to love someone that calls me baby,” finally solidifying that no matter what her partner decides, she knows that she deserves better. This song is about reclaiming the narrative and knowing what you deserve. To me, this is one of the most important messages to send to queer audiences, as they are constantly facing societal pressure about who they are. Pride lies in being able to be yourself without explanation, without the fear of what others have to say. This song is everything you need in a pop song. From Roan’s powerful vocals, to the symphony of instruments, the song is a true nod to ’80s pop, and most importantly, just as gay.

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