Indie Rock Fag: “The Indie Rock Fag’s” Top 17 Homo Love Songs
“The Indie Rock Fag” is TNG co-founder Zack‘s new weekly column. Please be kind to it.
Of the many annoying things about growing up gay — isolation, prejudice, having to wait until college to experience oral sex— I consider one of the most lasting injustices to be the queer inability to relate to popular love songs. While all your friends got to swoon over the latest top 40 radio hit — say, “My Heart Will Go On” or some similar drek — you couldn’t quite get into it because it was a woman singing to a man. Or a man singing to a woman. Or any combination of genders that would eventually lead to someone’s penis going in someone’s vagina in the most hetero way possible.
Luckily, as my musical knowledge expanded I got the pleasant surprise of discovering that a lot of gay love songs did, in fact, exist. Most artists have a couple love songs in their repertoire and many artists are gay. Ergo, it is possible for the discerning queer music lover to make a mixtape this valentines day and not feel that they’re bowing to straight privilege. So in my humble opinion these are the top 17 gay love songs: Each has either a queer singer or writer, or explicitly queer content. Feel free to add some (or tell me how wrong I am) in the comment box.
17. CSS, “Lets Make Love and Listen to Death From Above”
Not all love songs have to be treacly. While some people prefer to spend their special couple days entwined on a sandy beach or sipping champagne in a carriage, other people want to get stoned and fly to another city to see someone they have a crush on. And once they get there, what’s to stop them from having a lot of crazy sex while listening to Death from Above 1979? The mostly-queer Brazilian girl group CSS has described one of the best afternoons I could possibly imagine.
While the bisexual Englishman’s live shows leave something to be desired (the phrase “musical diary” comes to mind,) this single from his second album accomplished two wonderful tasks: It provides a great little love ditty for anyone who’s had puppy love and it allows its listeners to make adolescent “magic position” jokes. On your back with your legs in the air and a wand in your mouth? Pulling a rabbit out of somewhere untoward? The possibilities are endless.
15. The Smiths, “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”
Intense crushes have the ability to bring out the 13 year-old in all of us. That’s why Morrissey’s endless romantic yearnings are as timeless as a deep brown stain on your white cotton sheets. The master of gender non-specific pronouns’ ultimate adolescent fantasy involves finding eternal love by colliding with a double-decker bus. It’s the quintessential teenage, gay and English sentiments all in one.
14. Antony and The Johnsons, “Hope There’s Someone”
People seek out relationships for a lot of different reasons. Some are interested in sex. Others want companionship. Some people can’t cook for shit and enjoy having a hot boyfriend with an endless mastery of vegetarian cuisine (not that I’m speaking from personal experience.) As a function of my age and good health, though, I never consider another impetus for love: to be cared for in your old age and on your death bed. That’s probably why this song doesn’t get played at very many clubs.
13. Queen, “Somebody to Love”
Some love songs are successful for their specificity (see number one on this list.) Others, like Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” are so universal that a troglodyte would probably enjoy singing along. It’s right there in the title. Who doesn’t want somebody to love? The multi-tracking and giant choruses don’t hurt either. It’s not like Freddy Mercury was fooling the American public into thinking he was straight. His band’s universal appeal speaks to his ability to write great songs.
Would you laugh at me if I told you I lost my “with a boy” virginity while listening Tracy Chapman? It’s OK. Most people do. The Welsh agent of my deflowering was feeling “soppy” and decided that Ms. Chapman would provide the best soundtrack for my descent into buggery. To his credit it did set a pretty nice mood. And anyone who doesn’t tear up at this song is made of concrete. (PS- Though Tracy tries to remain ambiguous on the subject of her sexuality, Alice Walker spilled the beans about their affair in 2006.)
11. The Damned, “Jet Boy Jet Girl”
Though originally performed by Elton Motello, most people are familiar with The Damned version of this sexual confusion anthem. (The less said about Plastic Bertrand, the better.) Most people have been played at one time or another by someone who hasn’t exactly figured out their sexuality yet. While getting dumped for a girl hurts, its even more painful when the dumper comes back around to liking guys that aren’t you. No matter how many times he bottomed or gave you head.
10. Peaches, “Fuck The Pain Away”
Not much to say about this one except that Peaches has immortalized one of the best short-term heartbreak solutions. My boyfriend has said before that he would let Peaches peg him. After a few listens to this I would probably watch.
border="0" />9. David Bowie, “Kooks”
A gentler kind of love song, Kooks is clearly written from a father to a son. Besides being so much less maudlin than “Cats in the Cradle,” “Kooks” combats the paucity of songs that same-parents can sing to their beloved infants. I discovered this song in college. That’s a shame because it would have been great in highschool to daydream about having a dad who threw my homework on the fire and fucked Mick Jagger instead of making me take out the garbage.
8. Electronic, “Getting Away With It”
Neil Tennant does guest vocals on this slice of early ’90s perfection. It’s less a standard love song than a lament about being led on. “Walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose?” C’mon, Neil. Grow a pair. But if it was that easy to walk away from a bad situation I wouldn’t have spent half of highschool in a dark room listening to Portishead. This song is a little piece of heartbreak that you can dance to.
7. Alison Moyet, “Love Resurrection”/ Yaz, “Only You”
The jury’s still out on whether or not Alison Moyet is actually “family.” And Yaz was made up of her and Vince Clark, the straight half of Erasure. Yet their brief reunion tour this summer brought more gays and lesbians out of the woodwork than free poppers day at the Northampton Home Depot. Combined, these two songs give queer folk 7 minutes to look into each other’s eyes and be happy.
6. Dusty Springfield, “Breakfast in Bed”
Functional relationships make for boring songs. That’s why the nuances of something like “Breakfast in Bed” are so fun to unpack. As best I can tell, some lady with a girlfriend uses Dusty for emotional (and vaginal) support when things at home get too rough. When an admittedly bisexual woman implores the object of her fancy not to “eat and run” you have to assume there’s more going on that meets the eye.
How many copies of “If You’re Feeling Sinister” have I owned since I was 16? Two? Three? The exact number may be lost on me but I am completely clear on how I wore them out. Belle and Sebastian have always seemed not gay, not queer, but so solidly bisexual that I identified with throughout my own youthful delusions of “Bi now, gay later.” (See also “She’s Losing It.”) So when the trumpets reach their apex and Stuart sings “the best looking boys are taken and the best looking girls are staying inside” I had no choice but to wait out the next 57 seconds and start it over. Even my MP3 skips now. That’s fine, though, because in my mind song’s final word is “h-h-h-ho-horses.”
4. Velvet Underground, “Pale Blue Eyes”
Once my old roommate and I went to the Hirschorn Museum to see an exhibit on the art of light. In a big room at the galleries center was a rotating metal orb which spun kaledaiscope shapes around the walls. We watched it slack-jawed for half an hour. It was mesmerizing. This song is like the aural version of that orb. A laconic jangle and some of Lou Reed’s least croaky vocals lead us through verses whose initial euphoria give way to a whole lot disappointment. I can’t say I know what it’s like to fall in love with someone who is married. But this song gives me a pretty good idea and it doesn’t sound fun.
3. Hedwig and The Angry Inch, “Wicked Little Town”
My first boyfriend had this song quoted in our senior yearbook. At the time I cringed to see “If you have no other choice/you know you can follow my voice” posited sincerely among so many glamor shots and Sarah McLachlan lyrics. But in the intervening 7 years I can’t believe I would ever judge this song as anything but beautiful. Sincerity is often approached with caution in the gay community but you can’t fight goosebumps.
2. Magnetic Fields, “Papa Was a Rodeo” and “100,000 Fireflies”
Considering this band’s best-known album is called “69 Love Songs” it was not easy to pick a winner from Magnetic Fields. “I Don’t Believe You” and “The Luckiest Guy on The Lower East Side” were contenders, but in the end it was simply impossible to choose. I’ve witnessed “Papa Was A Rodeo” entrance a 2,000 person venue to complete silence before causing spontaneous bouts of tears. “100,000 Fireflies” could make the grinch realize long-dormant feelings for his own sled. They are both gorgous songs and both written by Stephin Merrit, the best love-song-writer of any sexuality. So they both make the cut.
There is nothing wrong with this song. The image of two partners as protective parentheses. Loving someone enough to guide them out of the grocery store if the meat selection upsets them. The assertion that babies cry because they can truly feel the world. All that sweetness and it still manages to be upbeat. That’s the general appeal.
There’s a more specific appeal for me. It was lying stoned on my roof, in a hammack with my boyfriend, watching the stars and the bats play around the apartment buildings around us and listening to this song. For a really brief second I thought how cool it was that I was with my boyfriend, hearing a song that some woman I’d never even met had written for her girlfriend. But then the song stopped and we played it one more time. After that we just went downstairs to bed.
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