15 votes

What are some songs that tell LGBT narratives?

My husband and I recently started listening to Tones and I who has a song called Johnny Run Away. It’s a short story about a boy who has feelings for another boy and is told by his dad to “run away” not because the father is homophobic but because he’s trying to protect his son from getting bullied:

His daddy walked by with a sigh
Said, "Johnny, sit by my side
I'm gonna give you the best advice
You've ever heard in your life
See that boy named Jimmy, yeah, he's a cutie
But no, no, Johnny, no, no, no
Johnny run away”

I like the song partially for its musicality (so catchy!) but also its narrative is genuinely touching to me. My father-in-law once told me he knew his son (my husband) was gay early on. He said that never changed how much he loved his son, but he was always worried about how much harder life would be for him because of that. I think a lot of parents support their LGBT kids but also live with the very real fear of knowing that the rest of the world won’t necessarily do the same, and I think this song captures that perspective.

Anyway, I would love to hear about other songs that feature LGBT stories and perspectives, especially if they’re personally resonant for you or someone you know.

17 comments

  1. [4]
    reifyresonance
    Link
    I've really been enjoying Claud's That's Mr. Bitch To You The artist is non-binary, the song is catchy, and I like the message.

    I've really been enjoying Claud's That's Mr. Bitch To You

    [Intro]
    Take one
    He called me a bitch
    [Verse 1]
    Honestly, I'm glad you had the balls
    To get up in my face just like a dog
    I turned my back, I'm stronger than you thought
    Bet you didn't know
    I won't let a straight man throw me off
    [Chorus]
    Mr. Bitch
    Mr. Bitch, that's Mr. Bitch to you
    ...

    The artist is non-binary, the song is catchy, and I like the message.

    4 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      This is great! I love catchy pop with a message (obviously). I’m definitely going to check out the rest of their album. Thanks for sharing this.

      This is great! I love catchy pop with a message (obviously).

      I’m definitely going to check out the rest of their album. Thanks for sharing this.

      2 votes
    2. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Double posting to let you know that I’ve been listening to Claud all weekend. They’re my new favorite artist! Thank you so much for surfacing them for me.

      Double posting to let you know that I’ve been listening to Claud all weekend. They’re my new favorite artist! Thank you so much for surfacing them for me.

      1 vote
      1. reifyresonance
        Link Parent
        Really glad you like them! I've also been listening to them a ton...

        Really glad you like them! I've also been listening to them a ton...

        1 vote
  2. [4]
    wcerfgba
    Link
    Ezra Furman - I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend
    3 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      I love the choreography in that video. It’s very well done.

      I love the choreography in that video. It’s very well done.

    2. reifyresonance
      Link Parent
      On that note, I love all of their album Transangelic Exodus. "Maraschino Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill" is fun, "Peel My Orange Every Morning" is another favorite, and I love the lyrics in "God...

      On that note, I love all of their album Transangelic Exodus. "Maraschino Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill" is fun, "Peel My Orange Every Morning" is another favorite, and I love the lyrics in "God Lifts Up the Lowly"

      Some angels will carry you homeward
      Other angels you don't wanna meet
      My guardian angel's got wings of tinfoil
      And cigarettes found in the street
      My angel's got eyes like a housing project
      He was born inside a guitar
      And I can't forget his red lips and eyelashes
      And his "How'd we end up where we are?"

  3. reifyresonance
    Link
    A few somewhat stereotypically trans bands: Against Me! - Paralytic States (^ cw sui/sh) Black Dresses - Thoughts and Prayers (^ cw homo/transphobia) And on a much lighter note, I've been enjoying...

    A few somewhat stereotypically trans bands:

    Against Me! - Paralytic States

    (^ cw sui/sh)

    Black Dresses - Thoughts and Prayers

    (^ cw homo/transphobia)

    And on a much lighter note, I've been enjoying The Orion Experience's cover of Jenny

    3 votes
  4. kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    I thought of another one: Jennifer Knapp’s Inside On its own it doesn’t technically qualify, but its context changes that, and quite powerfully. Knapp was, back in the late 90s and early 00s, a...

    I thought of another one:

    On its own it doesn’t technically qualify, but its context changes that, and quite powerfully.

    Knapp was, back in the late 90s and early 00s, a contemporary Christian music artist (and quite a successful one at that). She got two Grammy nominations in the category of Best Rock Gospel Album and sold over a million records. Her songs were in heavy rotation among me and my churchgoing friends.

    She then went on hiatus for a while, finally deciding to return to music in 2010, while also choosing to publicly come out as a lesbian.

    The song “Inside” is about the judgments, both potential and real, she faced from her faith community. It is scorching and embittered, and there was a time of my life where this song felt like something I could have written. I watched similar judgments be passed towards gay people by many in my church while I was a believer, and then finally faced those judgments head on from them after I came out. Here’s Knapp’s chorus, about her reasons for staying closeted for so long:

    I'm the one who keeps it on the inside
    Locked away from judgments wrong
    I'm the one who keeps it on the inside
    So they'll leave me alone

    She then repeats part of the last line, which I interpret not as an echo but a line of its own — a direct command, spoken now that she’s out:

    Leave me alone

    The tension builds in the song and hits a climax in the devastating bridge:

    Even though I got conviction
    Even though I got my pride
    I know they'll bury me
    They'll bury me alive

    Lyrically, the song is powerful on its own, but Knapp’s delivery does an incredible job of selling the seething, distressed, and ultimately hurt tone that the song is trying to convey.

    The song is no longer reflective of my own feelings, but I appreciate it for being a tangible snapshot of a time when my anger and pain were more raw and embittered.

    2 votes
  5. [2]
    Dovey
    Link
    You're a fan of catchy pop? I'll throw in a charming video too! Matt Fishel's Football Song "Johnny struts around on the football pitch with an arrogant smirk on his face, but he wears a smile of...

    You're a fan of catchy pop? I'll throw in a charming video too! Matt Fishel's Football Song "Johnny struts around on the football pitch with an arrogant smirk on his face, but he wears a smile of a different kind when he comes to stay over at my place." A fun, positive song, but it ends on a wistful note: "I wonder, will it ever change?" Is the relationship real or just a fantasy? You decide.

    2 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      How did you know that I love piano pop more than all the other pops? This was great!

      How did you know that I love piano pop more than all the other pops? This was great!

  6. acdw
    Link
    I like a lot of Magnetic Fields' stuff, like yesterday I was reminded of the classic song, "I thought you were my boyfriend."

    I like a lot of Magnetic Fields' stuff, like yesterday I was reminded of the classic song, "I thought you were my boyfriend."

    2 votes
  7. NaraVara
    Link
    Janelle Monáe's entire Archandroid series (Metropolis: The Chase Suite, The Archandroid, and Electric Lady) is an episodic series of concept albums where she presents a robot rebellion by a...

    Janelle Monáe's entire Archandroid series (Metropolis: The Chase Suite, The Archandroid, and Electric Lady) is an episodic series of concept albums where she presents a robot rebellion by a fugitive android named Cindy Mayweather (based on the film, Metropolis) as a metaphor for being queer.

    The whole thing is genius.

    2 votes
  8. Eric_the_Cerise
    Link
    Kind of tangential, but kind of not. I was in college, 1986-ish, watching Elton John music video for his song "Nikita", starring a beautiful blonde girl w/ice-blue eyes in the title role, with a...

    Kind of tangential, but kind of not.

    I was in college, 1986-ish, watching Elton John music video for his song "Nikita", starring a beautiful blonde girl w/ice-blue eyes in the title role, with a couple of other traditionally homophobic college guys.

    A girl walked in, watched the video with us for 20 seconds, then left, saying-as she walked out ...

    "You know, in Russia, Nikita is a guy's name, right?"

    2 votes
  9. BlindCarpenter
    Link
    Gym Class Heroes - Faces In The Hall Really sad song and not sure if it’s based on a true story but even if it isn’t, I’m sure it’s a very close reality for a lot of families....

    Gym Class Heroes - Faces In The Hall

    Really sad song and not sure if it’s based on a true story but even if it isn’t, I’m sure it’s a very close reality for a lot of families.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TsylRoMbC-U

    1 vote