June is Pride Month, which is a chance for the global LGBTQ+ community to peacefully protest and raise political awareness of the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community, such as marriage equality, and transgender rights. As well as a month dedicated to lobbying for real, lasting change in a quest for intersectional equality, Pride is a celebration of LGBTQ+ culture and individual identity – and no celebration is complete without music. Here at The Indiependent we’ve compiled this list of our favourite LGBTQ+ artists and allies.
Released in 1984 as the stigma towards gay people was preparing to reach its apex, Bronski Beat’s ‘Smalltown Boy’ is an important gay anthem with a moving and galvanizing legacy. From the synthpop trio’s debut album Age of Consent, it came at an important time in history, and its lyrics would go on to be chanted in many sweaty gay clubs over the years—despite its mournful message and politicized stance.
Painting the image of a young man being forced to flee from his home, Jimmy Somerville sings: “Mother will never understand why you had to leave / But the answers you seek will never be found at home / The love that you need will never be found at home.” Gay people have long been able to forge their own loving communities and choose their own families, and this was particularly imperative in the 80s and 90s: in the USA, by 1995, one gay man in nine had been diagnosed with AIDS, one in fifteen had died, and 10% of gay men aged 25-44 had died. “Pushed around and kicked around, always a lonely boy,” Somerville sings: “You were the one that they’d talk about around town as they put you down.” His unique countertenor vocal is here transcribed as a wail, a painful, rallying cry, with the haunting chorus imploring you to “Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.”
Yet, by combining biting political commentary with a foot-stomping four-to-the-floor dance beat, ‘Smalltown Boy’ explores how through the darkness there is always a crack of light, how pain that is shared communally can also help to heal it. Arnaud Rebotini’s housey remix features in an important clubbing scene in BPM, a 2017 film about AIDS activists in Paris that also explores the link between liberating queer spaces and pain. ‘Smalltown Boy’ typifies the elation of a classic, fist-pumping 80s banger, while also painting a harrowing picture of these vulnerable bodies, dancing in and out of the darkness.
Words by Steph Green