Someone needs to say it—the gay anthem is officially dead. Lady Gaga‘s “Born This Way” didn’t just obliterate “I Will Survive”, it single-handedly murdered the concept of what a gay anthem should be. Instead of empowering you, this song smashes you in the face with positive affirmation. Bang! Do you love yourself yet? Blam! Just dance, it’ll be okay. Kapow! Did we mention Lady Gaga really likes gay people? Look, she even wrote a song about them!
But whatever. This crap has already been discussed up the wazoo (and much more elegantly) on other spaces of the internet. Honestly, screw the gays who have claimed this song as their own. The most revolutionary concept of this song is its recognition of the bisexual and transgender communities, two groups who are consistently looked beyond within the LGBT acronym. But, um, can we address the latter of the two for a moment? If some transgender folks express that they were born in the wrong body, doesn’t that prove God does occasionally make mistakes?*
“Whoa, dude! Relax, it’s just a pop song! It’s not that deep.” This has been a common response to any negative response to “Born This Way”, a sentiment spouted out religiously by Gaga’s band of little monsters. Yet it doesn’t hold up. All the hype leading up to this release implied more than “just a pop song”. This was made out to be an event, a defining moment in pop culture we’d never forget.
Again, whatever. Feel free to call this your anthem. Put it on a playlist with Katy Perry‘s “Firework” and Ke$ha‘s “We R Who We R”. Meanwhile, one could hope that we start looking elsewhere for our inspiration. Think about the gay anthems of the past. The majority of them have nothing to do with dudes who sleep with other dudes, and only a few exceptions actually mention the word “gay”.
Why can’t a song like Clare Maguire‘s “The Last Dance” be lumped into this category? It takes inspiration from less obvious gay icons (aka *not* Madonna), drawing parallels to Annie Lennox, Kate Bush and so forth. And there’s even a little Cher thrown in for good measure.
On top of that, Maguire channels the same ethereal vixen-like quality as Florence Welch, a vocalist who virtually no card-carrying homosexual can resist falling for. Both women have very distinct, powerful voices, and this characteristic alone has been known to define an anthem. Just look at Liza Minnelli or Jennifer Holliday. Neither of their “anthems” blatantly pertain to the community, yet their show-stopping performances gained them eternal placement on the totem pole of man-on-man lovin’.
Except that leads to a whole other issue… “The Last Dance” was written about Maguire’s childhood hero Michael Jackson, a cultural entity who’s widely known for his alleged man-on-boy lovin’. Without a doubt, he’s a controversial figure amongst the gays. Some respect and cherish his contributions to pop music’s evolution. Others think he’s a “total freak”.
For the last time, what the fuck ever. The lyrics are packed with enough ambiguity to excel beyond this context. It’s a song about love and loss, marked by universal, entirely human emotions. You can’t listen to this without feeling anything. And, frankly, that’s something we should see in every gay anthem. The ultimate goal isn’t to pat us on the back and make us feel fabulous. It’s to make you feel alive, to move you. Out of all honesty, which of these two songs is more moving?
* Admittedly, this sentence makes me uneasy, as it almost seems to imply transgender individuals are a “mistake”. That was not my intention.