Graphic: The Recording Academy
Explore The Visual Worlds Of This Year's Best Music Video Nominees | 2022 GRAMMYs
After another year of awe-inspiring and conversation-starting visuals, AC/DC, Jon Batiste, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber (with Daniel Caesar and Giveon), Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, and Olivia Rodrigo compete for the night's music video honor
Editor's Note: The 2022 GRAMMYs Awards show, officially known as the 64th GRAMMY Awards, <a href="https://www.grammy.com/grammys/news/2022-grammys-awards-64th-new-air-show-date-location-las-vegas-april-3-announcement "https://www.grammy.com/grammys/news/2022-grammys-awards-64th-new-air-show-date-location-las-vegas-april-3-announcement"">has been rescheduled to Sunday, April 3, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The below article was updated on Tuesday, Jan. 18, to reflect the new show date and location.
These days, a song's visual component is practically as important as the song itself. The artists nominated for Best Music Video at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards show understand that well, and now one of them will have a GRAMMY to prove it.
This year's lineup spans pop, hip-hop, rock, and even a jazz classic: AC/DC's 'Shot In The Dark', Jon Batiste's 'Freedom', Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga's 'I Get A Kick Out Of You', Justin Bieber's 'Peaches' (featuring Daniel Caesar & Giveon), Billie Eilish's 'Happier Than Ever', Lil Nas X's 'Montero (Call Me By Your Name)' and Olivia Rodrigo's 'good 4 u."
As we wait for the 64th GRAMMY Awards — airing on CBS on April 3, 2022 — to find out who will take home Best Music Video (which is awarded to the artist, video director, and video producer), revisit this year's nominees below.
"SHOT IN THE DARK" — AC/DC
David Mallet, video director; Dione Orrom, video producer
When AC/DC needed a music video that matched the muscle of their 2020 comeback single, "Shot In The Dark," the legendary hard rock band turned to longtime friend and collaborator David Mallet.
Mallet is a rock lifer, having directed music videos and concert films for rock royalty like Queen's Freddie Mercury, Def Leppard and, of course, AC/DC. His relationship with the band dates back to his music video for the reissued "You Shook Me All Night Long" in 1986.
For "Shot In The Dark," which appears on AC/DC's 17th album (and first since 2014), Power Up, Mallet captures the band in full flight on an arresting black and red stage. Flashes of singer Brian Johnson, lead guitarist Angus Young, bassist Cliff Williams, and rhythm guitarist Stevie Young illuminated with bolts of light — "electric sparks," as they might say — trade off with the epic performance.
The video is reminiscent of their performance-based "You Shook Me All Night Long" clip, and watched side-by-side, it's hard to believe 35 years have passed.
Read More: Take A Deep Dive Into This Year's Best Pop Vocal Album Nominations | 2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show
"FREEDOM" — Jon Batiste
Alan Ferguson, video director; Alex P. Willson, video producer
Following the March 2021 release of his eighth artist album, WE ARE, singer and band leader Jon Batiste clearly sensed the world needed some cheering up.
In June, Batiste unveiled the music video for "FREEDOM," a track from WE ARE, the singer's eighth album that's full of bright horns, body-moving percussion and the singer's distinctive vocal tones. The video for the uplifting song brings that vivacity to life.
Shot over two days in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans — Batiste's hometown — "FREEDOM" brings in all the joy and spirit of the neighborhood (and its marching bands) with a high-energy street party.
Director Alan Ferguson is a virtuoso behind the camera, as evidenced by his past music videos for Lizzo, Solange and Janelle Monáe. Ferguson's video for Batiste's soul-lifting anthem is all quick cuts and bursts of color. By the time the song hits the first "let me see you wobble" refrain, you'll want to do just that.
Read More: Who Has The Most GRAMMY Nominations This Year? The 2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show Nominees By The Number
"I Get a Kick Out Of You" — Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga
Jennifer Lebeau, video director; Danny Bennett, Bobby Campbell & Jennifer Lebeau, video producers
It's always an occasion when mutual admirers Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga get together in the studio, and the pair's 2021 version of Cole Porter's "I Get A Kick Out of You" carries even more gravitas.
The song appears on Bennett and Gaga's second collaborative album (and Album Of The Year nominee), Love for Sale. Featuring 10 covers of Porter's jazz standards, the project has been billed as Bennett's final album, capping one of the great American musical careers.
The heartwarming video for "I Get A Kick Out of You" sees Gaga and Bennett trading off verses as they record the track at New York City's Electric Lady Studios. It's both touching and emotional, as Gaga adoringly watches Bennett croon, at one point with tears in her eyes.
Industry veteran Jennifer Lebeau caught the mood in the lighthearted visual, as it mirrors the song's laidback feel and analogue warmth — perfectly capturing the affection between the cross-generational collaborators.
Read More: Meet This Year's Best New Artist Nominees | 2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show
"Peaches" — Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar & Giveon
Collin Tilley, video director
"Peaches," featuring R&B favorites Daniel Caesar and Giveon, the fifth single from Justin Bieber's latest Album Of The Year nominee, Justice, has proven to be the LP's biggest hit. A purely feel-good jam, the song needed a music video with charm to match.
Bieber called on in-demand director Colin Tilley, who has since directed the singer's video for his Kid LAROI collab "STAY" and his emotionally raw "Ghost" clip. For "Peaches," Tilley shot Bieber, Caesar and Giveon cruising a neon-lit cityscape in a vintage car, taking turns riding on the hood and top of the vehicle to deliver their lines.
The vid flips between two other scenes that allow the singers to dance as they serenade, the first showing the song's title in massive letters lining a mirrored runway. Finally, the trio gather inside a dome with flashing colored lights, with Bieber sporting a fittingly peach-colored suit.
Read More: Meet This Year’s Song Of The Year Nominees | 2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show
"HAPPIER THAN EVER" — Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish, video director; Michelle An, Chelsea Dodson & David Moore, video producers
Billie Eilish's hugely anticipated second album, Happier Than Ever developed a slower, slinkier tone for her sophomore effort to delve deep into the anxieties and contradictions of life in the spotlight. Lead single "my future" and its follow-up "Therefore I Am" set that pensive mood, with the latter's music video directed by Eilish herself.
Eilish returned as director on the music video for title track "Happier Than Ever," which arrived in conjunction with the album's release in July. It mirrors the song's slow build to a cathartic pay-off, as Eilish escapes from a flooded house and lets it all out on the rainswept roof.
Compared to the intentionally lo-fi feel of the "Therefore I Am" visual, "Happier Than Ever" marked an ambitious step up, with Eilish using the shoot to confront her own fear of water.
Read More: Meet This Year's Record Of The Year Nominees | 2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show
"MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)" — Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X & Tanu Muino, video directors; Frank Borin, Ivanna Borin, Marco De Molina & Saul Levitz, video producers
If Lil Nas X hadn't already made it clear that he's not afraid to push boundaries, his "MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)" did the trick. The controversial clip takes an untraditional approach to biblical and mythology-inspired scenes, including The Garden of Eden, a Roman colosseum, and heaven and hell.
Like the song itself, the "MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)" video serves as a representation of Lil Nas X's unabashed openness about his sexuality (the rapper came out as gay in 2019). He kisses a snake, dresses in Marie Antoinette-esque drag, and pole dances, before the video reaches its pinnacle shock-factor moment that sees the rapper giving the devil a lap dance — sporting thigh-high heeled leather boots, no less.
While it certainly caused a stir among conservative and religious groups upon its release, the "MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)" video is actually quite a thought-provoking combination of themes. Above all, it was an important bold statement for Lil Nas to make, with a Variety article even stating that the video "has changed everything for queer music artists."
Read More: Meet This Year's Album Of The Year Nominees | 2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show
"good 4 u" — Olivia Rodrigo
Petra Collins, video director; Christiana Divona, Marissa Ramirez & Tiffany Suh, video producers
After the runaway success of the heartbreak anthem "driver's license," Olivia Rodrigo quickly proved she wasn't going to be a one-hit wonder with "good 4 u" — both thanks to its scream-along chorus and its nostalgia-inducing video.
The noughties-channelling pop-punk smash about a scorned lover demanded an acid-dipped visual, and millennial expert Petra Collins perfectly executed that need. In the clip, Rodrigo plays a revenge seeking high school cheerleader — referencing characters from feminist horror movies like Jennifer's Body and Audition — as she raises hell across an unsuspecting high school.
At the song's bridge, Rodrigo (who has done her fair share of acting, most notably in the Disney+ series High School Musical: The Musical: the Series) looks into the camera, hauntingly caressing it with her black leather gloves. Meanwhile, a messy-haired version of herself sets her ex-boyfriend's bedroom ablaze, giving a devilish grin before delivering the final "good for you" howl.
2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show: Complete Nominations List
How Madison Beer Broke Free From Pressures Of Internet Fame & Created Her New Album 'Silence Between Songs'
Three years in the making, Madison Beer started her next chapter with "Home to Another One," the first single from her second album. The singer details her "freeing" journey to creating 'Silence Between Songs.'
In today's viral era, internet personalities are not always hard to come by. But what isn't so easy to find is an internet personality with longevity — and Madison Beer has proven she's more than a fleeting viral star.
Beer started posting cover songs to YouTube in 2012, showing off her pop prowess and ethereal vocals at the age of just 13. She briefly went on the teen pop star trajectory after Justin Bieber signed her to Island Records that same year, but first found her true musical voice on her debut EP, 2018's As She Pleases. And once she took full control with her debut album, 2021's Life Support — co-writing and co-producing all 17 songs — she fully settled into Madison Beer the artist.
Now on the cusp of releasing her second album, Silence Between Songs (due Sept. 15 via Epic Records), Beer aims to expand on the mix of unflinching vulnerability and infectious melodies she's showcased since stepping into her own. She first gave a taste of that with "Home to Another One," an airy track that's a mix of Lana Del Rey and Tame Impala — two of her biggest inspirations, the former of whom even gave Beer feedback on the album.
Del Rey's approval is one of many reasons Silence Between Songs is special to Beer, along with the fact that she once again co-wrote and co-produced every song. But perhaps the most important aspect of the project is the freedom she found through the nearly three-year process.
"As an artist, sometimes we're told that if we take a break someone will replace you, someone's gonna be coming up right behind you," Beer says. "I don't subscribe to that anymore, and I think that's been a really freeing thing."
Beer spoke to GRAMMY.com about how becoming more grounded in her personal life inspired the new music, and why, despite her online fame, she's "actually quite terrified of the internet at times."
Congratulations on the release of "Home to Another One" and the album announcement. I would imagine it's nerve-wracking because one is never really sure how things will be perceived. What's it like finally starting to get everything out there?
"Home to Another One" I actually only just made six months ago, so it was one of the last additions to the album before I turned it in. It hasn't been too painful of a waiting process like the other ones. But I think the reveal of the album title was actually kind of the most intense for me. I've been sitting on it for three years, so to have it out there feels pretty surreal. But people's responses have been really positive and people feel excited, which I'm so grateful for.
It is a bit of a new sound for me; it has a different energy from my other songs. But the real fans who listen to my interviews or see me on tour, they know my music catalog of things I listen to is quite electric or different; there's not just one genre I love. There's nothing I can do that would really surprise them, because they know I love all kinds of music.
Album titles, and titles in general, are always tricky. Tell me how you came up with yours, Silence Between Songs?
I was really young when I first saw a poem or a book about this kind of idea. It was about missing someone, and it said "I miss you so much in between the time it takes for the next song to start."
I always thought that was such a cool concept, and wanted to do something with that idea for my debut album. But when we started creating the album in 2020, the song "Silence Between Songs" was one of the first that we created, so it was the first title I had in mind. We worked off of that, and now three years later, it has proper meaning for me. I've grown so much since I started creating it, and the album is really about how you can grow by tuning the noise out.
It's a testament to the title that you stuck with it for three years and nothing overtook it. How have you found that you settle down and tune the noise out?
Definitely, the title has been non-negotiable for me since. But coming off of tour, it's hard to decompress and settle down. I actually did have a hard time coming back from my last tour, and coming back down to reality; you're just so crazy busy, and it's such a dopamine hit every day. It was a bit hard to settle back down, but it is in those moments that I learn the most about myself.
Now I prioritize my alone time and down time; I let my body rest and don't feel pressured to go out and do things all the time. If I want to stay home and relax in bed the whole weekend, I'll do that. I'm trying to understand and not feel guilty for the downtime and rest times.
As an artist, sometimes we're told that if we take a break someone will replace you, someone's gonna be coming up right behind you. I don't subscribe to that anymore, and I think that's been a really freeing thing.
Is that why you felt like you had to keep going?
I think in the past it was that thing of whether people I worked with or people online; this notion who's always going to be willing to do more than you and do everything, and if you aren't you're gonna get replaced. That was a real fear I had for a long time. I don't let that happen anymore, though. I've been dropped from a label and I've been replaced, so the fear is real, and for a long time I was quite scared of that. But I'm not anymore.
Do you ever worry about revealing too much or too little of yourself? As an artist, too much may seem like oversharing; yet too little, you're not being totally honest. Where's the balance for you, and how have you struck it?
It's definitely interesting to discuss, because in this day and age of social media a lot of us have this pressure to be relatable and likable. But again, I don't put that pressure on myself, because I think that I'm not the kind of person who wakes up every single day and feels the need to make a video about these personal things. I'm down to do it when I feel like it, but I feel it's inauthentic to force yourself into doing it just to be liked. So I try to just post when I feel like it. I think my fans know me and my fans love me. I don't need to win over the hearts of the general public in order to get my music out there and to be received. I don't want to ever force myself into doing anything I don't want to do.
"Home to Another One" is a melancholy anthem with a breakdown. I'm wondering what the genesis of that song was?
Well I thought, "What is my pop sound?" In the past when I've made upbeat songs, they've kind of been maybe not so authentic to me, or songs that I wouldn't get in the car and want to listen to. So I thought, "What can I do that is poppy and fun, but still is me, and not selling out to make a song that's classified as upbeat?"
When I heard it, vocal-wise, it reminded me so much of Lana Del Rey. Would that be fair to say?
Definitely. I'm a huge, huge fan of hers and I feel she's integrated in me in ways I can't even pinpoint.
When you're writing music, as a co-producer, do you know where your songs are going to go style-wise off the bat? What's your process?
I am a co-producer on all of the songs, which has been another awesome endeavor of mine. I'm lucky to work with my amazing producer Leroy Clampitt who's willing, and actually eager, to hear my opinion, and wants me to co-produce everything.
It's not really calculated, I don't think. It just really flows. It's kind of a bummer that we didn't have a camera in the room when we were making it, because I was really involved in every single sound that you hear. My relationship with Leroy is really special because I can make a sound like mmmmm and he'll know what I mean. Everything is very meticulously planned, but it's not like, "I want this type of synth." We let the song flow. and build as we go.
A lot of artists are credited as co-writers on songs, but not many are credited as co-producers. Why was it important for you to be credited as a co-producer on your own tracks?
Working with the same producer for five-plus years now, I feel like I can voice my opinion and it not be weird. Leroy was the one who was gracious enough to say he thought I should get a co-producer credit. He said, "You've done just as much as me." All of the ideas stem from me and us, and we do everything together.
Your debut album came out a couple years ago and you started working on this in 2020. Why such a long process?
It wasn't supposed to be. Time gets away from you, and I definitely went back in the studio many times to redo things and edit. We've had multiple test pressings of the vinyl, and many times I thought it was finished and then went back in.
I don't know, I feel like this is kind of how I am. I'm never really overly satisfied. But my goal now is to try to get an album out within the next year or so after this one drops. I want to get into a groove of dropping music more frequently and not taking three-year gaps between all of them.
You have such a massive internet footprint, with 34 million followers on Instagram alone. Is a following like that a gift or a burden? How do you grapple with that in your mind knowing you can pick up your phone and post something for an audience of millions?
I've been steadily gaining flowers for 12 years, so it's something that didn't happen overnight for me. There's a big difference in the way I go about it now than a couple years ago. I don't force myself to be engaged all the time or posting every single day.
I'm actually quite terrified of the internet at times. The way it moves can be really scary and I think we don't give each other room to make human errors. If I do state an opinion online or want to say something, It's not that I don't care what people say about it, but I know my intentions are. I'm never going to appeal to and please everyone, but I do know when I want to speak and share, it's authentic and it's coming from a good place.
Kesha Reveals The 10 Most Important Songs Of Her Career, From "Tik Tok" To "Eat The Acid"
Photos: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Visionhaus#GP/Corbis via Getty Images; Gie Knaeps/Getty Images; Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation; Robin Platzer/Getty Images; Photo by David Redfern/Redferns; Mason Poole Ebet Roberts/Redferns; Amy Sussman/Getty Images; PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images
The Evolution Of The Queer Anthem: From Judy Garland To Lady Gaga & Lil Nas X
Music is a creative tool of liberation, with queer communities finding meaning — overt or otherwise — in songs by a myriad of artists. GRAMMY.com unpacks the long history of queer anthems, from a 1920s cabaret to the top of the charts.
When a young Judy Garland sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in 1939, dreaming of a more exciting, joyous and colorful life elsewhere, few might have known that her words would go on to inspire generations of queer people who found a glimmer of freedom where "the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true."
For decades, if not longer, music has continued to serve as a creative tool of liberation, with queer communities finding meaning — overt or otherwise — in songs either written directly for them or appropriated from the work of (seemingly) straight artists. Often with time, but occasionally immediately, such music becomes a queer anthem. While pride in one’s identity has often been a central theme, these anthems have also tackled the communal trauma — from the HIV/AIDS epidemic to discrimination that continues to this day.
As the messages and musical styles have adapted with the times, what’s most powerful in the evolution of queer anthems is just how much more openly gay they have become. An increasing number of artists are able to unabashedly express their identity, including in genres that have been traditionally reticent or hostile to minorities. Tracing the history of the queer anthem provides an opportunity to see how far the LGBTQ+ community has come, and how creative expression can be used to fight for rights that are still being threatened.
Press play on the Spotify playlist below, or visit Apple Music, Pandora or Amazon Music for an accompanying playlist of queer anthems.
In Glitter Up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary, music writer Sasha Geffen explores the history of queer anthems past and present.
"I think it's important to honor these ancestors in the queer narrative and point to how things don't always go from worse to better," Geffen tells GRAMMY.com. "Right now in our current historical moment, where we're seeing a lot of closing in and that can be really scary, but there has always kind of been this pulsing and there has always been the survival."
A Global Musical Movement
In fact, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" wasn’t even the first gay anthem. One of the earliest is the 1920 German cabaret number "Das lila Lied" ("The Lavender Song"), a clear product of the relative sexual freedom of the Weimar Republic. Written around the time of sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld hosting the First International Conference for Sexual Reform, the song recognized the struggles queer people faced while also declaring, "and still most of us are proud/ to be cut from different cloth!"
In Europe, musicals provided sly opportunities to explore queer themes, notably the work of English playwright Noël Coward, whose hidden sexuality was expressed in unrequited love songs such as "Mad About the Boy'' and "If Love Were All." In the United States, Black women defined many of these early queer anthems, notably Ma Rainey and Billie Holiday, with "Prove It on Me Blues" and "Easy Living," respectively. As Geffen says, their music was "playful and raunchy and it sold."
Holiday and Rainey, along with her prodigy, Bessie Smith, were all bisexual — an identity that along with their race and gender threatened their professional careers. They faced not only social ostracization, but also legal threats due to their sexuality. Yet these pioneers still expressed their emotions openly, as Ma Rainey sings on "Prove It on Me Blues": "I went out last night with a crowd of my friends'/It must've been women, 'cause I don't like no men/ Wear my clothes just like a fan/ Talk to the gals just like any old man."
The war years and social conservative of the 1950s didn’t see many lasting gay anthems, as white, male musicians appropriated and made famous the rebellious rock and roll sound of Black musicians. This was clear in songs like Little Richard’s "Tutti Frutti" (with clear sexual undertones) and "Hound Dog" by Big Mamma Thornton, who wore men’s clothes and has been appreciated for representing Black queerness.
Through the sexual revolution of the mid-20th century, Black women continued to produce some of the most boundary-pushing music. Nina Simone switched the gender preference in her bubbly version of "My Baby Just Cares for Me" — from Lana Turner to… Liberace — and Diana Ross delivered a sultry take on "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough," showing the depths someone is willing to go for their paramour.
Yet it’s impossible to include just one song by the disco diva in a compendium of queer anthems, overt or implied. The inspiration for 1980’s "I’m Coming Out" actually came out of a New York gay bar: Famed songwriter Nile Rodgers went to the bathroom and noticed a group of Ross impersonators. As Rodgers told Billboard in 2011, "I ran outside and called Bernard [Edwards, his frequent collaborator] and told him about it and said, ‘What if we recognize Diana Ross’ really cool alignment with her fan base in the gay community?’ So we sat down and wrote, ‘I’m Coming Out.’"
During this period of second-wave feminism, songs of female empowerment were also adapted by the queer community, such as Lesley Gore’s "You Don’t Own Me" (Gore herself came out as a lesbian in 2005). Some male acts embraced all that defied social norms, whether around identity or sexuality (although some of their depictions of race and gender can be questioned): "Lola" by the Kinks, "Walk on the Wild Side" by Lou Reed and "Rebel Rebel" by David Bowie, whose glam rock pushed against boundaries in terms of gender presentation.
More so than any genre before it, the arrival of disco in the 1970s provided a soundtrack for the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, it could be said it was the first genre made for and by queer folks was disco, with high-rotation tracks like Donna Summer’s "I Feel Love," Chaka Khan’s "I’m Every Woman" or even ABBA’s "Dancing Queen." But arguably the most powerful queer anthem was Gloria Gaynor’s "I Will Survive," an unabashed tribute to overcoming against all odds that can still be heard blasting from Pride floats today.
In maybe a less nuanced but equally impactful sense during this time, the Village People also played with gay sexual fantasies in both their appearance and music, notably with their songs "Macho Man" and "Y.M.C.A." While the camp was turned up to 11, the Village People’s influence in bringing queer life to the mainstream cannot be underestimated.
Openly queer artists also began asserting themselves more than ever by the 1980s and the rise of synth pop, finding fans among straight and queer communities, often in a "you know if you know way," according to Geffen. The sound coming from British groups like Culture Club ("Do You Really Want to Hurt Me"), Soft Cell ("Tainted Love") or Bronski Beat ("Smalltown Boy") was inextricable from queerness; an uptempo beat and thematic undercurrent ran through many of the era's biggest pop songs. These artists were "talking about an experience that was very specific to the queer community — this idea of figuring out who you are and leaving home and not knowing where you're gonna be ending up and just trusting something out there might be better than what you've got," Geffen notes.
Also during the 1980s, queer anthems also began to proliferate beyond English-language music, proving that a desire to express queerness through music was universal. This was notably seen in Canadian-French artist Mylène Farmer’s "Libertine" and "Sans contrefaçon" about embracing androgyny. And in the Spanish-speaking world, there was Alaska y Dinarama's "¿A quién le importa?" which translates to "who cares?"
Anthems Rocked By Trauma
But this relative opening in terms of gay acceptance in popular culture was quickly shaken by the HIV/AIDS crisis, when queer anthems took on an even stronger political role. Whether it be Queen’s "I Want to Break Free" or "Somebody to Love," Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s "Relax" or Sylvester’s "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)," these anthems were unabashed about expressing romantic feelings and sexual desire, as well as fighting back against violence, silence and stereotyping.
Known for his falsetto voice, Sylvester was one of the leading voices in San Francisco’s growing queer community before passing away from AIDS-related complications in 1988. His song "Stars" is one of Geffen’s favorite queer anthems, particularly for how he conveyed both the joy and hardship of the queer experience.
"He had such a powerful voice and powerful control over the subtleties of using it," Geffen continues. "There was this kind of melancholy that I can hear coming through sometimes of celebrating the world that you're in, this kind of sub-world inside the world where these forms of relationships are possible."
Read more: 'Spiceworld' At 25: How The Spice Girls' Feminine Enthusiasm & Camp Became A Beacon For Queer Youth
Female artists — many of whom were open allies of the queer community — also addressed the devastation of the epidemic. TLC’s "Waterfalls" (a cautionary tale with a hopeful note to "believe in yourself") and Cyndi Lauper’s "True Colors," a torch song to light the way in the darkest of times. Although, this relationship of seemingly straight artists to the queer community was not without faults. Madonna became a queer icon for her string of hits before kicking off the 1990s with "Vogue," a track that brought queer ballroom culture to a mainstream audience. While Madonna was clearly celebrating this art form, and giving a certain amount of recognition to those who created it, she was also making money off the talent and creativity of underrecognized queer communities of color.
Outside of mainstream music, the 1990s saw queer female artists asserting their identity, accompanied by the riot grrrl movement and Lilith Fair. These ranged from the Indigo Girls’ reflective "Closer to Fine" to k.d. lang’s yearnful "Constant Craving" to Bikini Kill’s "Rebel Girl," "the queen of my world."
The Sound Of A New Millennium
The turn of the millennium heralded the beginning of a more assertive acceptance, with anthems coming from sometimes unexpected sources: Christina Aguilera’s "Beautiful," P!nk’s "Raise Your Glass,'' Robyn’s "Dancing on My Own" or Macklemore's "Same Love." With the political fight for marriage equality quickly gaining ground in the U.S., pop artists began responding with overtly pro-LGBTQAI+ messages in their music: Lady Gaga kicked off the 2010s with "Born This Way," with the theme that there is nothing abnormal about being queer.
More recently, anthems have shed any need to hide their queerness through hidden messages or innuendos. Proudly queer artists are creating music clearly for their communities, and beyond: think Janelle Monae’s ode to female pleasure "Pynk," Perfume Genius’ searing "Queen" or Hayley Kiyoko’s "Girls Like Girls," whose title says it all (and was followed up with the more cheerful anthem "for the girls").
Perhaps most notably, genres that have been slower to embrace LGBTQAI+ artists have also had their share of anthems. Rap in particular has embraced queer artists from Cupcakke ("LGBT") to Frank Ocean ("Channel") to Leikeli47’s ("Attitude") to anything by Mykki Blanco. This also has been true in country: See Katie Pruitt’s "Loving Her," Kacey Musgraves’ "Follow Your Arrow'' or Orville Peck and his interpretation of "Smalltown Boy." This honoring of queer history and pioneers defines many modern queer anthems, perhaps most strongly in Beyoncé’s Renaissance.
Read more: How Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" Made An Important Statement About Acceptance — For Society And Herself
While her whole discography is full of bangers that have entered the queer pantheon, her latest release Renaissance is an ode to the queer and Black tradition of disco and house. Tracks like "COZY," an embrace of being "comfortable in my skin," quickly entered into heavy rotation at clubs around the world. Beyoncé has centered queer artists like Big Freedia, the queen of New Orleans bounce who wrote a powerful anthem in 2020’s "Chasing Rainbows" featuring Kesha (who herself named an album Rainbow and released "We R Who We R" after a series of suicides of gay teens across the U.S.).
Most significantly, songs about the queer experience are now defining the careers of many artists and garnering them unprecedented large audiences. This is the case for MUNA with "Silk Chiffon," King Princess with "1950" Troy Sivan with "Bloom'' or even Sam Smith and Kim Petras with "Unholy." This last sexy jam bought Petras unprecedented acclaim after years in the music industry and made her the first openly trans person to win a GRAMMY Award.
This trend might be most clearly seen in the rise of Little Nas X, who grew up mastering the language and codes of the internet before breaking through and quite quickly coming out. Geffen highlights how he uses shock to garner attention and push back against the homophobic haters, like giving Satan a lap dance in the music video "MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)."
"I think of Little Nas X as a troll who trolled his way to the top," says Geffen," knowing what people will respond to positively and what will piss people off."
Contrasting this increase in openly queer anthems and depictions of queer people in media is a sharp political reality: anti-trans laws proliferate in many states and lawmakers attempt to limit the rights of LGBTQ+ people, threatening many of the forward momentum in queer liberation.
Read more: The Rise Of The Queer Pop Star In The 2010s
This moment in social and political history highlights the importance of an anthem, which serves as a form of celebration and signaling of allegiance, as well as a salve against repression and motivation to continue the fight.
Of course, this list of queer anthems is far from exhaustive. Artists as diverse as the B-52s, Eurythmics, the Pet Shop Boys, Elton John, Cher, George Michael, RuPaul, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, the Smiths, Kylie Minogue, Brandi Carlile, Carley Rae Jepsen, Sufjan Stevens, SOPHIE, Taylor Swift and many, many others have released music that has deeply impacted the queer community.
And really, any song can be a queer anthem if it speaks to someone on a personal level, providing a sense of connection and belonging. As Geffen notes, the magic occurs when a piece of music creates a moment of collective celebration or momentary bliss.
"There's nothing else quite like that feeling of the physical release of having a song run through you when it's also running through tons of other people who are in the crowd with you," they said, highlighting the power of that anxiety of whether you fit in dissolving away: "It opens a window into what's possible, in a world beyond the one we're in right now."
Queer Christian Artists Keep The Faith: How LGBTQ+ Musicians Are Redefining Praise Music
Photo: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for LARAS, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images, Gustavo Garcia Villa
Listen To GRAMMY.com's LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 Playlist Featuring Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Frank Ocean, Omar Apollo & More
Celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 with a 50-song playlist that spans genres and generations, honoring trailblazing artists and allies including George Michael, Miley Cyrus, Orville Peck, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande and many more.
In the past year, artists in the LGBTQIA+ community have continued to create change and make history — specifically, GRAMMY history. Last November, Liniker became the first trans artist to win a Latin GRAMMY Award when she took home Best MPB Album for Indigo Borboleta Anil; three months later, Sam Smith and Kim Petras became the first nonbinary and trans artists, respectively, to win the GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their sinful collab "Unholy."
Just those two feats alone prove that the LGBTQIA+ community is making more and more of an impact every year. So this Pride Month, GRAMMY.com celebrates those strides with a playlist of hits and timeless classics that are driving conversations around equality and fairness for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Below, take a listen to 50 songs by artists across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum — including "Unholy" and Liniker's "Baby 95" — on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.
Photo: Gerald Martineau/The The Washington Post via Getty Images
7 Artists Inspired By Their Mothers: Billie Eilish, Jacob Collier & More
In celebration of Mothers' Day, take a look at how moms have made a lasting and loving impact on artists including Tupac, Christina Aguilera and Dave Grohl.
Before Taylor Swift and Beyoncé became household names, their biggest champions were their mothers. Today, these global superstars honor their beginnings by being their own mother's biggest fans.
These musicians honor their moms through everything from social media posts to actually sharing the stage. In recent years, Lizzo has been vocal about the importance of her mom's support (and supportive of her mom and sister parking a food truck outside of stadium concerts); John Legend praises his mom for always encouraging him to sing in school and church. Swift wrote a song in tribute to her mother’s cancer journey, while Miranda Lambert and Sheryl Crow have shared important lessons learned from thier moms. Beyoncé tells the world, "I got this s— from Tina."
For Mothers Day, GRAMMY.com honors seven more musicians who celebrate their remarkable moms.
Jacob Collier truly grew up in a house of music. The singer/songwriter was raised to love multiple instruments by his mother Suzie Collier, herself an internationally sought-after violinist and conductor who teaches at the Royal College of Music.
Naturally, Collier's music career began in the family home and recording YouTube videos in a room decked with instruments. For more than 10 years, the Colliers have shared themselves playing lively jazz standards and Christmas songs from this foundational space.
"Really, I was brought up with music as a second language," Collier reflected in an interview with The Irish Times. My mother was extremely encouraging of the sensitivities of my brain. It was this sense of curiosity but never pressure."
Several years and five GRAMMY Awards later, Collier delights his audiences with surprise duets with "Mamma Collier," where they speak this language (and rock fantastic matching jackets) of their own.
Christina Aguilera was taken by her mother, Shelly Loraine Kearns, for singing auditions at the age of 7 and it eventually landed her placement in the iconic "Mickey Mouse Club." Yet childhood was far from perfect for Aguilera. Much of her music written in adulthood is a testament to Kearns' strength and their shared experience of domestic abuse at the hands of her father.
"I watched my mom have to be submissive, watch her Ps and Qs or she's gonna get beat up," Aguilera recalled to Paper Magazine. In considering what kind of woman she wanted to become, she adds, "You can either be, unfortunately, so damaged by it that you take a turn for the worse, or you can feel empowered by it and make choices to never go down that route."
Aguilera powerfully honors her mom's survivorship in several songs, such as "Oh, Mother" and this vulnerable performance of "I'm OK," which offers the chorus: "Bruises fade father, but the pain remains the same… Strength is my mother for all the love she gave / Every morning that I wake I look back to yesterday / And I'm OK."
In Tupac's resonant single "Dear Mama," the rapper praises his mother Afeni Shakur as a "Black queen." He ends the track with, "You are appreciated."
Afeni's story is as fascinating and complex as her son's. While pregnant with Shakur, Afeni faced a 350 year jail sentence on charges related to her affiliation with the Black Panther Party. She acted as her own attorney in court and served 11 months of the sentence, giving birth as a free woman. While she went on to battle addiction, she and Tupac reunited and she encouraged Shakur in using his creativity in the fight for justice.
This spring, the story continues through a five-part special with the same title on FX Network. 17 year old Shakur accounts in the trailer, "My mother taught me to analyze society and not be quiet."
Shakur's music and legacy center themes of freedom, inspired by his mother. This includes anthems like, "Keep Ya Head Up" and "Changes."
"My mother taught me to analyze society and not be quiet," he late rapper says in the trailer for an FX docuseries about their relationship. "I think my mother knew that freedom wouldn’t come in her lifetime, just like I know that it won’t come in mine."
Billie Eilish has one of the most recognizable families in music, including her and FINNEAS' mother, Maggie Baird. Baird has appeared in multiple of her daughter's Vanity Fair interviews, documentary, and frequently travels on tour with her daughter. They share a mission in vegan activism and have received environmental awards for their efforts.
Most importantly, Eilish credits her mother for saving her life when she was feeling suicidal. Baird checked in regularly with her daughter giving her permission to take a break from the world stage at any point.
In a most recent birthday post, Eilish affectionately wrote of her mother, "You make the world go round. I told you yesterday that when I think about how much I love you, I want to sob and throw up."
In recent years, WILLOW played homage to her mother, Jada Pinkett Smith, for Mother's Day. After a loving video tribute, she planned a surprise performance of a favorite song from Pinkett Smith's former metal band, Wicked Wisdom, alongside its original members. In which, WILLOW mirrors Pinkett Smith’s confidence and vocal range.
Throughout her childhood, WILLOW watched her mother perform with wonder. She elaborates, "I was my mom's biggest fan. Every night, I wanted to ride on the security guard's shoulders and watch her perform. She was a rock star, and I was living for Wicked Wisdom," WILLOW said. "I felt like it was only right for me to pay homage to a time in her life because she showed me what womaning up really is about."
This legacy comes through in WILLOW's most recent explorations in the worlds of alt and pop-punk.
Beyond a shared love of music, WILLOW, Pinkett Smith, and Jada's mother deepen their bond with their show Red Table Talk on Facebook Watch. In which, they share multi-generational, candid conversations on provocative topics ranging from race relations to forgiveness.
Camila Cabello and her mother, Sinuhe Estrabao, traveled far to get where she is today as an international pop-star. The two had a month-long journey when migrating from Cuba to the US when Cabello was six years old. Cabello shares in Popsugar, "I think the most important thing I've learned from my mom has been: You're human if you have fear, but you can't ever let it determine how hard you go at a situation. If anything, it should make you go harder — go for it all the way."
Though introverted, Cabello channeled this courage into making the decision to audition for "The X Factor" as a teenager.
When Cabello received Billboard's Breakthrough Artist Award, she began her acceptance speech by acknowledging her No. 1: "The only reason I am standing here on this stage, in this auditorium, on this soil in this country is because of one woman - and that's my mom."
Dave Grohl has an immense passion for a mother's role in a musician's life, and even hosts and executive produced the documentary series, "From Cradle to Stage." The series features interviews with rock stars and their moms; his own mother, Virgina Hanlon Grohl, wrote a book in 2017 with the same title.
In a NBC interview, Grohl said, "The relationship between a mother and their child — the mother and the artist — is maybe the most important relationship of any musician's life... It's the foundation of their understanding of love, and love is every artist's greatest muse. You know, every lyric you write is rooted in that."