Avicii, Demi Lovato, P!nk & Troye Sivan
Each year, a new wave of artists arrive to push the envelope forward for LGBTQ perceptibility in music. Through creative and visual expression, these musicians have validated the everyday, and sometimes painful, experiences of queer individuals in their music videos, reinforcing their allyship and understanding of the movement.
From long-time allies Demi Lovato and Christina Aguilera to pop’s newcomers Hayley Kiyoko and Fletcher, these are 17 artists who used their music videos as a vessel to swear their fealty to the LGBTQ alliance. For more stories about the LGBTQ community and our fiercest allies, follow Billboard Pride on Facebook.
- Wrabel, “The Village”
A transgender teen finds it difficult to come to grips with their identity in Wrabel’s emotive music video for “The Village.” What begins as a familiar portrait of LGBTQ youth troubled at home and in high school hallways gradually transforms into a testament of the beauty and harmlessness of being different. But by the end of the vid, the protagonist finds acceptance within themselves and a compassionate classmate.
- Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe”
In 2012, Carly Rae Jepsen dominated the music scene with her breakout bop “Call Me Maybe,” a playful girl-meets-boy anthem that changed the course of the bubble gum pop princess’ career forever. In the vid, Carly’s character fawns over the boy next door and makes feverish a few attempts to get his attention. And when she finally does, by the video’s end, she comes to realize that her guy crush is, well, into guys himself.
3. Fletcher, “Wasted Youth”
Fletcher’s “Wasted Youth” symbolizes everything it means to be young and in love. The case is the same for the video, which gives an intimate and normalizing glimpse into a lesbian love story that unfolds with our female leads embarking on a nighttime quest to nowhere. Paired with the atmospheric song, the music video does its part at capturing love in all its innocence, and seals the deal with a kiss.
- Logic, “1-800-273-8255”(feat.Alessia Cara and Khalid)
Part suicide prevention, part coming out story “1-800-273-8255” depicts one teenager’s struggle to cope with his sexuality in the video. The song itself sounds sorrowful, but the video paints an awfully authentic picture of LGBTQ youth often abandoned in this experience; the song also touches on the delicate topic of suicide as a solution. Despite our protagonist’s painful journey, Logic’s visualization proves that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
5. MUNA, “I Know a Place”
In MUNA’s most recognized tune “I Know a Place,” the synth-pop trio sing of solidarity and safe spaces for everyone. Doubling down their request for kindness and humanity in the video, the band urges a fleet of special forces to “lay down your weapon” with a promise of self-acceptance. Driven by the powerful message in the song, this video reads like a love letter to the LGBTQ community.
- P!nk, “What About Us”
In the video for “What About Us,” P!nk joins an unfettered flash mob as they take their defiance to the badlands. As law officials watch on standby, the group embraces in an emotionally-charged masquerade. With a gay couple at the helm of the vid, the pop star’s latest work paints an image of LGBTQ unanimity through the art of dance, leaving nobody behind — regardless of race, class, sexuality or otherwise.
- Demi Lovato, “Really Don’t Care” (feat. Cher Lloyd)
Demi Lovato‘s “Really Don’t Care” wasn’t merely a catchy summer anthem, it was the singer’s pledge to the gay community. From the get-go, the singer declares her stance with her LGBTQ brothers and sisters, saying, “You don’t have to hate because my Jesus loves all.” Together, Lovato and Cher Lloyd take to L.A. Pride in a colorful spectacle to band against anti-gay agitators.
- Selena Gomez, “Bad Liar”
In the ‘70s-inspired proposal for “Bad Liar,” Selena Gomez assumes a number of roles in the video, including a high school student, a closeted teacher, and a phys ed coach. A love triangle blooms between the threesome and ultimately takes a turn for the unexpected. When the video draws to a close, Gomez’s high school persona is seen lusting after a Polaroid of her female gym teacher, which suggests her character’s lesbian attraction. The singer reportedly insisted that the video’s love triangle break the heteronormative mold.
- Sia, “The Greatest” (feat.Kendrick Lamar)
The Australian mastermind co-directed the music video for last year’s banger “The Greatest,” which became one of the most empowering anthems of 2016. A distraught Maddie Ziegler opens the music video, smearing rainbow stripes across her face as she releases 48 kids from captivity in a run-down house; though, by the video’s end, they all drop to the bullet holes piercing through a wall. The video is a vicious yet illuminating tribute to the 49 people who lost their lives during the Orlando gay nightclub shooting in June 2016.
- Hozier, “Take Me to Church”
The bleak imagery in Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” visualizes a harsh yet widespread reality for many LGBTQ youths today. The video shows two men in a romantic relationship before one is captured and assaulted by a group of masked hooligans as his lover watches helplessly in the distance. Not for the faint-hearted, the eye-opening portrayal of homophobia in Hozier’s video almost hits too close to home.
- Christina Aguilera, “Beautiful”
Xtina’s “Beautiful” was considered a game-changing anthem for LGBTQ youth for its honest reflection on self-image and self-worth. Not only did it challenge beauty conceptions, it also illuminated gay and trans existence in the video, which spotlights a gay couple and a trans person wearing makeup and women’s clothing. With open arms, the video deals greatly with empowering self-image and identity in response to a sometimes-cruel, judgmental world.
- RAY BLK, “Chill Out” (feat. SG Lewis)
In resistance to one country’s long-standing history of homophobia, the British R&B star aims to keep the peace on her fiery number “Chill Out.” With an equally sentimental video to match, Ray BLK over a call to arms in defense of transgender youth and the Gully Queens of Jamaica who have been denied their humanity. At the forefront is the visible ferocity of the nation’s most detested denizens, who, despite constant reproach, refuse to conceal their gender and sexual identity.
- Tove Lo, “Timebomb”
In Tove Lo’s piano-heavy pop track “Timebomb,” a group of lovers must face one another on a deserted beach. The lovers showcased in the video, including a gay and lesbian couple, come to accept their partner’s flaws and all in Tove Lo’s most electrifying record. In the end, each pair locks lips in an emotional embrace as the sun goes down.
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “Same Love” (feat. Mary Lambert)
Hip-hop collaborative Macklemore & Ryan Lewis united with out vocalist Mary Lambert on this sentimental song. The duo made same-sex marriage the focal point in the video, raising the message that love conquers all. Co-directed by Lewis himself, the story within chronicles a gay couple who brave through social conflicts until their eventual wedding day, and closes out on the death of one of the partners. The clip took home the award for best video with a social message during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.
- Hayley Kiyoko, “Girls Like Girls”
In “Girls Like Girls,” two girl friends discover their fascination with one another, notwithstanding the fact that one has a boyfriend. Things turn ugly for all parties involved when the girls act out on their first kiss, which gets violently intercepted by a jealous boyfriend. As a whole, however, Hayley Kiyoko’s experimental take on a girl taking charge of her own sexuality is liberating to watch.
- Avicii, “Silhouettes”
Avicii’s “Silhouettes” opens to our lead character waking to a liquor-laden apartment before he sets off to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Reflecting on visions of the past, once self-medicated with alcohol, the protagonist finally finds peace with her new self, and also a new lover. The Swedish DJ’s video gives a harrowing account of trans identity and the emotions involved with the surgical procedures.
- Troye Sivan, “Heaven” (feat. Betty Who)
Religion and identity collide in “Heaven,” Troye Sivan’s prideful call to arms and coming out story. A myriad of LGBTQ love and unity is represented in the video, from gay and lesbian lovers on their wedding day, to cutscenes taken from Pride events. The song uses heaven as both a religious and literal metaphor of the risks we take to be accepted; yet despite the singer’s desire for entry, he refuses to compromise who he truly is.[“Source-billboard”]