8 new songs for your summer playlist
Taylor Swift is a gay icon on the job! Céline Dion is flying! Katy Perry is not sexualizing buffets! And then there’s MIKA, your ’Ice Cream’ man, and country queen Tanya Tucker’s stately comeback single, produced by Grammy-winning lesbian extraordinaire Brandi Carlile. Don’t let the season pass you by without giving these new summer songs a spin.
“You Need to Calm Down,” Taylor Swift. Homophobes, look what you made Taylor Swift do: the pop superstar’s second single from her upcoming Lover album is her gayest yet. She celebrates guys in gowns (and calls out those who don’t). She rightfully wonders why protesters with anti-gay signs at Pride parades waste their time. And as confirmed in the lyric video, there’s a shout-out to GLAAD, with the line, Why are you mad when you could be GLAAD? It gets even gayer when the mega singer-songwriter calls out homophobic haters who gay-hate because, after all, shade never made anybody less gay. Swift’s most political song (it’s at least partly about Trump and she doesn’t even need to say his name) comes shortly after the singer-songwriter recently released a statement in support of Tennessee’s Equality Act.
“Never Really Over,” Katy Perry. Baby, she’s a firework again. That’s more than could be said about Katy Perry two or even six years ago, when the motivational-anthem maker leaned heavily into self-caricature and tried, in an exceptionally on-brand move, to make buffets sexy. That “Never Really Over” has more in common with “Firework” or “Roar” is the biggest compliment I’ve given Perry in years. The single wipes the slate clean — yes, even the text she couldn’t bring herself to send, to unintentionally hilarious effect, on the fatuous “Save As Draft” is finally leaving me — as its percussive snaps and sound-drop effects propel the track into a funky synth-club bop worthy of Robyn-level ranking in the dance-salve canon.
“Rollercoaster,” Jonas Brothers. Crying because of a JoBros song: I assure you, this is not where I saw myself at 36, either. But here I am, and here we are, the Disney boys all grown up, reminiscing on youth and presumably their up-and-down relationship with each other on “Rollercoaster.” And me, all misty-eyed, flooded with my own boy-to-man memories. Nostalgia will do that, as the JoBros toggle between bouncy Mumford & Sons choruses and mellow verses to achieve an exuberant anthem that will tug at your vulnerable daddy tears.
“Want You in My Room,” Carly Rae Jepsen. You can take it from me or you can take it from Taylor Swift, who knows a cute bop when she hears one, which is why she included this slice of ’80s heaven on her official Apple Music playlist. But if you’re not already listening to “Want You in My Room” from CRJ’s gem of a pop album, Dedicated, well, it’s never too late to start living. The greatest joy within your reach at this very moment is hearing Jepsen boisterously shout-sing about having sex for two minutes and 46 seconds. And if you ask me, that’s at least 10 hours too short.
“With My Whole Heart,” Sufjan Stevens. For June Pride Month, not-explicitly-out but suggestively queer musician Sufjan Stevens released two songs, with portions of the proceeds benefiting two organizations supporting LGBTQ and homeless children in America. The song’s welcome lightheartedness is a shift from the dark skies hovering over his last album, the grief-stricken Carrie & Lowell. “With My Whole Heart” is sonically ambitious and upbeat, a respite that casts a shimmer with electro fragments that dissolve into a million brilliant tiny pieces.
“Ice Cream,” MIKA. Queer glam-pop artist MIKA leaned on his newest single “Ice Cream,” the first from his upcoming October full-length, to weather some personal storms and some actual weather (no a/c in Italy, where the song came to him) while writing this delectable treat, a sumptuous ’90s throwback to signature Prince and George Michael. It’s a gay parade of sounds, the beach on a blistering day. And who can argue with what it stands for: Dare to be the more proud version of yourself, MIKA says. Dare to be a sensual man, dare to express out loud the desires you always keep inside your head. That’s why and how I wrote it.
“The Wheels of Laredo,” Tanya Tucker. If anyone was going to get country legend Tanya Tucker back in the saddle, it was going to be Tucker fangirl and openly-lesbian Grammy winner Brandi Carlile. Lucky us: co-producing Tucker’s first album of new material in 17 years, While I’m Livin’, out Aug. 23, Carlile, along with twin bandmates Tim and Phil Hanseroth, aid in the record’s wistful, understated comeback single. They wrote it. They produced it. And in the background of Tucker’s poignant drawl, with their signature harmonies, that’s them you hear on it.
“Flying On My Own,” Céline Dion. Céline Dion, our favorite goofy, rubber-faced gay icon, knows just how to pick up the pieces of her broken heart after losing her husband, René Angélil, in 2016: by channeling her grief and solitude into a rousing, life-affirming dance anthem seemingly created solely for the purpose of helping gay hearts go on and on and on. The mother of three recently debuted the empowering club jam during her final show in Vegas, capping a 16-year residency. Her wingspan wide, her voice expectedly sky-bound, her “feet on the runway,” the song turns the page on Céline’s life and career. But flying on her own? Not with that refreshingly optimistic beat in a room full of gesticulating homosexuals.
— Chris Azzopardi