10 Songs to Celebrate Pride Month

Here at Alt Columnist, we mainly focus on alternative music, from indie rock to pop punk to singer/songwriter folk and everything in between. To celebrate Pride Month, we will be stepping outside of those genre-based boundaries and discussing songs that are pop, reggae, hip-hop, R&B, and alt-pop. These pieces are either about being LGBT+, are written/performed by LGBT+ artists, and/or have become regarded as empowering anthems for the LGBT+ community. We hope you enjoy, and let us know your favorite LGBT+ tunes! (Want a Spotify playlist? Click here!)

“Girls Like Girls” by Hayley Kiyoko

Hayley Kiyoko has risen to popularity through starring in Scooby Doo and Disney television shows, but her solo music career started taking off with the release of the This Side of Paradise EP in 2015 which featured her hit single titled “Girls Like Girls.” This indie pop song is an absolute anthemic jam for women-loving women everywhere, and the emotional music video presents the struggles that many gay people face in relationships and friendships. Hayley released her follow-up EP Citrine in 2016 which delivered more empowering tunes, like “Ease My Mind” and “Palace.” She recently debuted another single earlier this year named “Sleepover,” a fabulous slow burn that again details the difficulties of crushing on a friend. Overall, Hayley serves as an innovative indie pop artist who isn’t afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve.

“Girls/Girls/Boys” by Panic! at the Disco

Coming from the last genuinely good Panic! at the Disco album, (click here to read our review of Death of a Bachelor), “Girls/Girls/Boys” describes a love triangle complicated by bisexuality, but instead of execrating the orientation, Brendon accepts and supports it, chanting that “girls love girls and boys” and “love is not a choice.” “Girls/Girls/Boys” has become empowering for many LGBT+ youth, especially considering Panic!’s large young fanbase. While Brendon himself is not a member of the LGBT+ community, he has reported experimenting with men in the past but ultimately identifies as straight. He is a notable ally and features a rainbow pride flag at many of his live shows, overwhelmingly adorned by admirable praise from the audience.

“Ghosts” by PVRIS

Lynn Gunn, the frontwoman of the electro-rock band PVRIS, is gay and open about it in hopes of providing representation for others. It was hard to narrow it down to one song to feature in this post, but we settled on “Ghosts,” a personal favorite that exhibits the struggles of a relationship when dealing with “ghosts” which Lynn has explained is a metaphor for mental health issues, namely depression. This tune seems to tell the story of a couple facing challenges in their relationship due to these ghosts, the “things [Lynn] can’t see” but are still having an affect on their emotional connection, again pointing to psychological problems or other hardships. Overall, PVRIS has consistently released fantastic music and their powerful frontwoman continues to serve as a gay icon in the scene.

“Shameless” by Tyler Glenn

Tyler Glenn, lead singer of the pop rock band Neon Trees, has come out as gay and is shameless about it. He distanced himself from the Mormon religion due to his sexuality and other disagreements, and his debut solo album Excommunication discusses his experience and frustration with the LDS Church. “Shameless” is about not giving a damn and “living a life so shameless” while also calling out others on how they “hate what they don’t understand.” In a vein similar to Lady Gaga’s power anthem “Born This Way,” “Shameless” is bound to embolden listeners to be themselves unabashed and audaciously. Both songs also include religious inflections in the lyrics, taking jabs at close-minded church organizations, and Gaga in particular encourages the idea that God makes no mistakes and LGBT+ people can be spiritual no matter what.

“You Can Cry Tomorrow” by Betty Who

Again, it was difficult to choose just one song to include from the LGBT+ pop icon Betty Who. Jessica Anne Newham, known by her stage name Betty Who, relocated to the United States from Sydney, Australia, in 2007 and pursued a music career in the early 2010s with the debut single “Somebody Loves You” dropping in late 2012. Her sugary, upbeat pop jams have been utilized for gay marriage proposals and LGBT+ events, and she has performed at countless pride festivals across the country. “You Can Cry Tomorrow” is an uplifting ’80s-inspired pop tune with glimmering synths and catchy melodies, and the artist doesn’t hold back her sexual orientation in the lyrics.

“Heaven (ft. Betty Who)” by Troye Sivan

Speaking of Betty Who, she is featured on Troye Sivan’s emotional song “Heaven” from his 2015 debut album Blue Neighbourhood. The South African-born Australian initially found his fame on YouTube, garnering attention from other LGBT+ internet personalities like Tyler Oakley, Hannah Hart, and Connor Franta, and, through his profound interest in music, eventually signed to EMI Australia in 2013 to deliver his EP titled TRXYE, released in 2014. Troye is openly gay and acts as a role model for his viewers and listeners. “Heaven” discusses the familial and religious struggles that are unfortunately attached to the orientation, such as hiding the truth from one’s parents, coming to terms with oneself, and questioning spiritual beliefs. The piece is moving, haunting, and showcases perfectly the challenges many LGBT+ people face personally in the church.

“I Found A Girl” by The Vamps

The Vamps debuted as a British pop rock reggae band with syrupy sweet melodies and summertime vibes, though they originally started out uploading covers on YouTube, everything from One Direction and Austin Mahone to Neon Trees and McFly. Even as their career has progressed, they still continue to post covers, branching out to more rock oriented artists like Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and 5 Seconds of Summer. Their second album Wake Up featured the band taking a more pop approach in their style with songs that could easily have appeared as One Direction b-sides but still maintaining their guitars in most instances. The project also included the monumental “I Found A Girl,” an energetic pop rock reggae fusion song about a man falling in love with a lesbian and, like Brendon in “Girls/Girls/Boys,” he doesn’t condemn her sexuality but rather welcomes it.

“Apologize (ft. OMVR)” by Matilda

Norwegian up-and-coming pop artist Matilda (no, not the musical/film) has released multiple amazing singles and albums, unleashing infectious electro indie pop tunes with a ferocious bite. (Oh, and she also wrote some of them with Betty Who.) Her music video for “Apologize (ft. OMVR)” gained viral attention from the LGBT+ community for shining the spotlight on the ups and downs experienced by a lesbian couple. Her song “Ghost” is catchy and pleasingly memorable with a melody you won’t be able to get out of your head. (Coincidentally, another artist by the name of Matilda has released a song titled “Girl Code” which discusses a lesbian struggling with a crush on her friend. If we are mistaken and these Matildas are the same artist, please let us know. We were greatly shocked!) Matilda continues to be on the rise with her single “Illusion” which was recently released at the end of May.

“Dancing in the Rain” by Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is the brother of Chance the Rapper and opened up about being bisexual in early 2017. He told Billboard that his main motivation for coming out publicly was for his fans to know him better. “You don’t want to do anything that makes your fans not like you anymore, but I realized, ‘F— it! Be yourself.’ You got to be yourself. That’s what I said; that’s what my parents have always told me. The only people I felt like I deserved to tell was my fans because if your fans don’t know you, how can they support you? Then there was also the idea that for somebody that has a platform like mine that can speak to these many people, to come out and say something like that, I hope, puts courage in people to do the same thing.” His sweet R&B-tinged hip-hop ballad “Dancing in the Rain (ft. Donnie Trumpet, Shay Lewis, & Brandon Fox)” details the desire to just dance with your partner and let go of the pain, the worries, and the heartache.

“Night Go Slow” by Catey Shaw

Catey Shaw, a pop artist from Brooklyn, mentioned in an article with AfterEllen that she’s “had relationships with men in the past and with women” and her sexuality influences her songwriting; she enjoys making music that elevates LGBT+ people. From humble beginnings busking on subway platforms to alt-pop renown, Catey Shaw is a seasoned singer/songwriter who describes her music as being very careful and mixing many genres together, like jazz, disco, and reggae. The music video for her slow-dance-ready song “Night Go Slow” features a young lesbian couple enjoying a night alone together between sleeping in the back of a truck and stealing from a convenience store. Catey’s sweet pop tunes will not only get stuck in your head but also serve a greater purpose for the LGBT+ community.

Other great songs to check out…

Let us know in the comments some of your favorite LGBT+-related songs and inspirational artists! (Of course, please understand that a person’s sexual orientation does not define their entire identity; humans are inherently multidimensional, so please take time to look into these artists even more beyond their sexuality and/or political/social stances.)

Panic! at the Disco – Death of a Bachelor 2016 (Album Review)

Man, this review has been a long time coming. Panic! at the Disco’s 2016 album Death of a Bachelor will be one year old next month, so we thought we might as well get around to reviewing it before then. Panic! at the Disco has been dwindled down to solely frontman Brendon Urie, a Las Vegas native who draws influences from his city and musical legends, such as Queen and Frank Sinatra. Panic! has taken on many different personas throughout the past decade-long career, shifting styles with every new album release from pop rock to The Beatles-inspired folk pop to Vaudeville to electronica. Panic! has done it all, but now with Urie remaining as the only true member, how does Death of a Bachelor shape up?

Well, Death of a Bachelor is like a bit of everything, which sounds great but not really. Every song sounds different, which I can commend Urie for incorporating variety, but it doesn’t make for an easy listen when the style is constantly transitioning. Death of a Bachelor is more of a collection of songs, and the songs are mostly decent on their own, but it’s not a cohesive, flowing record by any means. Overall, the full-length is plainly disheveled and does not age well over time. Honestly, the more I listen to this album, the more I never want to play it again.

Panic! has never had a distinct style, so for Death of a Bachelor to sound different than all their past projects is not a surprise. But the problem is that Panic!’s previous long-players have all had a distinct style of their own, whereas Death of a Bachelor is a messy amalgam of so many contrasting types. There isn’t one clear-cut genre I can label this album with. It’s not that I’m “afraid of difference and nonconformity” or “afraid of integrating various musical fashions;” it’s more that this album is a headache to listen through due to its incoherence and discord.

Look, like I said, the songs are generally pretty alright on their own, and ideally, Urie should’ve taken one or two similar sounding songs and expanded upon their particular style to create the album instead of mingling vastly differing musical categories. Nonetheless, even most of the songs on Death of a Bachelor have problems of their own. (Not to mention the terrible marketing behind issuing the full-length. Seriously, 6 out of 11 songs were pre-released in some way, meaning only 5 songs were actually delivered on the release date.)

Of course, there’s also a lot of other problems with Death of a Bachelor, (and some good things,) so let’s just take this track by track. The album opens with “Victorious,” an upbeat, entertaining party song. The production of this piece, (and most of the album,) is done extremely well, except the guitars seem very muted. Panic! always featured stellar guitar work, but since 2013’s album Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!, which leaned heavily on electronic elements, the guitars have become more and more in the background with every new publication. “Victorious” is simply a feel-good party anthem, and there isn’t much to dig into in terms of lyrical content. The vocal melodies on this song are, well, annoying? Urie has always been one of the better singers in the pop rock/emo alternative scene, and now as the only remaining member of Panic!, he seems to feel inclined to show off his operatic talent even more. However, when he aims to hit pitches in the upper register, it just kinda… hurts to listen to. I will applaud him for his skill, and also his musical abilities considering he supposedly accomplished all the instrumental efforts on this album himself, but sometimes the vocal refrains can be nerve-wracking and aggravating over time.

The next tune “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” is another party canticle, but more toned down musically in terms of flair and glamour. Again, there isn’t much to comment on with such straightforward libretto, but sorry, I am gonna rip to shreds the “Rock Lobster” sampling. You know, it seems as if Brendon has been following a little too closely in the footsteps of his musical father-figure Fall Out Boy since 2013 when the Chicago band returned from their hiatus. Well, he’s always been under their wing since signing on to Pete Wentz’s record label in 2004, but now in recent years, the affinity and relative imitation has been more prevalent than ever. Brendon turned to the same producer of Fall Out Boy’s 2013 Save Rock and Roll to operate on Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!, resulting in strikingly identical sounding records, and now “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” incorporates the famous guitar riff from The B-52’s “Rock Lobster,” similar to Fall Out Boy’s implementation of The Munsters’ theme song in their hit “Uma Thurman.” Brendon also employed Jake Sinclair to help produce Death of a Bachelor, which unsurprisingly produced Fall Out Boy’s 2015 album, American Beauty/American Psycho. He also joined on board with Crush Management, the team behind Fall Out Boy. Come on, Brendon, you could at least be a bit more original…?

Anyway, the third piece on the album is “Hallelujah,” which was the first single released back in April of 2015. Similar to “Victorious,” “Hallelujah” does not age well and becomes irritating over time. Brendon focuses too much on showing off his vocal talent, resulting in a song that barely hits the 3-minute mark because he basically left out an entire chorus. The stripped-down closing tag should have been the pinnacle of the tune as the bridge section, but since it’s just thrown on at the end, it’s borderline forgettable and doesn’t pack the punch that it had the potential to. “Hallelujah” does actually stand out as the first decent song on the album so far in terms of lyricism and features a robust horn department. While Urie does coalesce horns all throughout the album, the styles in which they are utilized are exceedingly different.

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“Emperor’s New Clothes” is the fourth track and introduces computerized components even more, from the opening synthetic melody to the distorted voice inflections. The songwriting echoes Brendon’s rise to fame and now taking over the band name entirely for himself, hinting that Death of a Bachelor is basically “the end of eras,” i.e. Panic! before becoming Brendon’s solo career. (We’ll talk more about that later.) “Emperor’s New Clothes” also displays the horn section and hey, sometimes you can actually hear the guitars! However, the vocal performance is again bothersome and gloaty. The high notes are virtually unnecessary and exasperating. As much as I want to love this track, the lyrics ultimately turn me off personally considering how conceited Brendon comes across. (We’ll also talk more about that later as well.)

Remember when Brendon described “Death of a Bachelor” as a mix of Beyoncé and Frank Sinatra? Yeah, I do too, and I was excited, but this song is disappointing. The production quality is great and all, but the problem here is literally just Brendon Urie. I can’t stand the way he sings this song, it’s so over-the-top and bombastic. The same cancer has been infecting this entire album so far: the vocal melodies are simply annoying. I really want to like these songs, but Brendon’s choral performances just make me want to turn it off and delete it from my library. How much more conceited can you be with, “When you think of me/Am I the best you’ve ever had?” I thought we left this immature egotism in A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, which was slightly understandable in that time period because he wasn’t nearly 30 years old. Jesus, all I can say when I listen to “Death of a Bachelor” is, “Can you shut up?” Skip.

“Crazy = Genius” is the sixth piece on the record and is characterized by achingly simple guitar melodies but also an ear-catching horn section. This tune is the key swing article of Death of a Bachelor, which should have also been expanded upon alongside the style of “Hallelujah.” (If he had made a record based off these two songs, it might actually be prudent and listenable.) The lyricism of “Crazy = Genius” is moderately introspective when mentioning The Beach Boys’s Mike Love, Dennis, and Brian Wilson. Brian was the “genius” behind the ’60s sensation while Mike Love was against Wilson’s more innovative approaches. Yet, appropriately, Urie says he’ll “never be Dennis Wilson,” who began a solo career to continue the “beautiful, happy, spiritual music” The Beach Boys had originally created. Brendon says that “if crazy equals genius, then I’m a fucking arsonist, I’m a rocket scientist,” meaning he’s essentially insane enough to be a genius. Of course, that’s debatable considering how disarrayed this latest record is.

The seventh track is “LA Devotee,” which I surprisingly don’t have many issues with. “LA Devotee” is quite possibly the best piece on Death of a Bachelor, and even though the higher notes displayed in the chorus after the key change are a bit over Urie’s head, he peculiarly pulls them off exceptionally well. The song is an enjoyable and catchy ode to the Los Angeles city life with excellent songwriting in the lyrical department and balance of the organic instrumentation (brass section) with the electronic aspects. “LA Devotee” creates imagery of neon lights and desert skies, and this is exactly what we’ve been expecting from Death of a Bachelor. While Brendon discusses his recent marriage and “settling down” in many of the songs, this record also largely revolves around the party scene of the city, similar to “Vegas Lights” from its predecessor. “LA Devotee” stands as a testament to Urie’s descriptive lyricism and newfound spirit for having a night out on the town.

The next song, “Golden Days,” details the discovery of old Polaroids, allowing Brendon to examine the concept of time and aging. The verses of “Golden Days” are musically ominous and portentous, but the chorus is exciting and provocative, minus the vexatiously prolonged syllables of, “Golden days, golden days,” being repeated over and over. The theme of this piece is ultimately carpe diem, seizing the current moment and having fun in order to reminisce fondly on in the future. “Golden Days” is a revolt against “growing older” and is decisively one of the better tracks on the album, but it just doesn’t fit. Like I said, Death of a Bachelor is more of a collection of songs than a well-rounded record because “Golden Days,” for example, doesn’t flow with the jazzy vibe displayed earlier. Yes, it’s a decent song, but not a decent addition to the lineup so far.

“The Good, the Bad, and the Dirty” is enjoyable for its musicality with the blend of electronic ingredients and more natural apparatus, but the lyrical content is extremely confusing. Brendon, I gotta know, what the heck are you talking about? At first, I thought this song could be about how the original members of Panic! have all departed except Urie, (namely in the first verse,) but the second part of the first verse makes just about zero sense when coupled with the beginning part. Then the chorus kicks in, which doesn’t line up with either of the ideas that have been introduced so far. The second verse completes the theme highlighted in the first part of the first verse, but then the bridge does nothing else to complement it even further. I can commend “The Good, the Bad, and the Dirty” for its musical prospect, but the coherence of the actual songwriting is undetected.

The tenth song, “House of Memories,” is similar to “Golden Days” because it doesn’t fit! It’s a fabulous tune, from the earnest lyricism to the balance of instrumentation, except for Brendon’s straining vocals in the bridge. But “House of Memories” just can’t find a home on this record dominated by grandiloquence and jazz influences. “House of Memories” does begin to slow down the full-length and offers a reflective look at a conflicted writer torn between loving their current partner and finding themselves stuck on past sweethearts, painting the idea that he’s nearly afraid to get close in fear of being heartbroken yet again. This song is another one of the better tracks on Death of a Bachelor, but still certainly not Urie’s best work.

And finally, “Impossible Year” wraps up the album, but on a rather dismal note. While Urie does try to sell this track as emotional and heartfelt, it’s just a sad vocal imitation of Sinatra and incoherent lyrics. Honestly, “Impossible Year” falls flat on its face and is less than memorable. Urie’s lower octave is obviously not capable of such eloquence and simulation when he seems to lose touch with the deeper pitches. The musicality is a sudden turn that the album could have used more of to set up this abrupt transition, maybe another slower piano-based track earlier on would have helped buoyed this tune along instead of allowing it to just fall off into the pits of being forgettable and unexpected. The lyrics are more than likely outlining the withdrawing of past band members, considering the lines, “There’s no you and me/This impossible year/Only heartache and heartbreak,” are probably not illustrating Urie’s recent marriage. But his pretension undervalues the poignant candor of such lyrics by the piece simply acting as Brendon’s deficient stab at emulating Frank Sinatra.

Overall, Death of a Bachelor scores a 6/10. It’s not terrible, but it’s rudely disappointing. I did find myself coming back to a handful of these songs, but individually because they don’t jive well together, and I do tend to get some of the more enjoyable melodies stuck in my head. Brendon seems to focus too much on showing off his vocal ability rather than writing a coherent, well-rounded record. Look, Brendon, you’ll never be Frank Sinatra or Freddie Mercury. (That poor cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” gave me a disease.) If you wanna make a name for yourself, try pushing new boundaries and setting your own trends instead of ripping off other artists. *cough* Fall Out Boy. *cough*

Urie has a niche that works for him, and as much as I can respect artists stepping outside their comfort zones and trying new things, it just didn’t work on Death of a Bachelor. Brendon should plainly go solo and drop the Panic! name so his new albums can’t be compared to Panic!’s past work. I feel like I would have been somewhat more receptive or at least more understanding of it if it had been published as a solo project. It still would’ve have been a messy record, but at least I wouldn’t be able to say it’s not “a good Panic! album” because there is a standard carried with their name. It shows that Brendon is basically using the band’s name for recognition to garner more profit and publicity. For a guy who is so painfully full of himself, you would think he’d be more than happy to market his own name! My main issue with this record and Urie himself is just that: his obnoxious ego. (I mean, seriously, his Twitter bio says “35% talent, 65% water.” Like, do we really need a popular performer to rub his talent in our faces all the time?) It’s why most of the melodies on this album suffered, because Brendon was too concentrated on boasting his vocal skills than actually making something that sounds pleasant to the ears. Also, former bassist Dallon Weekes did not contribute creatively on Death of a Bachelor at all and was demoted solely to a touring member, which is essentially Brendon saying, “I want to do this record all by myself. It’s gonna be The Brendon Urie Show. I want it my way.” (No Sinatra pun intended.) So if he wanted this record to be his so badly, why didn’t he just begin a solo career with it? Sorry, Brendon, your attempt to be the “jazzy Fall Out Boy” is not a Panic! album in my book, and it’s the weakest full-length in their discography to date.

Hopefully Brendon’s and his fanbase’s inability to accept criticism (click here) won’t be lavished upon this review. I want to end this post with this: I am a huge Panic! at the Disco fan, mainly due to their first four long-players, but Death of a Bachelor really rubbed me the wrong way. I want to love this album, I really do, and I really tried, but it’s just not working for me personally. I’ll keep spinning their earlier records for as long as I can, but I just can’t bring myself to love this latest addition. I have hope that Brendon’s next project can make a comeback, however.

What do you think of Death of a Bachelor? Let us hear it in the comments below!

  • Best songs: “LA Devotee,” “House of Memories,” “Golden Days”
  • Worst songs: “Death of a Bachelor,” “Impossible Year,” “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time”