Hey, gay ladies, who wants to feel empowered? Or, more accurately, who wants to see if a pop singer’s music video purporting to be empowering will make you actually feel empowered? I know, that question is much less snappy. What can I say, I’m a stickler for details. Pink, Katy Perry and Ke$ha have all said their new music videos were either dedicated to the It Gets Better Project (in Katy and Ke$ha’s cases) or inspired by the fight for gay rights (according to Pink).
Now that all the videos have finally been released (way to drag your feet, Ke$ha, next time use real toothpaste to brush your teeth – it’s faster), it’s time to compare and contrast. How will the video’s for Ke$ha’s “We Are Who We R,” Katy’s “Firework” and Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” stack up against each other and against some of the great gay anthems of the past? Let’s go to the videotape (or, more accurately, the digital file – yep, I’m a stickler).
Ke$ha, “We R Who We R”
Empowerment Themes: Well, it’s empowering if you like tequila.
Gay Imagery: The female DJ has a female friend (which might be solely platonic), a female dancer touched another female dancer for a split second (yes, now I’m just stretching), she shills for PlentyofFish.com (the same dating site Lady Gaga used in “Telephone,” which makes it gay by association).
Anthem Potential: Unless press-on eyebrow studs become really fetch, I don’t really see it happening – just like fetch. Also, is it really wise to show yourself jumping off the roof and plummeting toward the earth in a video dedicated to ending gay teen suicides?
Katy Perry, “Firework”
Empowerment Themes: Stand up for yourself if you are in an abusive home, plus size, a cancer patient, gay or a magician.
Gay Imagery:Two young gay men kiss and Katy shoots sparklers from her boobs of empowerment.
Anthem Potential:Nice message and all, but did she have to be so literal about the fireworks? If we all start having sparks fly from our chests when we feel good about ourselves it will make it really hard to make it through airport security.
Pink, “Raise Your Glass”
Empowerment Themes: Be proud of eating corndogs, killing bullfighters, kissing at gay weddings, sumo wrestling the Monopoly money guy, feeding calves human breast milk and dancing the sprinkler.
Gay Imagery:Two men kiss at their wedding, Pink channels her inner Lisbeth Salander and wakes up next to a nun. Also, a hot girl dances with a hula hoop. What? I enjoyed that part.
Anthem Potential:Really catchy, nicely uplifting, though the milk thing was a little weird.
Last month The New York Times cited all three singles as possible new gay anthem in an article titled, “For Gays, New Songs of Survival.” They were described as the next generation of empowerment songs, following in the disco footsteps of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out.”
Well, maybe. The thing about gay anthems is you just can’t declare yourself one. You can’t say you’re here to empower us and magically we feel empowered. Don’t get me wrong, if people want to sing about equality and self-worth and gay rights that’s great. Please do, and often. But respect must always be earned and is never self awarded. The songs we embrace have stood the test of time. They are songs about being yourself, loving yourself, sheer joy and stubborn survival.
They blazed a trail, they touched us when we needed it most, they sound really great when blasted from a Pride parade float. These are song like Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” which came out in 2002 but still moves me today. Take note Pink and Katy, Christina already had boys kissing in her video (and for a lot longer, I might add) eight years ago.
And then there is my personal favorite, Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” which came out 24 years ago, but has a message that still resonates every bit as strongly today. Through the years Cyndi has also been an outspoken gay rights ally and spearheaded the True Colors Tour which benefited gay rights groups. If this song hasn’t been used already in a Trevor Project campaign, someone has missed a golden opportunity.
So, who do you think made the best new “empowerment” video? Which, if any, have what it takes to become embraced by the LGBT community? And what is your all-time favorite gay anthem? Sing it loud, sing it proud.