Rolling Stone sparks furious debate ranking of ‘most inspiring LGBTQ+ songs’: ‘Downright straight choices’

Collage of musicians: George Michael, Freddie Mercury, Lady Gaga, Lizzo, Kesha

Rolling Stone’s list of the “50 most inspirational LGBTQ+ songs of all time” has been slammed as little more than “a list of cis straight women making chart pop music”.

If there’s anything LGBTQ+ people love more than music, it’s a nicely ordered ranking of music.

Rolling Stone share the same passion – and yet, its big, splashy lists continue to be met with disdain.

When the music magazine published its “greatest singers of all time” list earlier this year, fans expressed their outrage after the likes of Cher and Céline Dion were snubbed.

On Wednesday (28 June), the publication shared a brand new list, ranking the so-called “most inspirational LGBTQ+ songs” of all time.

Social media users have called out the publication for platforming songs by non-queer artists, and omitting some of the best LGBTQ+ musicians of our time.

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“Something odd about the now notorious Rolling Stone list; the majority of it is the most basic and downright *straight* choices for LGBTQ+ anthems possible,” one person wrote.

It wasn’t all bad. Lady Gaga’s monster 2011 hit “Born This Way” topped the list. Fair enough, perhaps, considering it was the first number one single with the word “transgender” in it to hit the top of the US Billboard charts.

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However, there are a fair few other bangers on the ranking that queer music lovers aren’t too mad about.

Christina Aguilera’s 2002 chart-topper “Beautiful” ranked highly, though it’s arguably the music video that packed the most punch, with its brazen gay kiss and depiction of a trans woman, played by drag star Constance Cooper. 

LGBTQ+ artists make up about half of the list, with legends like George Michael, Rina Sawayma and Ethel Cain taking up space – which has, of course, been welcomed by queer fans.

But queer artists notably missing from the list include Adam Lambert, Janelle Monáe, Troye Sivan and Lil Nas X, while straight, cisgender musicians including Kelly Clarkson, Ellie Goulding and Sara Bareilles feature – country music star Kacey Musgraves even features twice.

“This is literally just a list of cis straight women making chart pop music. Do Rolling Stone think the B in LGBTQ+ stands for Billboard Hot 100?,” another questioned.

“I think most of the songs and artists on your list are valid, but can you please tell me why Adam Lambert is not included,” fumed one fan. “He has a WHOLE album, Velvet, that celebrates being a part of the LGBTQ+ community.”

Even musicians are chiming in. In a tweet, singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge called out the publication for forgetting her 1993 song “Come To My Window”, which she wrote about her turbulent relationship with a woman.

The song was released just after she came out as a lesbian – a courageous move amidst the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment that plagued the 90s.

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Others have criticised the Rolling Stone list for prioritising pop songs that are simply about overcoming adversity, rather than about the queer experience explicitly.

In a now-viral response to the list, one Twitter user challenged other music journalists to create a similar ranking, but without leaning into “fight song” tracks.

“I nominate every music journalism publication to make a list of ‘iconic LGBTQ+ songs’ without including a single ‘this is my fight song’ type-beat made by a straight white woman challenge,” they wrote.

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