Eurovision: 12 times Olly Alexander proved himself a powerful queer icon

Olly Alexander in a yellow/green snakeskin jacket holding a microphone up to his mouth.

Years & Years singer, It’s A Sin star and British queer icon Olly Alexander has been announced as the UK’s entrant for the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest, and understandably, the gays are gagged.

Since he released his debut album Communion with Years & Years in 2015, which included chart-topping single “King”, Olly Alexander has become a staple artist in Britain’s music scene.

He’s achieved two number one albums and ten top 40 singles, while his turn as Ritchie Tozer in Russell T Davies’ 2021 Aids drama It’s A Sin was one of the most talked about UK acting debuts of the decade so far. He’s even got his own wax work at Madame Tussauds in London.

He’s got huge star power, so is expected to turn it out at Eurovison next year. The song he’s set to enter the contest with is yet to be released, but it’s written with Danny L Harle – famed for his work with queer favourites Charli XCX, Caroline Polachek, Rina Sawayama, and Dua Lipa. Basically, he’s doing Eurovision for the gays.

These are Olly Alexander’s 12 most unapologetically queer moments.

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1. Olly Alexander’s Glastonbury speech

During the Years & Years’ Glastonbury set in 2019, Olly Alexander delivered an emotional speech addressing how far there is yet to go in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

He told the crowd, against a giant “queer is beautiful” backdrop: “I spent a lot of time feeling ashamed and now it’s like I’m making up for lost time.

“The only reason I’m able to be up here, is because of all the people that have come before me, that have fought for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

He said that LGBTQ+ lives “are under a very real threat” going on to add, “I believe there is no true LGBT+ equality until the fight against racism is over, against sexism is over, against ableism, bigotry, climate change.”

It was amazing to see such unapologetic queerness showcased on a big stage like Glastonbury, which has hundreds of thousands of spectators.

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2. It’s a Sin reunion

For his 2022 single “Crave”, Olly Alexander reunited the cast of It’s a Sin.

The music video features appearances from Omari Douglas, Nathaniel Curtis and David Carlyle from the acclaimed Russell T Davies series, alongside trans author Munroe Bergdorf.

They star in the video as his “forest friends” and it’s safe to say fans of the show were happy to see some of the cast of the show reunite.

The video and song themselves are a steamy, unapologetically queer affair, as Alexander encounters a leather-clad individual who chains him up and whips him as he sings, “the only thing I crave is the pain from you”.

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3. The Night Call album cover

Years & Years’ most recent album, 2022’s Night Call, marks the first release as an Olly Alexander solo project and the album cover is a stunning visual. It centres Alexander as a mermaid and as someone in the comments wrote: “Ariel who?!”.

Talking about the record he shared: “I put all my frustration, loneliness, hope, horniness, grief and optimism into making a really fun record I could dance to”.

He’s really giving the gays everything they want with the mystical album cover and sad bops to dance to.

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4. BRIT Awards performance with Elton John

Years & Years collaborated with gay icon Elton John to deliver a stunning rendition of Pet Shop Boys’ 1987 hit “It’s a Sin” at the 2021 BRIT Awards.

The duo performed the track to audiences at home, reminding them that the fights against HIV is not yet won.

While introducing the pair, John’s husband David Furnish told people watching at home that antiretroviral drugs make HIV undetectable and untransmittable, meaning people with the virus live long, healthy and fulfilled lives.

For the performance, Alexander lay on a grand piano in a black lace outfit and crop top, while John played the piano for a ballad version of the track.

This then transitioned into a synth-filled dance anthem and they were joined on stage by confetti, drag queens and an enormous troupe of dancers for a truly queer and celebratory performance.

Meanwhile the song itself has taken on new meaning since Russell T Davies’ Aids-era drama of the same name premiered in early 2021, which also starred Olly Alexander.

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5. The “Desire” music video

Years & Years remixed the track “Desire” from their debut album which featured fellow bop-maker Tove Lo. Its accompanying music video is an expression of sexuality as diverse bodies undress and intertwine with each other. It was a big, bold, queer move so early on in the then-group’s career, after achieving mainstream chart success.

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6. Lil Nas X cover

Years & Years star Olly Alexander drops sultry, acoustic cover of Lil Nas X
Olly Alexander and Lil Nas X. (Tim P. Whitby/Emma McIntyre/Getty)

To mark Pride Month 2021, Years & Years dropped a sultry, acoustic cover of Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”, as if the month couldn’t have gotten any gayer.

Olly Alexander said he had a primal response when he first heard the track, explaining: “I wanted to take off all my clothes and run screaming through the street.”

“The song is already perfect so I just wanted to have fun doing an acoustic version and seeing if I could sing all the parts in my range – which was a challenge, but I love it.”

“Watching Lil Nas X’s ascent has been so exciting and inspirational to myself as a gay artist,” he added.

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7. The Kylie Minogue collaborations

In 2021, Olly Alexander unveiled a remix to his track “Starstruck”, which featured pop legend Kylie Minogue.

If that wasn’t enough, Kylie then confirmed that Olly would feature on her single “A Second to Midnight”.

For the visuals, the pair dressed up as each other to create an instantly iconic – and adorable – music video. It sees Kylie dressed as Olly, complete with a red-haired wig and Alexander donning Kylie’s blonde wig.

Olly declared it “a literal dream come true” adding “her music has consistently inspired me since I was a kid, she is a true icon I am pinching myself this actually happened!!”.

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8. His new film Bonus Track

Olly Alexander is one of the executive producers on new queer coming of age film Bonus Track, and he’s even made a new song entitled “A Very Bad Fun Idea” to go on the soundtrack.

Bonus Track is based on a story written by The Crown actor Josh O’Connor, who also stars in the flick. It’s led by acting newcomers Joe Anders and Samuel Small as George and Max respectively. George is a 16-year-old living in a small British town, with big dreams of becoming a pop star. One day, he meets the son of a famous pop duo, Max, and their bond grows.

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9. His Mighty Hoopla performance

There are few ways to make UK music festival Mighty Hoopla even queerer, but having Olly Alexander headline it is one sure-fire way. He headlined the Sunday night slot back in June 2023, bringing with him a wardrobe full of snakeskin shorts, thigh high leather boots, and vest tops.

It was a setlist full of queer favourite hits, but it ascended to an unexpected height when he brought out half of Girls Aloud for a mini-reunion, prompting calls from LGBTQ+ fans everywhere for the band to get back together. Six months on, and they have. Olly Alexander’s power.

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10. He joined forces with the first ever trans choir

Last Christmas, Olly Alexander joined forces with Trans Voices, the first-ever professional trans choir, for a mind-blowing live performance.

The group sang Years & Years hit “Shine” to an audience full of LGBTQ+ fans and activists, as well as the odd celebrity guest.

It was a beautiful moment of solidarity with the trans community, with Alexander imploring: “We can really make progress by engaging with grassroot communities, building connections, and making spaces together. That is really how we build a better tomorrow.”

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11. He came for the Tories for shutting down Scotland’s Gender Recognition (Reform) Bill

At the beginning of the year, the UK government decided to block Scotland’s recently passed Gender Recognition (Reform) Bill, which would have made it easier and quicker for trans people in Scotland to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

Olly Alexander was one of several LGBTQ+ celebrities to not hold back when the news broke, declaring that the Tories had “completely abandoned” trans people.

“Quite amazing to think it was Theresa May who pledged to reform the GRA (Gender Recognition Act) back in 2017 and now the same government is blocking any reforms. I’m not surprised to see the Tories completely abandon trans people – I don’t think they ever really cared,” he wrote on X/Twitter.

“The GRA is outdated, it should be reformed – a UK public consultation in 2018 showed the majority of people agreed on this.”

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12. He shut down critics of his “over-sexualised” performances

Olly Alexander rang in 2022 by performing at the televised BBC One New Year’s Eve concert, but his show racked up more than 150 complaints as some regarded it “over-sexualised”.

However, Alexander made it clear just how little he cares. In an interview with inews, he said he simply won’t stop being gay on stage.

“They see me saying something about non-binary people on TV, and to them, that’s offensive,” he explained.

“I don’t make explicit political statements in my music, but by being who I am, I’m trying to do my own Trojan Horse-style subversion.”

He added: “I’m not going to shut up about being gay, or being sexy either.”

The Eurovision Song Contest 2024 will take place in May.

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