This week's Bops Only finds us switching up the format a bit, but I know you'll get into She. Though the LGBTQ community gets acknowledged via a national month every June, we celebrate Pride every single day at PAPER, with messages of inclusion, autonomy, and authenticity interwoven in who and what we cover. But on the heels of New York City's Pride parade this Sunday, where PAPER HQ is based, and also to help close out this momentous month, we decided to whip up a series of bops that are sure to make you dance, smile, and feel proud of who you are, no matter how you identify, no matter what time of year it is. These bops by today's top queer and queer-friendly artists came out this year, but are forever, and for all who need them, and we hope you'll find as much joy in listening as we do. Now, without further ado: let's bop to it!
Related | PAPER Pride
Our new Pride cover star, bounce music legend Big Freedia is in conversation with Lizzo, and they talk about authorship and authenticity, among other things, so be sure to check that out. "Karaoke" is perfect to kick this playlist off. Freedia's "ooh, bitch you better" refrain paired with Lizzo's sung "show it off, it's your moment now" chorus feels so triumphant that our asses are shaking in our seats on autopilot to that addictive horn-filled beat. It's impossible not to listen to this bop without the goofiest, tongue-out grin on your face, and we doubt Big Freedia would have it any other way.
Related | Big Freedia Is Taking Over
Janelle Monáe came out as pansexual as she released her genius-level Dirty Computer opus in April, and it sparked much-needed dialogues about fluidity, inclusion, and intersectionality. "Pynk," featuring Grimes, is the sort iconic, pussy-as-source-of-all-power intersectional bops that the world actually needs right now, especially in the wake of movements like #MeToo, where people are effectively and historically reclaiming their own power. "Pynk" is a celebration of the divine feminine, a vision of a more equitable matriarchal society, and an irresistibly catchy jam all at once, and thank gawdess for that.
London singer-songwriter MNEK's Hailee Steinfeld-featuring "Colour" is like a beacon of prismatic light that tells stories of togetherness and positivity. There are lyrics about moving through the world seeing in black and white, and the upbeat song's stars are literally black and white (awww), but united to sing about changing perspectives. It's also suitably full of rainbow metaphors and everything you probably need more of this month and always.
Related | MNEK Talks 'Tongue'
SOPHIE, our last Pride cover star, made a bop for the ages in "Immaterial" from last week's album release of OIL OF EVERY PEARL's UN-INSIDES. This song is just obsessively bananas in the best way possible, from the high-impact immediacy in the detailed production, to SOPHIE's playful, sky-high vocals about the nature of impermanence, including in the physical form. It doubles as philosophical body politic and feel-good anthem. Duality! But while we are physical beings living (or are we?), let's acknowledge that "Immaterial" is practically tailor-made for four-to-the-floor choreography; for triumphant parties of one (or hundreds) in the streets, the club, the bedroom, wherever you need to get it in. Rewind, rinse, and repeat.
Related | SOPHIE's Whole New World
Am I the only person who was literally waiting for this? For those of you who don't know, openly queer musician Annie Clark, who performs as St. Vincent, made an incredible, meticulous album of forward-thinking but always layered and progressive-pop bops with last year's MASSEDUCTION. One of the tracks was the weepy-gorgeous "Slow Disco," which was like a beautiful-tragic slow-dance with a ghost on an empty ballroom floor in a custom Balmain gown with BDSM textures. In time for this month, she dropped a video where she dances in a sea of hot naked men to a remix of "Slow Disco" called "Fast Slow Disco," and I can't. It's impossible not to strut around like that bitch to this track, preferably in a pair of shiny thigh-high stiletto boots. It takes the rhythm of the original, revises it for the club and makes her pain our pleasure, which hot, disturbing, and wicked fun all at once.
New York rapper-songstress-instant icon Cupcakke came through with raunchy, infectious energy on this year's Ephorize release. "Crayons," a sex-positive mood and a concept for the LGBTQ community, is everything we need it to be. High-energy, full of lyrics meant to be shouted: like for real, "love is love, who gives a fuck!" is a queer-rights march's rallying cry if I ever heard one. And of course, it's a celebration that seems to say: We're here, we're queer, we're mad, and we're living our best lives. Stay pressed if you need to.
Leland's anthem about running into your ex while looking amazing and thriving as your best self is the kiss-off for the ages if there ever was one. By the way, Leland is behind some of this year's most brilliant queer bops, including Troye Sivan's "My My My." Fittingly, the song is also about dancing through pain with grace. Think of its electro-pop production as the queerlings' answer to Robyn's "Dancing On My Own." Yes, "Run Into You" is just that anthemic and instantly iconic.
New York multidisciplinary artist Viva Ruiz is set to launch the world's first-ever NYC Pride parade float around her Thank God For Abortion de-stigmatization project. While that is certainly an enormous undertaking in its own right (taking down the patriarchy is a full-time job, folks!), Ruiz is celebrating with a certified bop that is all about the power and joys of bodily autonomy and self-identity. Something we all have a right to, yes? Absolument! The theme song for Ruiz's powerful project is Rhythm Nation riot gear meets executive reggaeton realness, with an overall sound that will make you think you're Shakira, a rapped verse of love and support from Bjorn Majestik, and stacked to overflowing with hooks aplenty. When Ruiz sings "Who you think you talkin' to?/ It's about me, not you" and "legal, safe, and free" over a flurry of airhorns and reggaeton production, it's a catchy refrain and a rallying cry for everyone on the sidelines and frontlines to join in the movement for rights for all. The "Thank God" theme song effectively uses the earwormy mechanics of pop as bait: where the personal is political is irresistible.
Casey Spooner, the lead singer-songwriter of electronic pop duo Fischerspooner wrote "Have Fun Tonight" in the middle of a breakup, but the song's triumphant overtones see Spooner finding love and embrace in queer community. It's serendipitous really, because the rest of the album, SIR, released earlier this year, was a deeper exercise (exorcise?) of finding love of all kinds in all spaces. Not to mention, that sick bass line coursing through this thing? Spooner's soaring falsetto in the chorus. What?! This song is actual dance-floor bliss, personified.
I'm sorry but you just can't do better than a trans woman singing at the top of her lungs about how you can't do better with her. Kim Petras delivers to the rafters on this infinitely charming, '80s-tinged bop, and it's to all of our benefit.
Last but certainly not least is Pride cover star Hayley Kiyoko's latest Expectations bop with Kehlani. "What I Need" is oodles of radio-ready fun, placing queer female desire and don't-be-shy demand up front, as well it should be. This should and likely will be heard everywhere. All of these bops should heard everywhere.
Related | Hayley Kiyoko Knows What She Needs
Big Freedia Photography: Oscar Ouk for PAPER