Can anyone dethrone Chappell Roan for queer song of the summer?

Is “Good Luck, Babe!” destined to be this year’s Pride anthem?

Trying to find a queer song of the summer not from rising superstar Chappell Roan? Well, good luck, babe.

The American singer has absolutely exploded this spring following a meteoric rise that includes a Tiny Desk concert and a massive set of Coachella appearances. Her album that dropped in the Fall 2023, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, reached a new peak of #16 on this week’s Billboard 200, and her single “Good Luck, Babe!” just became her first-ever Top 40 hit. Log on to TikTok and you’ll see everyone from cats to Kermit the Frog dancing along to her other song “Hot To Go.” She is a, well, femininomenon. 

But is that momentum enough to crown Chappell Roan and “Good Luck, Babe!” as our queer song of the summer? Or even just the song of the summer, full stop? 

Or could another artist still make a run for it? 

The song of the summer is a debate held every year amongst broader culture, and it is here that I think we make a vital distinction between the song of the summer, and the queer song of the summer. Sometimes the two overlap: think of “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX in 2014 or Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” in 2012. These tracks were embraced and beloved by the gays and straights alike, and still stand the test of time as summer bops today. 

But more often there’s a strong distinction—last year’s queer song of the summer was undeniably Kylie Minogue’s “Padam Padam” in its inescapability at literally every Pride event, from brunches to parades. But it was basically nowhere to be found on the mainstream charts, which were instead dominated by the likes of the almost aggressively straight Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night.” 

The queer song of the summer deserves to have its own category. It’s the song that makes its way on to Pride floats and party playlists. It’s a top choice for drag performers on stage and Instagram stories online and captures a sense of joy and community and fun for the queers. It’s distinctly ours. And yes, like in 2012, we may share it with the straights. But just as easily it could be known by every queer person on the planet without ever making its way to mainstream charts. 

With all of those qualifications in mind, let me introduce the candidates for queer song of the summer, from the obvious to the underdogs. 

 

The juggernaut: “Good Luck, Babe!” by Chappell Roan 

The rise of Chappell Roan from your local drag queen’s favourite pop girlie to bona fide pop sensation has been something to behold. The numbers don’t lie. And whether you were a “Pink Pony Club” listener from the start, or only jumped aboard with the viral success of “Good Luck, Babe!,” you can’t deny that the pop singer’s candy-coloured hype train is rolling full steam ahead. 

Is her surge big enough to propel her to song-of-the-summer status? “Good Luck, Babe!” is full of the wistful longing and queer dreaminess we can all relate to, and its hook is truly infectious. Chappell Roan’s case is also boosted by her ongoing viral live performances that are drawing massive crowds and much discussion of her campy style. All of that seems like a recipe for success. The nearly 150 million streams of “Good Luck, Babe!” on Spotify since its mid-April release certainly helps make the case for her as the one to beat. 

The icon getting her due: “Nasty” by Tinashe

Bisexual icon Tinashe went viral in recent weeks thanks to this bop and its endlessly memeable line: “Is somebody gonna match my freak?” That line alone spawned social media memes galore. And where Chappell Roan is this year’s darling upstart, many queers have loved Tinashe going all the way back to her time in girl group the Stunners from 2007 to 2011 (alongside fellow future gay icon Hayley Kiyoko). Real fans know Tinashe has been putting in the work, and us queers love to reward our longtime faves. 

Will “Nasty” hit the top of the charts in the same way as other tracks on this list? Likely not. But with its inescapable hook and very danceable beat, “Nasty” could be the track to push Tinashe over the edge into queer-song-of-the-summer status. 

The mainstream bop: “Espresso” by Sabrina Carpenter

Now this is a song meant to sip iced coffee to. A track where if you aren’t wearing sunglasses, it should be a crime! A bop that necessitates the top of the convertible being down! That’s a song of the summer if ever I heard one! 

I am also biased in that my fiancée has made “Espresso” her morning alarm. So, every day, every morning, I am thinking about “that’s that me, espresso.” 

For context on its mainstream appeal, “Espresso” currently has more than 460 million Spotify streams—more than three times that of “Good Luck, Babe!” It’s the number-one mainstream hit. It is a likely contender for overall “song of the summer.” And Carpenter just announced her forthcoming full album, which will certainly keep her and “Espresso” in the conversation throughout the summer months. 

The big question is if the gays will truly embrace Carpenter to that extent? Or will she be the queen of the straight side of the music spectrum? 

The Sapphic vibe: “Lunch” by Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish got all her Grammys, won two Oscars and is now … making smooth, synth-driven jams about eating girls out. What a world we live in!  After recently coming out publicly as queer (following years of queerbaiting accusations), it’s delightful to see Eilish immediately make a very gay album led by a very gay single. “Lunch” is sexy and smooth and would find a perfect home on any playlist from the club to your low-key Pride hangout. You can never rule out Billie Eilish in any awards context, and “Lunch” is just as explicitly, overtly, delightfully gay as Chappell Roan’s music, but with the mainstream chart-topping pedigree of something like “Espresso.” That combination could spell queer song of the summer. 

The future club classic: “360” by Charli XCX

And if you want to talk about gays embracing things, there’s Charli XCX. A previous queer-song-of-the-summer winner, you can never count out Britain’s club classics pop girlie and her appeal to the party gays. Her upcoming album, Brat, has garnered a fair bit of social media hype, and there is a certain segment of cis gay men who will have her as their artist of the summer even if no one else does. The girls, gays and theys who love Charli XCX really love Charli XCX. 

Still, it’s an uphill climb to dethrone the big contenders here, and Charli may still be too much of a—to quote the Pop Pantheon podcast’s categorization of her—niche legend to ascend fully to queer song of the summer status this year. But rest assured, she’ll get plenty of play on the dancefloors of gay clubs around the world. 

The gone too soon: “Bodyguard” by Beyoncé

Cowboy Carter presents several options for song of the summer, ranging from the “yee-haw” of “Texas Hold ’Em” to the over-the-top excess of “Ya Ya.” I chose “Bodyguard” here because in its Fleetwood Mac sexiness, it feels like the perfect soundtrack to a gay pool party, brunch or bike ride down the boardwalk—which feels like the vibe for summer 2024. Like several others on this list, love for Beyoncé crosses all letters of the LGBTQ2S+ initialism and beyond, and you can’t rule out Queen Bey as a contender for song of the summer overall. 

But unfortunately with Cowboy Carter dropping in the spring, the big Bey ship may have sailed. Still, you know we’re all still jamming to Renaissance, so her impact—and that of Cowboy Carter—will continue and probably outlast many of these other tracks.

Senior editor Mel Woods is an English-speaking Vancouver-based writer and audio producer and a former associate editor with HuffPost Canada. A proud prairie queer and ranch dressing expert, their work has also appeared in Vice, Slate, the Tyee, the CBC, the Globe and Mail and the Walrus.

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Music, Culture, Blog, Pop culture, Bisexuality

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