Perfume Genius’ “Queen” Is the Gay Anthem of the Year

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
July 17 2014 2:51 PM

Perfume Genius’ “Queen” Is the Gay Anthem of the Year

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Perfume Genius’ “Queen” retaliates against “gay panic,” and it’s excellent.

Still from YouTube

Seattle-based pop artist Mike Hadreas has released two jarring, gentle albums under the moniker Perfume Genius.* But for his latest single, “Queen,” which comes from the just-announced third album Too Bright, he’s packing a much louder punch. And, in doing so, he may have just created the year’s best gay anthem. “Queen” is a majestic, psychedelic sonic kaleidoscope that handles insults often hurled at gay people—“heathen,” “riddled with disease,” “cracked”—with the best retaliation: confidence. 

Hadreas has said the song is a defiant response to experiencing what he calls “gay panic.” “Sometimes I see faces of blank fear when I walk by,” he explained in a press release. “If these fucking people want to give me some power—if they see me as some sea witch with penis tentacles that are always prodding and poking and seeking to convert the muggles—well, here she comes.”  The video for “Queen,” directed by Cody Critcheloe, evokes the song’s brazen, celebratory spirit with a surrealist Rocky Horror Picture Show-like world in which Hadreas remixes various queer tropes and fantasies including gender hacking, hustling, and forcing straight-laced businessmen to get into his look.

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And unlike Arcade Fire’s “We Exist,” another video intended to empower the LGBTQ community, Hadreas’ authenticity as an out gay man strengthens both the song and video’s meaning for its audience. Because, ultimately, a line like “No family is safe when I sashay” just doesn’t have quite the same effect coming from a straight, cisgender artist like Win Butler. Too Bright comes out Sept. 22, and, if “Queen” is any indication, it’ll be well worth your time.

*Correction, July 17, 2014: This post originally misspelled Mike Hadreas' last name.

Dee Lockett is Slate's editorial assistant for culture.

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