cover gays

Move over, Calum Scott! 10 more slowed-down cover songs by queer artists

Three-panel image. On the left, Troye Sivan with bleached tips and scraggly bangs looks into the camera with his lips pursed in front of a blue background. He has a nose ring and wears a denim jacket over a gray V-neck sweater. In the middle, Orville Peck poses in front of a black Avalon TV step-and-repeat. He wears a white cowboy hat adorned with sparkling stars under the brim and a black mask covering his eyes and falling into long, light pink strands over the rest of his face. He is in a white blazer with men in cowboy hats embroidered on it. On the right, Kesha, with bleach blonde hair, stands in front of a yellow step-and-repeat and looks into the camera. She wears a black long sleeved top that's cut off to reveal her midriff.

Don’t get us wrong: We love a faithful cover song as much as the next homo. But there’s something even more authentic about a musician taking another’s track and making it entirely their own.

Is there a tender ballad to be discovered underneath drums and a throbbing bass? Or perhaps a synthy bop that can be resurrected from a somber slow-jam?

Case-and-point: Calum Scott’s cover of “Dancing on My Own,” which transformed Robyn‘s dance floor anthem into a heartbreaking meditation about watching another boy and feeling alone.

The LGBTQ+ community has always had a penchant for the Robyn staple, which is part of the reason Scott decided to cover it.

Although, there’s irony in the fact that Scott’s cover just crossed 1 billion streams on Spotify –– as opposed to the 309-plus million streams for the original –– and he’s got mostly baseball fans to thank. Ew.

Scott’s version received a sizable boost in streams after the Phillies starting using his version as their victory song last year.

Though the team dumped it after their 2022 World Series loss, it didn’t take long for the boys (and fans) to call for its return in the 2023 season.

It’s fine, we will share Robyn and Calum with the straights. Begrudgingly.

That being said, Scott is hardly the first LGBTQ+ artist to take a straight artist’s tune and slow it down to find some deep meaning.

In the transposition of bop into serenade, these musicians find resonance in the banality of lyrics, emotion in the tempo of chords, and frankly, occasionally give their hetero counterparts a run for their money.

Grab the Kleenex and light some candles. Below, we dive into 10 of the best slowed-down covers by queer artists.

1. “Believe” by Adam Lambert

With its empowering chorus and message of strength, “Believe” by Cher has always been uplifting. But Adam Lambert’s take on the beloved hit, which he performed as a tribute at the 2018 Kennedy Center Honors, unearthed heartbreak under the auto-tuned optimism.

Over piano, Lambert inflected pain into lyrics like “I know that I’ll get through this / ‘Cause I know that I am strong / And I don’t need you anymore.” Cher called the devastating cover “one of the greatest vocal performances of any song by anybody,” and was moved to tears at the ceremony, where she gave Adam a standing ovation.

2. “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You (Deconstructed Mix)” by Ke$ha

This swinging country ditty was popularized by Dolly Parton, who included it on her 1980 album Dolly, Dolly, Dolly. But Parton’s version was actually a cover of country singer Joe Sun’s 1978 single, which was written by Hugh Moffatt and Pebe Sebert.

Sebert’s daughter grew up to be something of a starlet herself, rising to pop stardom as Ke$ha. And in 2013, the “Tik Tok” singer paid tribute to her mom’s pen with a cover that pulled back the ballad’s production to hone in on its nostalgic lyrics. With reverb and a tambourine, Ke$ha uncovers even more heartbreak in the classic. She later released a more produced, country-rock take on the tune alongside Queen Dolly on 2017’s Rainbow.

3. “Gimme More” by Miley Cyrus

On the surface, “Gimme More” –– the lead single from Britney Spears‘ 2007 album Blackout –– seems like an odd choice for a slide guitar-driven, country-rock cover. But Miley Cyrus is known for doing the unexpected and she certainly delivered with this 2020 backyard rendition for MTV Unplugged.

The song’s celebrity themes and paparazzi callouts almost certainly hit home for a performer like Cyrus. And those belted high notes heightened an insidious darkness hinted at by Spears’ underrated original.

4. “I Kissed a Boy” by Jude York

Though it’s not without its critiques, “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry offered a glimpse of queer romance to a generation of young pop fans upon its 2008 release. That sentiment certainly resonated with singer-songwriter Jude York, who shared a snippet of a slowed-down cover on TikTok in 2022. The track went massively viral, prompting him to release a full-length rendition featuring small tweaks to fit a questioning man’s point-of-view. With a palpable passion (and operatic high-notes), York reclaimed this gay anthem for the modern age.

5. “How Will I Know” by Sam Smith

This Whitney Houston classic is arguably one of the world’s best pop songs. But with sparse piano and a voice that aches with longing, Sam Smith somehow turns “How Will I Know” into a stinging ballad for the ages. The rendition, which appeared on the deluxe version of their debut album In the Lonely Hour, never speeds up or breaks pace. Instead, the focus is on their emotional vocal performance, which finds overflowing heartbreak in lines like, “This love is strong / Why do I feel weak?”

6. “Born This Way (The Country Road Version)” by Orville Peck

Orville Peck‘s deep register and penchant for songs about solitude is a far cry from Lady Gaga‘s bombastic pop. Yet, his countryfied reimagining of “Born This Way” (based off one of Gaga’s own remixes) just works. With grit, slide guitar, and a backing chorus, Peck’s take is equally as empowering, if not even more spiritual. Lines like “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen” seem to come straight from the heart. Save the original version for the dance clubs, but Peck’s cover is perfect for a dingy dive-bar night.

7. “Moon River” by Frank Ocean

As any fan of the elusive and avant-garde rapper knows, Frank Ocean moves in mysterious ways. In 2018, he randomly dropped a cover of Breakfast at Tiffany’s classic “Moon River,” bringing Audrey Hepburn’s cutesy and pensive tune into the internet age. With heavy synths, dialed-up reverb, and auto-tune, Ocean never sacrifices the optimistic fantasy that made the 1961 original such a hit. There’s also an inherent queerness and escapism to his version, which stays with a listener long after the first listen.

8. “Better Now” by Troye Sivan

Troye Sivan covering frat-bro anthem “Better Now” by Post Malone? Stranger things have happened. Though the original track is a mid-tempo, alt-rap banger, Sivan finds an indie-pop ache within the song’s tale of love, loss, and jealousy. With acoustic guitar and synths, the sad-boy pop star takes the unexpected cover and runs with it, drawing out the emotion behind lyrics like “I promise, I swear to you, I’ll be okay / You’re only the love of my life.”

9. “Mr. Brightside” by Hayley Kiyoko

Hayley Kiyoko –– also known as Lesbian Jesus to her devoted fans –– dropped this dreamy and synthy cover of The Killers’ singalong anthem for Amazon Music’s Pride in 2020. Her pop reimagining ditches the pounding drama of the original “Mr. Brightside” to hone in on its crushing lyrics, which have long resonated with the LGBTQ+ community. Kiyoko’s drastic production changes draw out the song’s underlying theme of yearning, presenting it in a whole new light.

10. “Teenage Dirtbag” by Mary Lambert

Mary Lambert is perhaps best known for her contribution to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ LGBTQ+ advocacy track “Same Love.” But as the hit song showed, Lambert has a voice strong enough to carry a tune on her own. Her soft piano cover of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag,” recorded for a Billboard cover series, puts a WLW spin on the 2000 pop-punk favorite. It’s clear Lambert has easy access to the turbulent emotions of being a teenager via her vocals. With every lyric, it becomes even more apparent why this “eff-you” anthem continues to resonate with high schoolers –– and those who lived to tell the tale.

Listen to our complete Queer Cover Songs playlist below, and don’t forget to follow Queerty on Spotify!

Don't forget to share: