Pop music is an ever-changing landscape that adapts to the times. The music industry has produced countless pop songs that stand the test of time, some we remember fondly, and some not so much.

Whether it be a classic, dance-floor staple or a B-side guilty pleasure, sometimes when enjoying tracks from back in the day, one can’t help but cringe when listening to songs that have outdated, insensitive lyrics and themes.

Over the years, as society’s understanding and acceptance of gender and sexual orientation continue to evolve, some lyrics and themes that were once deemed harmless or light-hearted are now known to be insensitive, problematic, or offensive, particularly for the queer community. 

Here are 10 songs that may be considered problematic in today’s context for LGBTQ+ listeners, and will need a serious update if they ever want to be played at a Pride parade again…

“Ur So Gay” by Katy Perry

I mean, do we even need to explain? The 38-year-old pop star released this song for her debut album, One of the Boys, in 2008 and it definitely wouldn’t fly today. With lines like “I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf” to its derogatory use of the word gay in the chorus and other problematic elements like the rampant stereotyping and body-shaming, it’s safe to say this coded homophobic track has left a stain in Perry’s discography.

“Grow A Pear” by Kesha

Kesha has provided the gays with plenty of bops throughout her career and has been a fierce ally for the community, but, unfortunately, her catalog of hits does have quite an offensive dud with the song “Grow A Pear”The song has been widely criticized for perpetuating strict gender roles and for its problematic lyrics. In it, she emasculates a potential boyfriend by stating, “I just can’t date a dude with a vag.” This not only reinforces harmful gender stereotypes but also promotes toxic masculinity and upholds the idea that certain traits or body parts are exclusive to one gender or another.

“Lost in the Fire” by Gesaffelstein & The Weeknd

The Weeknd is no stranger to controversy, and his collaboration with French producer Gesaffelstein “Lost in the Fire” is no exception. The song has amassed over 600 million streams on Spotify alone, but not everyone is a fan. In the second verse, The Weeknd references dating a girl who may be interested in other girls and suggests that being gay is just a phase. He also claims that he can “f*ck her straight.” These lyrics perpetuate the harmful idea that female queerness is just a phase. Despite its initial popularity, “Lost in the Fire” hasn’t aged well due to its lyrics that both dismiss and fetishize lesbianism.

“Ugly Girl” by Fleming & John

Many bands from the ’90s faded into obscurity in the new millennium, and in Fleming & John’s case, we can understand why. Their song “Ugly Girl” attempts to humorously depict a person shocked to see their ex-partner with someone they consider unattractive. With the lyrics “Does she tell you what you want to hear / And I bet that she can grow a beard / I’d feel better thinking you were queer”. They song uses harmful language towards the LGBTQ+ community that also manages to reinforce negative stereotypes of beauty and gender identity. Talk about a doubly whammy!

“Stronger Than Me” by Amy Winehouse

We all miss the late Amy Winehouse (RIP), known for her iconic beehive hair, timeless music and, of course, that incredible voice, but her unfortunate use of problematic language on her 2003 debut album Frank is something we’d all like to forget. The song “Stronger Than Me” has received criticism for its homophobic undertones, with lyrics like “Feel like a lady/ And you my ladyboy” and the direct question, “Are you gay???” The song involves the artist chastising a man for being too sensitive and not taking the lead in a traditionally masculine way, equating being queer with weakness. In all fairness, she did tell us she was trouble, and for this track, you know she’s no good.

“Boss Life” by YFN Lucci ft. Offset

No discussion of homophobic language in music can be considered complete without a mention of Migos. While many in the LGBTQ+ community may primarily know Migos member Offset as the husband of rapper Cardi B, those who have followed the group’s history of questionable behavior towards queer people will not be surprised to see them on this list. In Offset’s collaboration with YFN Lucci titled “Boss Life,” he raps a very overtly anti-gay line: “I cannot vibe with queers.” Despite attempts to downplay the meaning of the lyric, it is quite clear what Offset meant, and his words are simply not acceptable.

“Girls” by Rita Ora ft. Cardi B, Bebe Rexha & Charli XCX 

Though the pop girlies that came together in 2018 for Rita Ora’s single “Girls” was an exciting moment, the song unfortunately was a letdown and has received criticism for its controversial lyrics and contradictory message. While Ora initially claimed the song was about female empowerment and NOT her coming out as bisexual, she later used the release of the song as an opportunity to do just that. Openly LGBTQ+ artist Hayley Kiyoko criticized it for its harmful lyrics and marginalization of women who love women, calling out the track for “fueling the male gaze” and invalidating the pure feelings of the LGBTQ+ community. Kiyoko pointed out the chorus’s lyrics “Sometimes, I just wanna kiss girls / Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls” saying, “I don’t need to drink wine to kiss girls; I’ve loved women my entire life. This type of message is dangerous because it completely belittles and invalidates the very pure feelings of an entire community. We can and should do better.”

“Girls Want Girls” by Drake ft. Lil Baby

Everyone’s favorite Certified Lover Boy, Drake, is constantly being called out for his tone-deaf lyrics. In this case, his track with Lil Baby called “Girls Want Girls” is another one of those moments where the public can’t help but say “girl, really?” In the song, the rapper refers to himself as a lesbian and includes lyrics like “Please bring your girlfriend along with you / She like eating p*ssy, I’m like, ‘Me too,'” and “Yeah, say that you a lesbian, girl, me too / Ayy, girls want girls, where I’m from” that, has led the Toronto-born rapper to be criticized for fetishizing queer women’s sexuality and perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

“Criminal” by Eminem

OK, OK, so Eminem isn’t an ally, but we’re included him on this list as a wild card. The rapper is widely known for his controversial lyrics during the span of his 25-year-long career. Known to have used the f-slur on more than one occasion on his songs, his song “Criminal” seemingly pokes fun at those who question his use of derogatory language. In the song, he raps “My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge / That’ll stab you in the head / Whether you’re a f*g or lez / Or a homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest / Pants or dress / Hate f*gs? The answer’s ‘yes’.” He really goes in on virtually every demographic of the LGBTQ+ community, leaving the door open for his fans to contribute to a culture of hate towards queer individuals and promote violence against the LGBTQ+ community.

“Picture To Burn” by Taylor Swift

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VX9kNqd0Eiw

Taylor Swift has been quite busy re-recording her old music in order to properly own the masters to her songs, effectively titling these re-recorded tracks as “Taylor’s Version”. But, long before the 33-year-old pop-star began this process, did you know she tweaked a song off her debut album so it was no longer a “homophobic version”? “Picture To Burn” was a single off her 2006 debut album Taylor Swift that peaked at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The original album version contained the questionable lyrics, “So go and tell your friends that I’m obsessive and crazy / That’s fine; I’ll tell mine you’re gay”, which was modified to “That’s fine; You won’t mind if I say”, on the radio edit and subsequent versions available on streaming services.

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