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24 Songs That Sound Different When You Know The Reality Behind The People Who Sang Them

Go ahead and start this playlist for the effect of the story below.

24 Songs That Sound Different When You Know The Reality Behind The People Who Sang Them

If you come to my house on a Saturday morning, you'll probably catch me with earbuds in, vacuuming and dancing in my underwear while singing any one of the songs above. It's not pretty, but it's true.

As a young gay boy, it was hard for me to relate to love songs. I mean, I liked music growing up. Plus, there was never a dry eye in the room when I belted "On My Own" from "Les Miserables" (and by "room," I mean my New Kids on the Block/'80s posters staring at me from the walls of my actual room), but I never really understood the hype behind what the musicians were trying to get at. I just liked their passion.


(These are all examples of the posters hanging in my room. I still swoon a little bit over NKOTB. Hey, Danny, Donnie, Joey, Jonathan, and Jordan ... you hearing me out there?)

I connected with the music, but the words were harder for me to hear. Men were singing about women, and women were singing about men, and that's totally "normal" and beyond OK. It's just that I never related to it, and I suspect many gay people experienced the same thing. So I performed my little pre-gay heart out with fervor. (It's important to note that I did not know I was gay yet. Go ahead, I can handle your disbelieving eye rolls.)

By my early 20s, I had full understanding of my inner gay. While spending a Friday night watching a gender-bending drag show at my local gay bar, I had a realization I want to share with you. The performer was a female dressed as a male (that's called a drag king), and he was singing "I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton. It was the first time in my life that I'd actually felt the words to a song. So there I sat in a smoky gay bar in western North Carolina bawling uncontrollably. (It's important to note that you've not lived until you've had a room full of bears from the mountains of N.C. console you.)

For the first time, I could not only hear what love in songs sounded like, I could experience what it felt like. It changed my life.

Here's a playlist of 24 LGBTQ singers and their songs (plus I threw in Patron Saint Dolly even though she's not gay because Dolly). Maybe listen closely to the words and hear what message the performer is conveying from their perspective as a gay recording artist. If nothing else, I want you to shake your groove thang while listening to these, then share them with a friend or two so you all can have a virtual dance party!

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$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


Working parents have always had the challenge of juggling career and kids. But during the pandemic, that juggling act feels like a full-on, three-ring circus performance, complete with clowns and rings of fire and flying elephants.

With millions of kids doing virtual learning, our routines and home lives have taken a dramatic shift. Some parents are trying to navigate working from home at the same time, some are trying to figure out who's going to watch over their kids while they work outside the home, and some are scrambling to find a new job because theirs got eliminated due to the pandemic. In addition to the logistical challenges, parents also have to deal with the emotional ups and downs of their kids, who are also dealing with an uncertain and altered reality, while also managing their own existential dread.

It's a whole freaking lot right now, honestly.

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$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


via msleja / TikTok

In 2019, the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada instituted a policy that forbids teachers from participating in "partisan political activities" during school hours. The policy states that "any signage that is displayed on District property that is, or becomes, political in nature must be removed or covered."

The new policy is based on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2018 Janus decision that limits public employees' First Amendment protections for speech while performing their official duties.

This new policy caused a bit of confusion with Jennifer Leja, a 7th and 8th-grade teacher in the district. She wondered if, as a bisexual woman, the new policy forbids her from discussing her sexuality.

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Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
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With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

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