Jess Glynne’s “Hold My Hand” dominated European radio for months before migrating to the United States, gaining mild success, then fading away. But while the song didn’t tear up American charts, it will likely live on in gay clubs across the country for years. You see, in addition to being an amazing pop confection, “Hold My Hand” is easily the best gay anthem of the decade so far.
It’s difficult to define exactly what makes a song a gay anthem. It can’t be all rainbows and sunshine; you need some struggle in the mix, too, to make the ultimate triumph all the sweeter. And subtext works better than earnestness; the best gay anthems sound universal, but speak in a special way to the gays. “I Will Survive” endured because Gloria Gaynor’s battle cries perfectly capture the anguish of the closet and the victory of self-actualization. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” failed because it is so obvious, so sincere, so specific, that the listener feels he’s receiving a lecture from a very enlightened sex ed instructor.
Needless to say, “Hold My Hand” is more Gaynor than Gaga. It speaks, knowingly and joyously, to liberation from fear and self-loathing. Even better (for gay anthem purposes), the song envisions two intertwined paths to empowerment: Self-acceptance and love for another human. These two concepts obviously speak to the vast majority of adults. But they also often play a major role in the coming-out process. A gay person cannot really be in a healthy, loving relationship until he learns to love himself; or, as RuPaul puts it, “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” “Hold My Hand” is all about accepting yourself, acknowledging your weaknesses, and learning to place your trust (and love) in another person. I predict it will remain on heavy rotation on college night in gay clubs across the country for years to come.