"Say what you wanna say/ And let the words fall out/ Honestly I wanna see you be brave."
Sara Bareilles's "Brave" lends advice to someone struggling to come out with an important confession. Though anyone could relate, Bareilles had a particular audience in mind. Writing the song with Fun. lead guitarist Jack Antonoff, Bareilles says she was inspired by a close friend who was having trouble coming out about being gay.
Released last week, it is already being embraced by the LGBT community. The Advocate, a gay and lesbian magazine, called it "destined to become an LGBT anthem for the ages." Out and SheWired also picked up the song.
"Brave" is just the latest in a long tradition of exploring LGBT narratives through music, with roots as far back as 1920s blues, and perhaps even further. More recently R&B singer Frank Ocean, rappers Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and pop super star Lady Gaga all came out with their own takes on what it means to be gay.
Ocean's music tends to be on the personal side, exploring his own relationship with another man (he has resisted calling himself gay or bisexual). Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Same Love" (which features the vocals of Mary Lambert) is more overtly political: "The right-wing conservatives think it's a decision/ And you can be cured with some treatment and religion," Macklemore raps. Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" is an embrace-your-identity anthem, like Bareilles's, albeit more explicit in its message: "No matter gay, straight or bi/ Lesbian, transgendered life/ I'm on the right track, baby. I was born to survive," she belts.
Unlike many of her predecessors, Bareilles's image is squeaky clean. Her biggest rebellion thus far has been refusing to write a love song for label, which inspired, "Love Song," the hit that put her on the map. "Brave" follows the same vein of her upbeat, piano-driven sound. Its lyrics are profoundly generic — this review noticed no gay undertones, referring to as "a pep talk." The lyric video released with the song features just a group of girls writing and performing the song, and gives off a universal, "believe in yourself" vibe. It also may be a pep talk for Bareilles herself, as she embarks on her first solo tour without the band that usually backs her.
The multitude of meanings for "Brave" is perhaps the beauty of it as piece of mainstream pop music.
"'Brave' is obviously a broad song that's going to mean a lot to a lot of people," explained Antonoff in the websiode released for the song, "But to me I will always internalize it just as a real civil rights anthem at a time when there are no civil rights anthems and there's a giant need for civil rights anthems."
Antonoff misses the mark a bit when he says there are no civil rights anthems, but there certainly is room for more, even those as tame as "Brave."
- Making the Music of 'Nashville'
- 'The Voice' Fantasy League
- Poll: 56 Percent Say Constitution Should Determine Gay Marriage
A previous version misstated that a lyric video released with the song was its music video, not yet released, which will be directed by Rashida Jones.