Playlist – Ed Madden


“Back to My Roots” (RuPaul, 1993) (
In the car to Jonesboro, grad student home from Texas going Christmas shopping with
your mom, she asked you if the singer was a woman or a man. You said a big black drag
queen. She asked why you refer to him as her. You kept talking about the song, as if you
could express your own wonder about where you came from—not out at home but out
at school—your fear about what you could lose.


“We Are Family” (Sister Sledge, 1979) (
“Take a Chance on Me” (Erasure, ABBA-esque, 1992) (
I heard it in my first gay disco in Oxford, summer of coming out. I’d heard it before, of
course, but there it was different. I met David, my first boyfriend of sorts, at the Jolly
Farmer—a gay pub, can’t make that name up. Later David took me to a club that went
gay every Thursday, and every week the last song was this, Sister Sledge, then the lights
came up and we’d leave. I’ve got all my sisters with me. Last call, he called it an anthem.
I’d rehearse the words with friends for three years more before I’d tell my folks. They cut
me off for almost ten years when I told them, but I couldn’t know that then. Later, David
took me to Heaven in London, took me under his wing, and we danced like mad to the
remix of “Even Better Than the Real Thing.”


“The Bluest Eyes in Texas” (Restless Heart, 1988) (
It’s the karaoke scene in Boys Don’t Cry (1999): Lana, white trash angel on the mic, the
moment Brandon falls in love. She’s singing a song from a script and he’s acting out one
script after another: the way he packs, the way he swigs a beer, holds his cigarette. In
karaoke, the only songs you can sing are the ones that are already written.