Remarkably, 2021 marks 20 years since Will Young burst onto the pop scene as the winner of Pop Idol, topping the charts and breaking records with his debut single.
In the two decades that followed, he’s released four number one albums, branched out into acting on both the stage and screen and even authored two books.
Impressively, he’s broken new ground as an openly gay singer in the pop industry, and never shied away from discussing the issues close to his heart, including on his former podcast Homo Sapiens and his latest book, How To Be A Gay Man.
This summer, the singer will release his eighth album – his first in four years – made up of covers of some of his favourite female singer-songwriters.
What is your favourite Pride memory?
When I did my first performance at G-A-Y, I was really proud of that. It was 2005, around the Friday’s Child album, and I did the show live, with the whole band, and that was really exciting and fun.
And it was quite special, because that was when there was still the Pride in Finsbury Park – I’m showing my age now – which I wish they’d bring back. I was worried if people were going to turn up, because that was the big thing, but it was absolutely packed, and it was really cool.
Who is your LGBTQ hero?
Peter Tatchell is amazing. He’s the unsung hero, really. He is someone that’s worked tirelessly in the cold face of prejudice, for the last 30 years. He’s a hero! He’s an absolute hero. Undeniably so.
And all the greats will say it, Ian McKellen will say it, Elton will say it – he’s a hero. He’s been attacked numerous times, he sticks up for all human rights. He should be knighted, although he’d probably turn it down, but he should get every accolade going. I mean, you look at some people that get those accolades, and you think, “bloody hell”... so he’s my number one.
What is your go-to Pride anthem?
Lola’s Theme by Shapeshifters. It’s just so anthemic. I remember it coming out, and it was such a big hit that summer. It’s just so euphoric, and it’s such a joyful tune.
What is your favourite LGBTQ film?
Y Tu Mamá También. It’s about three friends, a girl and two guys, and then the guys end up kissing. It came out in 2002, and it was quite amazing, when they do that kiss... it kind of came from nowhere, in a way.
It’s about friendship, love and relationships in all sorts of forms. And it’s that awful phrase, a “coming-of-age” movie, but it is, and it’s really beautiful. And it’s got that chap Gael Garcéa Bernal in it, who is extremely handsome.
What was an LGBTQ TV show or TV moment that made you feel represented?
This is quite an interesting TV moment, and I think he’s another unsung hero, Julian Clary. He said at the British Comedy Awards he’d been “fisting Norman Lamont”. I think he was talking about the poll tax, I’m not sure. And then he got banned from TV. I thought that TV moment was amazing. He was kind of vilified afterwards, there were people on what was then TV-am talking about “these queers”.
He was right out there. And his outfits were incredible. He had a lot of art behind him, he’s a genius. And really stunning, still stunning.
Who would be your ultimate queer icon?
I think Elizabeth Taylor, for what she did around AIDS. She really pushed to help people with HIV and AIDS in America and in the UK, and I think for that reason, she [deserves that title].
I don’t know if people know that about her. It’s kind of a classic example of the Hollywood story taking over, from actually someone who was really, you know, quite beautiful and charitable. And I didn’t even know that about her until quite recently.
What would be your message to young queer people this Pride season?
This is an idea that I’m transfixed with at the moment. We talk a lot about the importance of loving ourselves, but I think we can forget that we also have a hell of a lot of love to give. And it’s just as important to tune into how much love we have in ourselves to give others, as it is to realise that we are also loveable and can receive lots of love.
It’s sort of cyclical, that’s how I feel about it, and it’s really helping me, actually. Because actually, giving a lot of love creates self-love. It’s a really interesting concept, and I’m kind of really enjoying exploring it more. So that’s my message. And also, you know, purchase anything that I’m selling.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Will Young’s forthcoming album Crying On The Bathroom Floor is released on 6 August. Watch the music video for Daniel below: